Federal Employee Disability Information: OPM’s Methodology

There may be a single criteria to meet, with subsets of requirements that must be complied with; yet, multiple methodologies in approaching the singular.  How can that be?  Isn’t it all simple, where you read what is required, then gather up all of the evidence that appears to meet it and simply send it all in?  That is the “volume methodology”.

Can a single sentence in a medical report ever meet the legal criteria in an OPM Disability Retirement case — i.e., a “qualitative” methodology, as opposed to a quantitative one?  Sometimes.

Isn’t the law clear in what is required, and isn’t it a matter of just amassing the medical evidence to meet the requirements as stated?  Hmmm…. For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical conditions prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is important to understand, somewhat, OPM’s Methodology in reviewing and deciding upon a case.

First of all, not all medical conditions are equal.  Perhaps that is self-evident, but for the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from one or another medical condition, and must endure the daily pain, restriction and limitations imposed thereby, it may not be so self-evident.

Second, OPM is not some “neutral” Federal Agency that reviews a Federal Disability Retirement application with dispassionate objectivity, ready to grant an “approval” because you “believe” your medical evidence is “sufficient” to meet the legal requirements as stated.  Sufficiency is the gatekeeper that denies many a Federal Disability Retirement case — and it is not a methodology that is satisfied by quantitative (volume) means, not even necessarily by qualitative standards; rather, it is the reviewer (i.e., the “Medical Specialist” at OPM) who determines by some unknown and unknowable standard when the goal-post has been crossed.

Thus, in an OPM Disability Denial Letter, one may read a reference to one’s doctor’s note or a quotation from a medical report from one’s doctor, and think, “Good, this is very supportive” —then, with an appended end to the paragraph stating, “Such medical evidence does not sufficiently meet the standards to qualify for OPM Disability Retirement”.  Huh?

Think about it this way: “Sufficiency” may mean different things to different audiences; for example, what is a “sufficient” amount of food for a lion, as opposed to a domesticated kitten?

OPM’s methodology is, at best, malleable, as language in law is likewise changeable.  It is good to know this for Federal and Postal employees who are either getting ready to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, or who are in the middle of a fight to obtain it; for, in the end, consulting with an OPM Disability Retirement lawyer allows you to arm yourself with knowledge for the battle that OPM’s Methodology in determining Federal Disability Retirement cases must be prepared, like any legal battle that involves “criteria” to be interpreted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

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