In preparing, formulating and filing an OPM Disability Retirement application under Federal employee retirement system (FERS), the support of one’s treating doctor is essential in putting together an effective presentation to the Office of Personnel Management. Sometimes, even doctors have to be reminded of his or her “obligation” to a patient. When, how, and in what manner of approaching the doctor, is a discretionary element of the process best left up to the patient.
The reason why the “treating doctor”, as delineated by cases and opinions rendered by Administrative Judges at the Merit Systems Protection Board and by Judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is the best one to provide a clinical assessment and evaluation of one’s ability or inability, and the extent thereof, of performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is that the long-term relationship that has been (or should have been) established over these many years of treatment, is a foundational basis of being able to ascertain the abilities, capabilities, and limitations of the patient’s physical, emotional and mental condition.
If a treating doctor hides behind the excuse of saying that he or she is not “equipped” to make a disability determination, or that there are doctors “out there” who specialize in disability determinations, and he/she is not one of them, an explanatory discussion should be engaged in with the doctor, which should include at least the following three (3) elements: (1) A reminder of the history of the doctor-patient relationship, (2) that your particular doctor is the one who knows the intimate details of your medical conditions and the history of treatment engaged in, and (3) that such administrative headaches resulting in obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management is a vital part of the long and recuperative process that the doctor has been trying to attain.
Ultimately, it is the treating doctor who is the best one to render an opinion as to whether a Federal or Postal employee whom the doctor is treating, can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s particular job. The question then is, Is the doctor in? Meaning: Is the doctor still going to “be there” when it really counts?
Robert R. McGill, Esquire