OPM Disability Retirement: Medical Support, Belief, Documentation and the Diagnosis

Ultimately, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always remind one’s self that this is a “paper presentation” (regardless of the prevailing and inevitable march towards a paperless society) to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  As such, there are certain inextricable components in the presentation itself, which must be reviewed, evaluated, and decided upon before proceeding.

As a “presentation” which is meant to be persuasive — i.e., proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit, whether under FERS or CSRS — it must obviously have the essence of the proof itself:  Medical Support.  Without the medical support, one need not consider moving forward at all.

Once the Federal or Postal employee has ascertained that he or she has the medical support to proceed, then the question is one of obtaining the documentation which confirms such support.  For, a pat on the back and a wonderful smile from the doctor will not be persuasive to OPM; the doctor must be willing to document, in detailed format, the support which is expressed.

Next, in sequential order, the medical documentation must reveal, convey, and persuasively reflect, a level of belief which will be tested in the event that the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the Process, and further tested if it is denied at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the process.  Thus, in short, the treating or supporting doctor must possess a level of belief in one’s case, and be willing to support that belief throughout the entire administrative process.

Finally, the doctor must be able to make a diagnosis, but more than that, to support the diagnosis, and be willing to make the “nexus” between the diagnosis, the patient’s physical, emotional and cognitive capabilities, and to relate them to one’s positional duties of one’s job.  It is through this process of connecting the dots, where the end-goal is achieved:  of obtaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP Doctors, and Others, Etc.

Can a doctor with whom one has been treating, but one which was obtained through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, Department of Labor (FECA/DOL), Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP), be an effective advocate for one’s Disability Retirement application?  Of course.

Often, however, there is a complaint that the “OWCP doctor” is not very responsive to a Federal or Postal employee’s attempt to approach the question of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  As FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is based upon proving by a preponderance of the evidence one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is crucial that the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have a supportive doctor.

While the Merit Systems Protection Board’s expanding case-law holdings continue to reinforce the idea that the most effective advocate in a Federal Disability Retirement case is a “treating doctor”, as such, medical reports obtained through 2nd opinion or “referee” consultations, or via filing for Social Security Disability benefits, may have some limitations on their usage; nevertheless, the weapons of arguing that an “independent” source of medical review also found that one could not perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, can be an effective substantive argument.

As for the OWCP-treating doctor, sometimes those forms completed by such a doctor will be enough to meet the eligibility requirements for OPM Disability Retirement — but that is an individual assessment based upon the uniqueness of each case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Contemplative Action

Contemplation for the sake of “in and of itself” can be activity without purpose or end, and can lead to inertia; for the living of modern life inherently has demands of actions — of “making” a living, of “producing” results, and “accomplishing” set goals and purposeful ends.  But contemplation for the sake of an end is in and of itself a useful activity.  

Part of the “preparation” of the oft-used phrase (used repeatedly in these blogs), “In preparing, formulating and filing…” is the very act of contemplation — of formulating a plan of action for the securing of one’s future.  For, the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing, as some future event, a Federal Disability Retirement application either under FERS or CSRS, with the Office of Personnel Management, must contemplate the emotional, financial, and future impact of such an action, and there is indeed much to contemplate in the very pre-preparatory stage of the administrative action.  

Can one endure the long wait of the administrative process?  Does one have a supportive medical community to provide the documentary support necessary to be successful?  Will one’s family, friends, etc., understand and empathize?  What will be the reaction of those who will be informed — family, coworkers, supervisors, doctors, etc.?  

I often state that the “Holidays” should not be a time to iron out differences within the family, but instead should be a time of “coming together” and enjoying the time and life away from the daily comedies of the modern life style; that such “ironing out” should be done during those other periods of the year.  But such respites as the “Holidays” can and should be used to contemplate and formulate a plan of action for the future; and in the quietude of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it may be time to huddle around a contemplative time of gathering, in order to secure a brighter future.  

Remember, preparation is the key to success, and wise and good counsel should always be a part of that preparation.  In dealing with the Office of Personnel Management in preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is often a good idea to have a contemplative phase, and to rely upon good advice and counsel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Appearance versus Substance

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, one often overlooks the basic, foundational questions needed to have answered in the preliminary stages of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

The fact that one has a medical condition which impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job is a “given” — i.e., a fact that then prompts or initiates the entire procedure of even contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

To proceed from that “given”, however, requires further insight and questioning — more of a practical nature, as in:  What are the essential elements of my job?  Do I have doctors who view my medical condition in the same way as I do?  More importantly, will my doctors support me in my quest to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  How will I explain to them the very processes and procedures, of the legal and medical requirements which must be met in preparing a medical report, such that the medical narrative report will meet those legal requirements?  Do I have the resources ready in order to sustain a protracted administrative battle with the Office of Personnel Management?  Will my agency allow me to continue to work while I engage in this application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?

These are all serious and substantive questions — ones which go beyond the mere appearance of thinking that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, is merely a matter of “filling out forms“.

It never is, and just as “substance” differs from “appearance” (which is the entire philosophical basis of the Socratic and dialectical tradition of Western Philosophy), so the questions one asks at the outset of the process is important in determining the substantive nature of one’s quest.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Supporting the Concept

In preparing, formulating and filing a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement application, the important first step in the “preparation” phase — or, one might even term it conceptually as the “pre-preparation phase” — is to engage the treating doctor with the conceptual framework of what Federal Disability Retirement entails and encompasses.  

As has been repeated many times previously in other blogs, doctors are not administrators, and ultimately detest the need to annotate, narrate, write reports, etc.  The legal system has forced doctors to keep records, if only for their self-protection in the event of a question of malpractice, and the requirement of keeping office records and notes has had the positive corollary effect of forcing doctors to “think through” the procedural steps of what it is that they are “doing”.  

Requesting the treating doctor to support a Federal Disability Retirement application has the identical positive result of forcing the doctor into an admission that one’s medical condition has come to a crossroads:  prior treatment modalities have not proven to be effective; the chronic and progressively deteriorating nature of the physical or psychiatric condition has shown to be “treatment-resistant”; the time has come to acknowledge that a different mind-set must be embraced — one which includes a period of rest, restorative time, and a stage of recuperation away from the activities which the Federal or Postal employee spends on average 40 – 50% of the time at:  one’s job.  

Speaking to the doctor about his or her support and role in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application is the first, necessary, and vital step in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  How best to approach the doctor, the timing, the words and concepts to use, etc., are all part of that preparation.  

If it is time for the Federal or Postal worker to recognize that one’s medical conditions are preventing the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is time to think about pre-preparing the treating doctor.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Treating Doctor versus “Others”

Obtaining the support of one’s treating doctor is an essential element in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. The “treating doctor” is a unique animal, and one who possesses peculiar and particularized knowledge specifically relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

The treating doctor usually has a longstanding relationship with the potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant; through extensive and multiple clinical encounters, has formed a professional opinion about the overall health issues of his/her patient; has often spoken about other matters, including personal issues, and therefore has formed that puzzling emotional bond identified as a “relationship” with the potential Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant; has knowledge of the history of the Federal or Postal employee, including personal tidbits of information; and other important information.  

Aside from the fact that the Merit Systems Protection Board’s specific acknowledgement of the importance of the treating doctor (while not denigrating the ability of a referral doctor or disability specialist in also playing an important part in the determination of an OPM Disability Retirement application), it is precisely because of this knowledge that he/she possesses — based upon a thorough understanding grounded upon historical information gathered over a span of time; based upon intimate clinical encounters; based upon a professional observation of the chronicity, impact and progressive nature of a medical condition upon the abilities and capabilities of the Federal or Postal employee — that a special “place” of status and stature is granted to the Treating Doctor.  

This is important to know in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire