Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Testing a Relationship

If the advent of a crisis is a true test of a relationship, then the satisfaction of an ongoing need in response to the crisis is the harbinger of sincerity.  Testing the relationship is often the secondary trauma one must experience in life; for, the feeling of isolation which often accompanies a crisis — that sense that no one else can fully understand the experience; that others, while empathetic words of condolences may be uttered, can always seek the refuge of their comfortable zones of privacy and go on with their lives — is further exacerbated by the island of singularity which one recognizes in the face of finding one’s self in the the human condition of crisis.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the chronicity and progressive decline of that medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the testing of relationships must necessarily occur.  The test of that doctor-patient relationship, to see whether and to what extent one’s longstanding treating doctor will support the need for Federal Disability Retirement; the test of the worker-to-coworker relationship; the employer-employee relationship; they all become tested, to observe their elasticity, their durability, and their sincerity.

Fortunately, it is not one’s own agency which makes a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application, but rather, a separate, independent agency — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But one’s own agency is required to complete certain portions of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and those required parts will also be a partial test.  For the Federal and Postal employee who must endure the crisis of a medical condition, Federal Disability Retirement is a process which will test many things — not the least of which will involve who were and are one’s true friends.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Systematic versus Haphazard

The latter term (“haphazard”) is marked by a lack of planning, and connotes a loss of direction and depicting disorderliness.  The first term in the bifurcated title represents a purposeful and planned event; one which possesses a goal from the beginning of an initiated process, and in an ordered manner, goes about to execute that goal by taking and completing pre-planned steps in order to reach that endpoint.

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 important to approach the completion and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application in a systematic manner, as opposed to a haphazard one.  By “systematic” does not necessarily mean “sequential”, however — as in the sequence of the standard forms which one receives in a packet of governmental forms.

Thus, for instance, if one simply picks up the 3112 series of forms, it would not make sense to fill out and complete 3112A first, then to send out the Physician’s Statement (3112C) to the doctor (side note:  this author has widely, systematically, and for some great amount of time, counseled against using the 3112C because of the potential wider consequences of allowing for unfettered access by the agency to a Federal or Postal Worker’s medical records, so be forewarned) for completion.

Indeed, to do so would not make any sense:  why would one complete questions about one’s own medical condition prior to having, in hand, medical reports from one’s own treating doctors?  By “systematic” does not mean getting the forms and filling them out in as quick a time frame as possible.

While completion of a Federal Disability Retirement packet is certainly a goal, a far greater goal is to prepare, formulate (systematically), and then file — but not in a haphazard manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Hope versus Pragmatic Assessment

Hope is a peculiarly human characteristic; it is both a motivator and an incentive; yet, an unrealistic embracing of it, without reality-based assessments, can lead to a frail sense of overwhelming despondency.  Hope is the substantive element of the con-artist; for, the fraudulent plan to defraud another is based upon fostering the believer that — though it may sound too good to be true — the hope that human nature is good, and the results of such a scheme would reward one with lasting riches, is the thread which tugs at the unsuspecting and naive.  Gambling, the Lottery — despite the exponential odds against winning, are a testament to the human foible identified as “hope”.  Do animals possess it?  Perhaps in some unstated, inherent way — that the potential food source will not be as formidable as it may appear.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is often the sense of “hope” which leads to procrastination, a delay to the detriment of the Federal or Postal Worker.  Whether the hope that the workplace environment will change; that perhaps, one day soon, a new supervisor will come along; that the medical condition will improve despite the doctor’s reticence and reluctance to make eye contact when the question is asked; whether the surgery just prior to, or the multiple history of surgeries, did nothing to feed any realistic assessment of hope; whatever the reasons, yes, “hope” is a uniquely human characteristic, and indeed, that which brings us closer to the angels than the apes below.

But in considering Federal Disability Retirement, hope must be combined with other human characteristics — of pragmatism, logic, analytical assessment, and the ability to plan for the future.  Hope, in and of itself, while feeding the soul, fails to feed the body; and as human beings are not quite angels, the practical needs of life must be attended to.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Professionals & Saving Time

In many areas of law, it is often the case that “professionals” prefer dealing with other professionals.  Thus, doctors will often encourage their patients to obtain the services of a lawyer when it has come time to consider medical retirement.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, there are multiple factors to consider when engaging in the preparatory stages of the administrative process.  The reason why doctors often prefer to deal with attorneys when the patient is compiling the “paperwork” for Federal Disability Retirement is that it saves time.  

Time is a commodity which is scarce and valuable.  Doctors do not want to have to engage in multiple revisions or rewriting of medical reports.  Doctors are professionals who believe that their time is best spent in treating patients — and while such “paperwork” is a necessary part of a doctor’s practice, and one which ultimately assists the patient in furthering his or her medical condition and future well-being; nevertheless, if an administrative issue needs to be addressed, doctors will often prefer to accomplish such administrative tasks in the most efficient, expeditious manner possible.  

The same concept holds true for the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  While there is never a guarantee that a “professional” will present a compelling enough case to the Office of Personnel Management such that an approval of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be a certainty; nevertheless, it is normally the most effective road to success.  

As time is a valuable and scarce commodity, so such scarcity and value should be considered at the beginning of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The “Nice” Doctor

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is first and foremost important to have the support of one’s treating doctor.  By “support” is meant that the treating doctor must be willing to spend the time and effort needed to prepare and present a medical narrative which will not only narrate and delineate the diagnoses and symptoms — but beyond that, to take the time to explain the “why” of the nexus between the patient’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s job.  

To this extent, of course, the Federal or Postal Worker’s attorney should be of the utmost assistance — to guide the doctor in order to meet the legal criteria for qualifying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  It is never an issue of telling the doctor “what to say” — the integrity of the medical opinion of the doctor should never be violated.  Rather, it is an issue of explaining the elements and legal criteria which need to be addressed.  

In ascertaining the level of support which a doctor is willing to provide, it is simply not enough to establish the factual foundation that the doctor is very “nice”.  Nice doctors aside — whether in conversation, table manners or a general sense that he or she is genuinely an all-around nice person — the question is, Will the doctor spend the time and effort (and yes, it is proper for the doctor to be reasonably compensated for his time and effort) in preparing a narrative report which addresses the legal elements in order to present a case of medical disability to the Office of Personnel Management?  

It is nice to have a nice doctor; it is even nicer to have a nice doctor who will support one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Don’t Assume

We are all familiar with the acronym-like adage which can be extracted from the word “assume”.  In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the first question that one must ask of one’s self is:  “Do I have a supportive doctor?”  If the answer is an unequivocal “No”, then entertaining even the thought of proceeding forward with the process is a virtual act of futility.  

Now, to all unqualified statements, there are exceptions to the rule.  There are, indeed, medical conditions where the mere treatment records, office notes, etc., reveal irrefutably of a medical condition of such severity that there is no question as to its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  But that is rare.  If the answer to the original question is:  “He may be…”  “I assume he is supportive…”  “He seems supportive because…”   While these are niceties in one’s figment of one’s imagination, and foster a sense of security and a warmth for a doctor-patient relationship, such answers all have an undercurrent of an assumption.  Don’t assume, if you are planning to go forward with a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Instead, make an appointment with your doctor and have a frank and open discussion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Doctor’s Comfort Level

Doctors are funny creatures.  Administrative matters are often distasteful; yet, most doctors recognize that it is a necessary evil as part of the general practice of medicine.  Doctors often act arrogantly; yet, their arrogance is often in reaction to questions and statements which they deem to be irrelevant or insolent.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, it is obviously important to get the active, affirmative support of a treating doctor.  How does one go about doing this?  It is ultimately up the patient.  Remember — we are speaking about a “treating doctor” — not a stranger, but a person who, normally over the course of many years, has come to know, evaluate and treat the potential applicant who is filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits.  Over the years, therefore, hopefully a relationship has grown to fruition.  Asking the treating doctor to support you in a Federal Disability Retirement application — or, if an attorney is hired, to let the doctor know that his or her legal representative will be requesting a medical report — should be the culmination of that special relationship which has developed:  the doctor-patient relationship, one which has grown over the many years of contact, discussion, conversation, and treatment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: Doctors Do Want to Help

It is rare that a treating doctor fails to help, or refuses to help.  Yes, “getting involved” in a “legal case” is not only a headache, but for a doctor, it is often an intimidating experience, and many doctors have become “gun shy” over the years because of the negative experiences which have befallen them when getting involved in the legal side of his or her medical practice.

Look at it from the doctor’s viewpoint.

While one may fully understand the distinction between Federal Disability Retirement issues under FERS or CSRS, and those “other” issues (i.e., OWCP/FECA Department of Labor cases, or personal injury cases, etc.), from the treating doctor’s viewpoint, they are all “legal” issues.  And, from the doctor’s perspective and prior negative experiences, once you stick your neck out on behalf of a patient and get involved in a case, one never knows what it may lead to — court, depositions, cross-examinations, etc.  But there is indeed a difference and a distinction between those “other cases” and filing for Federal Disability Retirement cases.

To soothe the feathers of a doctor is important; to take the time to explain the process is vital; to make the job of the doctor as efficient and non-threatening is the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Arming the Doctor after Disarming

It is one thing to provide an explanation of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to the treating doctor; that is simply not enough.  Providing an explanation “disarms” the health professional.  While such explanation and helping the doctor to understand the process is certainly helpful, ultimately the treating doctor needs more than information; he or she needs guidance in order to “arm” one’s self with the tools necessary to help the patient. 

Fortunately, most doctors are professional, compassionate, and eager to help.  Writing medical reports are an administrative aspect of the practice of medicine which is not only a headache, but takes the doctor away from the valuable and limited time for actually treating the patient.  It is therefore important for the Federal or Postal employee who is applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to “arm” the doctor with the necessary tools needed in order to successfully prepare, formulate and construct a sufficient and effective narrative report in order to “pass muster” with the Office of Personnel Management.  The first and primary rule in helping to prepare the doctor is to always protect and maintain the integrity of the doctor.  Truth in every endeavor, and especially in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, should be the ultimate guiding light.  How that truth is stated, however, is where the guidance, tooling and “arming” comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Doctor's Opinion

As an attorney who represents Federal and Postal employees to “obtain” Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is important to make distinctions within the process of securing the Federal benefit:  while it is important to solicit and secure the medical opinion of the treating doctor, the resistance from such doctors — if in fact there is any resistance at all — most often comes about because the doctor doesn’t understand the “process”. 

Doctors are medical providers.  They are in the practice of medicine because they believe in applying the science of medicine to help their patients get better.  Helping someone obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is not part of “practicing medicine”.  Yet, in many ways, it is.  It is part of practicing medicine because, to allow the patient to continue to work in a job which he or she cannot perform, will only exacerbate and worsen the medical condition. 

Further, doctors never like to “disable” their patients.  To counter this medical opinion, it is important to clearly inform the doctor what the process of Federal disability retirement is and is not.  It is the job of the attorney hired to represent a Federal or Postal worker to obtain disability retirement benefits, to clearly and cogently explain the entire process to the treating doctor.  That is what I do, at the very start, in representing my clients.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire