OPM Disability Retirement: Unexpected Course of Events

Expectations are a peculiar phenomena in the human mind:  it occurs through a history of past experiences; tempered by present circumstances; projected through rational evaluation and analysis of past perspectives and present conditions.  One’s record of fulfilled expectations, as against failed or unforeseen ones, portend the validity of future such thoughts.

While medical conditions themselves may not meet the criteria of an expected event, once it becomes a part of one’s existential condition, it is important to evaluate resulting and consequential events, circumstances and causal relationships in order to make plans for one’s future.  One must not ruminate about the unfortunate course of events for too long; there is further work to be done.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, medical determinations must be made as to future expectations which will impact present circumstances:  Will the condition last for a minimum of 12 months?  What are the chances of recovery from the condition such that sufficiency of rehabilitation will result in returning to work and being able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job?  How will the agency act/react (not too much in terms of expectations should be considered on this issue)?  What can one expect in terms of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity?  And many other questions which will need to be addressed in order to bring to fore the past, project it into the future, such that decisions impacting the present can be made.

Expectations:  It is where the past, present and future coalesce in the fertile human mind for purposes of decision-making, thereby confirming Aristotle’s dictum that we are not merely animals, but rational animals with a teleological bent.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Treatment, Surgery and Medication Regimens

In contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always bifurcate issues which are “legal”, “employment-related”, and “medical”, etc.  Of course, issues can easily cross over between neatly-construed, artificial boundaries, such that certain issues contains multiple areas.

For example, there is the question of compliance with medical treatment.  First and foremost, whether it concerns or impacts a Federal or Postal employee — or any employee of any organization — the question of whether an individual is complying with the treatment recommendations of a doctor is one which is, and should be, first and foremost a medical one.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, however, that same question can indeed cross over into becoming a legal issue concurrently, because non-compliance with certain types of treatment regimens can be a basis for a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application by the Office of Personnel Management.

As to “which” treatment modalities would be a basis for a denial, in general terms, those treatment modalities which one might construe as “minimal” in nature, certainly qualify.  Thus, compliance with a medication regimen is certainly a basis for a denial in a Federal Disability Retirement application; refusing to undergo a prescribed course of physical therapy may be another.  On the other hand, deciding to forego surgery is normally not a basis for a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, if only because of the percentages of success even with surgery are tenuous at best, and even with surgery, there is always the question of whether the Federal or Postal employee would be able to perform all of the essential elements of the job anyway.

Questions of medical treatment compliance should first and always be considered a medical question, and only in a secondary sense, a legal question.  One’s health should be the penultimate concern; the legal consequences, an afterthought.

Keeping one’s priorities in order is always the best approach, whether contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, or not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Spectrum of Medical Requirements

In considering a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a Federal or Postal employee must ask questions beyond the primacy of obtaining the necessary and proper medical care for treatment of one’s own medical condition.  Thus, evidentiary issues must be considered; issues of obtaining proper medical documentation; seeking the active support of a treating doctor, etc.  These are all “non-medical” considerations, which have little to do with the actual treatment and care of one’s medical condition, but have everything to do with preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  

There is a distinction between the two (receiving the necessary medical care and preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application), and it is important to recognize the conceptual distinction, because the former can impact the latter.  For instance, on the spectrum of medical care (or refusal thereof) which can impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, refusal to undergo “facially reasonable medical treatment” can defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

The question, of course, is how to interpret what constitutes “facially reasonable medical care”?  There are certain “obvious” ones, and then others which are not so obvious.  Normally, the Merit Systems Protection Board has held that refusal to undergo invasive surgery is not a bar to being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; on the other hand, refusing to take prescribed medications can, and often is, a bar to eligibility.  All else fall within the middle of the spectrum of such medical/legal requirements.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire