Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: From the Doctor’s Perspective

In attempting to understand others, it is important to gain a perspective from which the third party views the world.  Understanding the third party perspective is a way to formulating an effective way of persuading a change in that person, if that is the goal. Or, perhaps understanding X merely in order to accept the behavior or actions of the individual, is enough of a reason.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often important to understand the perspective of one’s treating doctor in order to obtain the necessary support and administrative initiation of the medical provider.

From the doctor’s viewpoint, it is normally counter-productive in terms of treatment and therapy to declare, ascertain and deem that the patient is “totally disabled“.  Work is therapeutic; it allows for a teleological motivation which compels continuation in recuperative and rehabilitative terms.

Further, when this “fact” is combined with the general exposure of most doctors to other forms of disability benefits — state or federal OWCP benefits; Social Security Disability benefits; private disability insurance benefits — and rarely an encounter with FERS or CSRS disability retirement issues, it becomes apparent why doctors often become reluctant and resistant to getting involved with the administrative process.  OWCP benefits require an assertion of causality-to-employment; SSDI necessitates a declaration of “total disability”; private disability policies can often lead to depositions and legal responses.

Thus, everything that is counterintuitive to a doctor’s perspective of what is therapeutically beneficial to the patient, is potentially there when presented with a request for support in a disability retirement case.

Explanation is the key to understanding; effective explanation should persuade and alter a perspective founded upon a misinformed foundation.  It is often necessary to explain the differences between FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits and the “others” which have previously polluted the waters of a pristine stream of thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Obtaining the Doctor’s Support

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to garner the support of the treating doctor

Such needed support is obvious; it is, after all, a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management (despite the move to a “paperless” society, the conceptual application is still relevant; for, whether paperless or not, some mode of presentation must still be forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management).  As such, one should be prepared to discuss with one’s treating doctor the “medical” benefits of filing for Federal Disability Retirement — and not just focus upon the administrative and legal efforts which must be engaged. 

Thus, for example, one should inform the doctor that obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not prevent one from seeking other, alternate employment — one which will not medically exacerbate the conditions which one is suffering from.  As such, going out on Federal Disability Retirement has a therapeutic impact, inasmuch as it (1) allows one to recover by ceasing the type of current work and (2) as work is often considered good therapy, it allows for productivity in another, separate area.  

Remember that a treating doctor’s concern is focused upon the medical health of the patient; persuading a doctor to support one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should thus focus upon the concerns of the doctor.  Persuasion must always take into account the “other’s” concerns.  That is the key to effective persuasion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: What Ifs

“What Ifs” are hypotheticals which can paralyze a process.  Often, such imaginary road blocks are pragmatic irrelevancies, and are better left alone.  Others, one should affirmatively confront.  

Thus:  “What if my Supervisor says…”  There are things in one’s control, and those which are not.  A Federal Disability Retirement application contains an implicit concept which must not be forgotten:  It is actually a Federal Medical Disability Retirement application. What the Supervisor says or doesn’t say is not ultimately relevant. Can the Supervisor’s Statement have an influence or impact?  Obviously.  But it is not one of those things which should be worried about, because it is beyond anyone’s control — for the most part.  

“What if my doctor won’t support my case?”  This is a hypothetical which one has control over, in filing for Federal Medical Disability Retirement benefits.  As such, one should make an appointment with the doctor before starting the process, or even contemplating starting the process, and have a frank discussion with the doctor.  Bifurcate those issues which one has control over, from those which one does not.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one needs to confront the reality of today, in preparation for tomorrow’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Garnering the Differing Perspectives

There are varying and (sometimes) competing perspectives, which must be garnered for a cooperative totality of perspectives — including the perspective of the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, the applicant filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, and the doctor.

The doctor, of course, is naturally suspicious of the entire process.  That is why it is crucial to explain the process, the distinction between OPM Disability Retirement and other processes such as SSDI and OWCP.

There may even be an underlying hesitation because of the suspicion of a contemplated lawsuit.  If the doctor is a surgeon, he or she might be suspicious that the reason why you are asking for a medical narrative report is because you want the doctor to admit that the prior surgical intervention was unsuccessful, and that such an admission will be used to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Without addressing the issue directly, by explaining the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement — what it entails; what is needed; why and how it is different from other processes — will ultimately benefit the applicant and the entire process by garnering the support of the doctor.  Explanation and understanding is always the best avenue to easing the mind of suspicion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Disarming the Doctor

To some extent, there is indeed a “difference” and a “distinction” between an Administrative process of law, and a “legal” or “courtroom” (i.e., “adversarial”) process of law.  Doctors are, by either personal & professional direct experience, or from hearing or reading about others, keenly aware of the horrors of the “legal” process.  Malpractice lawsuits, personal injury lawsuits, subpoenas, depositions, being cross-examined by a defense attorney (or the Plaintiff’s attorney, whichever may be the case) on the stand — these are all intimidating factors that are deliberately avoided. 

Because of such negative experiences, perspectives, memories or viewpoints about the legal process, it is often an unfortunate fact that doctors “run for cover” whenever there is even a hint that one is being asked to involve him or herself in such a “legal process”.  Doctors will outright refuse to write a medical report; one may be dropped as a patient suddenly and without warning; there may be considerable delays and obfuscation in responding to a request for a written narrative report.  These are merely some of the underlying reasons why an SF 3112C should never be used — because it does not properly explain what it means to “get involved” in the administrative process.  To this extent, it is important to have an attorney who will carefully, and with great tact, explain the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits — and thereby “disarm” the doctor from being intimidated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Discretionary Judgments

There are many things in the long process of getting a Federal Disability Retirement application approved, which are purely “discretionary”, based upon one’s experience, sense of a case, an ear to listening to a client, and based upon a compendium of factors, facts and circumstances, to come up with the “best” decision on a particular issue.  A person who tries to go through the process alone, without the ear, mind, experience or judgment of an attorney who knows the process governing Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, has to make such discretionary decisions without the benefit of past experiences. 

Such decisions can range from small issues of:  how and when a treating doctor should be approached in the request for a medical narrative; how much guidance the doctor would need or want in preparing a medical narrative report; when and how to inform the agency of the pending decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, etc.; to the larger decisions, such as which medical conditions and reports to include in the final packet to be submitted to the Office of Personnel Management; and many other such discretionary decisions.  Yet, when grouped together, the complex interactions of the multiple “discretionary judgments” can often make or break a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM SF 3112 Schedule C Form: The Doctor’s Statements

The lack of cooperation from a treating doctor, who is asked to provide a medical narrative report for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, may be based upon one of several factors:  It may be that the doctor merely refuses to engage in any type of administrative support for his patients; it may be that the doctor has private suspicions that, to openly admit that his/her patient must file for Federal Disability Retirement means that his/her treatments have failed, and thus, the patient/disability retirement applicant is considering filing a malpractice action, and asking him/her to write a supportive medical narrative is merely a ploy to set the groundwork for a later malpractice action; it may just be bad bedside manners; or it may be that the doctor does not understand the Federal Disability Retirement process, and how it differs for Social Security Disability, or Worker’s Comp.

If it is the latter reason, then it is the job of the attorney to make sure and explain, delineate, and inform the doctor of the nature, extent, and context of Federal Disability Retirement — and to show how an approval for disability retirement benefits will be the best thing for his/her patient.  This is where an attorney representing an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS becomes a crucial component in the preparation of such an application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire