How to Deal with a “Bad” Supervisor’s Statement on a FERS Disability Retirement Application

The supervisor’s statement can make or break a FERS Disability Retirement application,. Here are some important things to know about this part of the process.

Form SF 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement is an important component of your application for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).

As discussed in a previous article, the purpose of the supervisor’s statement is to chronicle deficiencies in your performance, attendance, and/or conduct. In other words, because you are trying to establish that you are disabled, you want your supervisor to document inadequate job performance, poor attendance, etc., because this (in addition to your physician’s statement) helps to establish a nexus between your disabling medical conditions and your inability to perform one or more essential functions of your position.  

Sometimes, however, supervisors inadvertently (or intentionally) include language, which undermines the applicant’s disability claim.

For example, statements (or strong implications) that your unsatisfactory performance is a direct result of a poor work ethic, laziness, unwillingness to follow directions, etc. does not support your FDR claim. In fact, statements such as these can harm your claim, because they present OPM with an alternative rationale for your performance issues. In fact, I have read denial letters in which OPM has cited language/information contained in SF 3112B to support the denial.

So, what should you do if you think that the supervisor’s statement may harm your FDR claim? As the following case study illustrates, there are proactive steps you can take to diffuse a “bad” supervisor’s statement.

Case Study 

For many years, Bradley (not his real name) had been suffering from several, serious physical conditions, including cervical disc degeneration, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and spondylosis with radiculopathy of the thoracic, lumbar, and lumbosacral regions.  

He was finding it increasingly difficult to perform his duties as an automotive technician. Eventually, the severity of his symptoms prevented him from reporting to work altogether, and he entered into a long-term Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status while I helped him prepare his FDR application.

Upon reviewing SF 3112B, we noticed that his supervisor included several derogatory remarks about Bradley’s general character and work ethic. For example, she stated that Bradley’s general attitude was “poor,” that he refused to follow proper leave-request procedures, and even went so far as to imply that there was no medical basis for his poor performance and absenteeism.   

Although Bradley had a strong physician’s statement (i.e., SF 3112C) and an abundance of supporting medical documentation, we were concerned that the supervisor’s statement could have an adverse impact on his FDR claim.  Therefore, we drafted a statement for OPM in which we refuted each of his supervisor’s allegations.

For example, we provided documentation to prove that Bradley had properly followed all leave-request procedures. In addition, we argued that the physician’s statement, supporting medical documentation, and Bradley’s past record of exceptional performance all provided overwhelming evidence that his service degradation was directly caused by his disabilities (as opposed to a poor work ethic, etc.). 

We also addressed each of the eligibility requirements for FDR. Specifically, we (1) explained how and why Bradley met each requirement and (2) supported our arguments with the appropriate agency and medical documents.  

I’m happy to report that Bradley’s FDR claim was approved on the first attempt.

Bottom Line

Considering the above example, it is unclear as to whether his supervisor’s derogatory remarks could/would have caused Bradley’s FDR claim to be denied. However, by addressing/refuting the allegations, we were able to make clear to OPM that the statements had no factual basis and should be disregarded.

Be sure to review SF 3112B with a fine-tooth comb and bring to your supervisor’s attention any inaccuracies or omissions that you think might have an adverse effect on your FDR claim. If your supervisor declines to make the appropriate revisions, you may (like Bradley) want to include with your application a statement in which you refute your supervisor’s false allegations. In addition, you might want to consider consulting your union representative, attorney, etc. to discuss the possibility of filing a claim or grievance against your supervisor/agency.

About the Author

Since 2012, Scott Santarelli has been helping disabled federal and postal workers obtain FERS disability benefits. His highly-effective approach has been adopted by several disability attorneys. He enjoys writing articles that provide valuable information about the OPM claims process.