OPM Disability Retirement: Clarity in the Minefield of Procedural Opposition

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can be a daunting and intimidating process without the opposition — whether intended or not — from one’s Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  With such “opposition”, life can be made that much more difficult unless one knows one’s rights and the legal obligations of the Agency.  Human Resources Departments of various agencies often reveal peculiar characteristics.

On the one hand, the original raison d’être (the originating reason or purpose for existing) was presumably to assist the employees of the Agency in any and all personnel matters — from payroll issues, to job classification concerns, to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  However, whether it is because “Management” co-opts the personnel in the Human Resources Department; or whether the employees in an Agency Human Resources Department merely take it upon themselves to become contrary and resistant to the needs and concerns of the very employees for whom the H.R. Department’s originating reason for creation are there for; regardless, it has become a commonplace paradigm that there exists an oppositional attitude towards the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Recognizing this “fact” is important before proceeding down the administrative morass of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once recognized, it is important to be prepared to understand how one will, and must, maneuver through the administrative procedures in order to reach the ultimate goal — a favorable decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency’s Personnel Department

It is always important for each individual, worker, and organizational entity to understand the “role” of one’s position, and that is often the problem with an Agency’s Personnel Department — the “Human Resources” Department of an Agency.  

The irony of being called “Human Resources” is probably not lost to most people, but it is the classic irony of being designated as X and acting in an anti-X manner.  The role of Human Resources Personnel, one would implicitly (and explicitly) expect, is one of assistance of a Federal or Postal worker in the filing, submission and attempt to initiate administrative personnel actions, including Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.  

Yet, too many Federal and Postal employees have a sense (and often a justified one) that in attempting to obtain the assistance of the Agency’s Personnel/Human Resources Department in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, that the H.R. Department is more of a hindrance than a help.  Now, such broad generalizations are often unfair to particular Human Resources personnel who are in fact very, very helpful to the entire process — but, then, all such generalizations tend to create an unfair net and capture those who run counter to the very generalizations espoused.  That is the very definition of a generalization.  

The role of an H.R. person is (or should be) one of neutral assistance.  Yet, because “management” and those who will remain with the agency long after a person has gone out on Federal Disability Retirement will be the ones with continuing power and influence within the agency, it is often to those “others” that the Personnel Department favors and shows a continuing bias for.  This is what is called “human nature”.  When human nature and human resources collide, it is often the former which wins out, to the detriment of the latter. That is why having an attorney — an advocate for one’s position — is often an important tool to utilize.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agencies & SF 3112C

Agencies have an amazing ability to be inquisitive, especially into those areas which really do not concern them.  Often, Agencies will insist that, despite all of the relevant, pertinent, and desired medical documentation already having been attached to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the applicant/Federal employee “must” sign the Standard Form 3112C (“Physician’s Statement) , which becomes superfluous and irrelevant.  They insist that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “requires” the form, which is an erroneous statement.  OPM has never required a signed SF 3112C so long as the Federal Disability Retirement application is accompanied by sufficient medical documentation to support the application.  Sometimes, the insistence by the Agency is merely based upon ignorance; other times, it is based upon an administrative and bureaucratic inflexibility to longstanding “procedures” which the Human Resources personnel cannot adapt to, or change, because “this is the way we’ve been doing it for X number of years”.  Still, there is a suspicion that in some instances, the “requirement” of SF 3112C is because of a more nefarious reason:  The Agency wants full access to all medical records, notes, treatment notes, etc.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Overstepping

The Office of Personnel Management is the Federal Agency which reviews, evaluates and determines the eligibility of an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The Applicant’s Agency — in whatever sector, department or facility — is supposed to help process the Federal Disability Retirement application, by filling out its required parts and answering certain fundamental questions.  For example, the Agency must determine whether or not it can “accommodate” an individual’s medical conditions, or reassign him or her to another position at the same pay or grade, and one which the applicant is qualified for.  Further, the Supervisor must complete a “Supervisor’s Statement” (SF 3112B) which provides certain information concerning the conduct, performance and attendance of the applicant, as well as any adverse impact which the applicant’s medical conditions may have had upon the Agency’s ability to complete its work and mission.  Where the Agency oversteps its authority, is when it deems itself to be the pre-judging entity in the place of the Office of Personnel Management.  The Agency neither has the authority nor the knowledge to be making a “recommendation” or a judgment on the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  In the instances where it attempts to do so, it is overstepping its authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Agencies

Agencies often engage in acts which clearly impede a Federal Disability Retirement.  Think about it.  If a Human Resources Department is set up to provide services for the assistance and processing of people who are requesting a service or benefit which is offered and is a part of being a Federal or Postal employee, one would think that such a department would do everything inside (and even outside) of the purview of the mandate of such a creation, in order to further the needs of the Federal or Postal employee.  That is why the Federal sector is often criticized.  In the private sector, such departments are funded to make sure that the mission is fully accomplished.  Yet, too often, when a Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted to the Agency Human Resources Department, that department will take its time; will “inform” the applicant that the packet is “incomplete”, and let the packet sit in a pile of other Federal Disability Retirement packets.  Now, in all fairness, this is not always the case.  But what is always interesting, is that when an Agency’s H.R. Department goes out of its way to be helpful, it is an event to be celebrated.  In fact, it should be the other way around; helpful H.R. offices should be the norm; when an H.R. Department is unhelpful, it should be of great surprise to all.  Be that we lived in such a universe.  No wonder people spend hours on computer games of virtual reality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Supervisors, Agencies and H.R. Personnel

I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at Supervisors — ones who actually recognize that an individual filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS does so out of necessity, and not out of any personal or professional spite against the Supervisor or the Agency, and that the proper response to convey is one of support, empathy, and cooperation, without needing to compromise the goal and mission of the Agency.  Further, I am taken aback by the unprofessional and utterly unhelpful attitude of many Human Resources personnel in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application. 

Too often, the H.R. person finds it his or her mission in life to be an obstacle to the smooth processing of a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, the law is clear (though not to many of the H.R. Departments at various agencies):  it is the Office of Personnel Management which has the sole legal authority to make a positive or negative determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application; at the agency level, the role of the Human Resources person is to try and expedite and efficiently process the disability retirement application.  Hopefully, those who have the positional designation of “Human Resources” will come to realize what it all actually means:  he or she is supposed to be a “resource” (a positive one, for that matter) with a “human” emphasis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire