Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Ignorance and Coping

Within the complex world of information technology, modernity has reached a level of overload which few from past generations could have ever imagined. One needs only to peruse a Tom Swift novel to compare how far we have come; and even the old greats like Asimov and Bradbury could not have foreseen, in the height of their intellectual and creative powers, much of the technological gadgetry of the present age.

Then, of course, there is the “human side” of the equation of modern technology — of how individuals cope with such information overload.  Many have theorized that the exponential explosion of Major Depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and the societal impact of increased psychiatric disorders, stems from a response in terms of coping mechanisms; and we counter the response with advanced pharmaceutical admixtures.  The more common means employed to cope with the deluge of constant informational dissemination, is to limit the exposure to the volume of encounters.

Thus, the age-old adage of ignorance being a “blissful state” retains some semblance of truth.  But for those facing issues of legal limitations and filing deadlines, it is best to “be in the know”.

For Federal and Postal Workers intending upon filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the 1-year Statute of Limitations for filing applies from the time of separation from Federal Service.  Being on OWCP does not forestall or extend the 1-year rule. As such, once an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 is issued or, for Postal Workers, when those 0-balance pay stubs stop coming in the mail, it is well to be aware that the clock has begun to tick.

Ignorance can indeed be blissful, and being the gatekeeper of information overload may be a means of coping; but in the end, the inquisitiveness of Tom Swift must always prevail.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement (for US Federal Employees): Administering Treatment versus Administrative Functions

Doctors rarely have any problems with administering treatment based upon clinical encounters and subjective narratives from their patients; yet, when it comes to providing a medical report and performing similar administrative functions, the sudden pause, hesitation, and sometimes outright refusal, is rather puzzling, if not disconcerting.

Such trepidation from the doctor can obviously result in a difficult wall for purposes of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

For, much of medical evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis and prescribing of treatment encompasses receipt of subjective responses from the patient:  where the pain is present; the nature and extent of the pain; the history and chronicity of manifested symptoms; even functional capacity evaluations must necessarily be an observation of the subjective actions & reactions of the participant.  Of course, there are often distinguishable “objective” factors — swelling; carcinogenic versus benign tumors; broken bones, etc.

On the other hand, even MRIs and other diagnostic tools reveal only that X exists — not that X results in symptom Y.  An example would be a bulging disc — while the abnormality itself may show up on an MRI, whether the individual experiences any pain from the abnormality may differ from subject to subject.

This is why, despite the willingness of a doctor to treat based upon most factors being “subjective” in nature, it becomes a puzzle why the same doctor shows an unwillingness to write a report stating that, because of the medical conditions for which patient M is being treated, one must necessarily conclude that he or she cannot perform essential elements X, Y and Z of his or her job.

It is the jump from treatment-to-disability-determination which is often problematic for the treating doctor.  All of a sudden, the excuses flow:  “I am not trained to make such determinations”; “There is no objective basis for your pain” (then why have you been treating me for over a decade and prescribing high levels of narcotic pain medications?); “I can’t say whether you can or cannot do your job”; and many other excuses.

The switch from administering treatment, to treating administrative matters, is one fraught with potential obstacles.  How one approaches the treating doctor will often determine whether such obstacles can be overcome — and whether one’s Federal Disability Retirement application can be successfully formulated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: That “Aha” Moment

There are moments when one comes to a realization of solving a problem, or perhaps of  breaking through an obstacle in the process of a creative endeavor; or even in making a simple decision — of overcoming the problem of how to systematically eliminate “other” options and alternatives in order to arrive at the most intelligent decision.  Some identify such moments as “aha” experiences; others, merely the result of systematic activity leading to a fruitful conclusion.

In coming to a decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, some will look upon the decision and the realization for the need to file, as a life-changing event, where one has finally overcome the mental obstacle that it is somehow a demeaning and diminishing decision to admit the manifestation and impacting consequences of a medical disability.  But one should always be aware of the fact that, in pragmatic terms, it is merely a decision that one must change vocations and attempt to become productive in some other capacity in life.

The hard work of life does not disappear merely because one has an “aha” moment; rather, it is the systematic living which occurs after such an experience, which will test the will and character of a human being.

Federal Disability Retirement is not an admission of defeat; it is not a filing for “total disability“; rather, it is merely an identification of the inconsistency between one’s medical condition and the particular kind of job which one finds one’s self in.  Far from a termination of a process, it is merely the beginning of the road to recovery and a venture into a different vocation and realm.

That realization — that it is merely a change of circumstances — is the true “aha’ moment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Supportive Physician

Physicians comprise a peculiar and unique breed of people; highly trained, the best physicians must be more than a technician, however, in order to effectively treat their patients.  The uniqueness of the profession itself requires a full panoply of skills, including intelligence of application; an acuity of judgment; analytical abilities in evaluating, assessing, diagnosing, and ultimately treating; a bedside manner which conveys confidence and compassion at the same time; and not least — an ability to listen and communicate.

For the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a physician who is supportive of the potential applicant’s endeavor is crucial to the successful outcome of the entire administrative process.  By “support” cannot merely be characterized by a smile and a pat on the back; it requires that the physician be willing to make the connection between one’s medical conditions (which the treating doctor should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of) and the essential elements of one’s job (of which the Federal or Postal employee should have a deep and detailed awareness).

Thus, as the partnership for healing comes together in the creation and fostering of a doctor-patient relationship, so the fruition of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application begins with the coalescent cooperation between the medical professional and the Federal or Postal employee who is preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  How that cooperation comes together, of course, makes all the difference, and the tell-tale sign is the willingness to provide a detailed narrative medical report.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Patient/Applicant

Before even thinking about starting the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the patient/applicant to approach his or her doctor and get an initial commitment of support. For, ultimately, the most essential lynchpin of a disability retirement application hangs on the support of a doctor — from the first and initial stage, all the way to the Merit Systems Protection Board (where live telephone testimony may be necessary).

The “patient” needs to approach the doctor with sensitivity. It is probably not even a good idea to talk about anything beyond the first stage of the process — instead, the focus should be about how “support” for a disability retirement application is actually part of the rehabilitation and healing process of medical treatment. For, ultimately, a disability annuitant under FERS or CSRS is not asking to be “totally disabled” by the doctor (and, indeed, most doctors do not want to release their patients into the retirement “pasture” of full disability); rather, it is simply a medical support of reasoning that a particular patient is no longer a “good fit” for a particular kind of job. Don’t scare the doctor off with a view of the “long process”; rather, the initial commitment is all that is needed — for the first stage of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire