OPM Standard Form 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability:
The constraint of a standardized form, by its very appearance, is itself a self-evident anomaly of conformity; forms, by the very nature of their format, constrains and delimits the ability to respond. Space is limited, and it is intended to be that way.
By mandating the completion of specific forms in an uniform, consistent, and universally standardized approach, the applicant who must complete the form must by necessity conform to the regulated approach. Further, the appearance itself often lulls the individual into a certain mindset, such that the response is constrained, limited, and by necessity of conservation of space and in attempting to answer the specific question queried, of brevity and devoid of critical details.
Bureaucracies create forms, and the regulations promulgated in the preparation and response to such forms. For the Federal and Postal employee who must by necessity file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the forms needed to be completed in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are numerous, complex, and cumbersome.
Of the multiple forms which must be completed, the Federal and Postal employee must at some point encounter and face the most critical one of all: SF 3112A. The content of the form itself appears simple enough; the complexities inherent in the form is constituted almost by an endless array of a history of court decisions, opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as by OPM issuances of denials in thousands of cases.
Just by way of example, after the very first question asked upon requesting the applicant’s name, date of birth and SSN, it makes a simple but profoundly limiting statement: “We consider only the diseases and/or injuries you discuss in this application.” That statement seems fair enough, and perhaps even reasonable. The single word which is operatively significant, one would assume, is in the word “consider”.
But beware; for, it is the next-to-last word in the statement which is the onerous thousand-pound boulder which can fall upon the head of a Federal or Post Office Disability Retirement applicant, unless one is very, very careful. It is the word, “this”, and the consequences of such a word must be given great weight, and consideration beyond what the legal ramifications will later reveal.
Just a word of caution to the wise, for those who intend on jumping into the proverbial waters of bureaucratic complexities without first dipping a cautious toe into the lake of fire.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire