Tag Archives: Key concepts in FERS Disability Retirement law

The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”, etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Materials and information on this blog are provided for informational purposes only, are general in nature, and do not constitute a legal opinion or legal advice and should not be construed as a legal opinion or legal advice.  For more specific information, or to discuss the specifics of your case, you may contact the author for a free, first-time phone consultation.

Reassignment Considerations

In considering filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the issue of possible reassignment will arise — normally as a rather secondary and unimportant facet of the process — as an obligatory agency action.

SF 3112D is a form which the agency must complete.  The form essentially affirms that the agency attempted either of 2 things: tried to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee, or tried to find a suitable “reassignment” to another existing, available position.

As to the latter, case-law has made it clear that in order for an offer of reassignment to preclude the Federal or Postal employee from continuing with one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, such light or limited duty offer must be at the same pay or grade of one’s current position (there are some complicating details connected with the enunciated standard, but for present purposes, this general rule will suffice).

Sometimes, the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service will find a lower-paying position, and offer it, and the employee will gladly accept it because it allows for continued employment.  But one must understand that, if down the road, the Federal or Postal employee finds that he or she is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of that “lower” position, then it is from that “lower” (and often of lesser responsibilities) position that one will be filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Just some thoughts to ponder; for, as a general rule, the greater the responsibilities of a position, the lesser the standard of meeting the threshold for a Federal Disability Retirement; and, conversely, the lesser the responsibilities of a position, the higher requirement to prove one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

This and other articles might or might not have been published before.  In this blog edition, we have tried to update them to check over laws and rules that change over time.  However, we can’t guarantee the accuracy of this information.  If you or a loved one is considering early medical retirement from a Federal or Postal position, contact Attorney McGill to discuss the specifics of your case.

The Essential Elements of a Federal Job

In preparing, compiling, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (a legal standard which has been set by statute) that a Federal or Postal worker who has a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service and suffers from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job.

The concept of “essential elements” is variously defined and expanded upon by court cases, but one way to identify the “core elements” of a particular job is to review the position description, and to extrapolate from the official description of the job. Another place, of course, is the Agency’s performance review, which will often identify the core elements.

One should never overlook the obvious, in addition to that which is identified in the position description — the fact that one is required according to the position to work full time; to be “on site” for many jobs (thereby precluding tele-commuting as a viable permanent accommodation); and certain other inherently obvious elements which are often mentioned in passing — such as sitting for long periods of time (a sedentary position); being required to stand or walk for extended periods of time; and other such “essential elements” which make up a position, and are inherently required by the very nature of the job.

Those “obvious” but often unmentioned essential elements are notable for the fundamental requirements of being able to successfully perform a job.  They should not be overlooked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Note:  The material provided in this blog has been updated by the webmaster/editor and written originally by Attorney Robert R. McGill in other websites and blogs.