One can, of course, obtain an “excellent” medical report — i.e., one that has full, unequivocal support in providing a clear diagnosis, description of symptoms, impact upon specific job functions, etc., with an unequivocal conclusion of disability beyond the specific elements of one’s job functions, etc. — and yet get denied by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
On the other hand, one can submit with a Federal Disability Retirement application a “mediocre” medical report — e.g., one that is generalized and non-specific, and shows scant reference to specific job functions, and provides barely a conclusion of disability, and yet get an approval at the First Stage of a Federal Disability Retirement application.
So, one may ask, where is the consistency shown by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? Is it all a matter of perspective — of a crap shoot as to who reviews a Federal Disability Retirement application at OPM? The fact is, there is no “perfect” methodology that will guarantee that a well-prepared Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at the First Stage of the OPM Disability Retirement process.
However, there are certainly “chance-enhancers” — those preparatory actions that exponentially increase the A 5-Step Pathway to Success at each stage of a Federal Disability Retirement process — that will help to ensure that, more likely than not (sort of like the legal standard itself — of a “preponderance of the evidence” — that is applied to a Federal Disability Retirement case), your Federal Disability Retirement application, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, will have a successful outcome with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
First and foremost, understand the critical structure of a Federal Disability Retirement application: The foundation of every Federal Disability Retirement application is the medical report. It is the foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application (otherwise referred to as an “FDR”); from it, the legal arguments arise and the justifying Applicant’s Statement of Disability are together formulated.
Thus, just as a shaky building’s foundation will likely fail to withstand even a minor earthquake or a minimal subterranean tremor, so a mediocre medical report will often decrease the chances of a First Stage FDR approval.
Are there ways to counter such mediocrity? Yes — by pointing out other critical elements of the case. And, of course, sometimes the choices are limited, where it is better to proceed even with a mediocre medical report than not at all, and to put the best case forward regardless of the insufficiency of a mediocre medical report.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire