Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: From the Doctor’s Perspective

In attempting to understand others, it is important to gain a perspective from which the third party views the world.  Understanding the third party perspective is a way to formulating an effective way of persuading a change in that person, if that is the goal. Or, perhaps understanding X merely in order to accept the behavior or actions of the individual, is enough of a reason.

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 often important to understand the perspective of one’s treating doctor in order to obtain the necessary support and administrative initiation of the medical provider.

From the doctor’s viewpoint, it is normally counter-productive in terms of treatment and therapy to declare, ascertain and deem that the patient is “totally disabled“.  Work is therapeutic; it allows for a teleological motivation which compels continuation in recuperative and rehabilitative terms.

Further, when this “fact” is combined with the general exposure of most doctors to other forms of disability benefits — state or federal OWCP benefits; Social Security Disability benefits; private disability insurance benefits — and rarely an encounter with FERS or CSRS disability retirement issues, it becomes apparent why doctors often become reluctant and resistant to getting involved with the administrative process.  OWCP benefits require an assertion of causality-to-employment; SSDI necessitates a declaration of “total disability”; private disability policies can often lead to depositions and legal responses.

Thus, everything that is counterintuitive to a doctor’s perspective of what is therapeutically beneficial to the patient, is potentially there when presented with a request for support in a disability retirement case.

Explanation is the key to understanding; effective explanation should persuade and alter a perspective founded upon a misinformed foundation.  It is often necessary to explain the differences between FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits and the “others” which have previously polluted the waters of a pristine stream of thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Garnering the Differing Perspectives

There are varying and (sometimes) competing perspectives, which must be garnered for a cooperative totality of perspectives — including the perspective of the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, the applicant filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, and the doctor.

The doctor, of course, is naturally suspicious of the entire process.  That is why it is crucial to explain the process, the distinction between OPM Disability Retirement and other processes such as SSDI and OWCP.

There may even be an underlying hesitation because of the suspicion of a contemplated lawsuit.  If the doctor is a surgeon, he or she might be suspicious that the reason why you are asking for a medical narrative report is because you want the doctor to admit that the prior surgical intervention was unsuccessful, and that such an admission will be used to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Without addressing the issue directly, by explaining the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement — what it entails; what is needed; why and how it is different from other processes — will ultimately benefit the applicant and the entire process by garnering the support of the doctor.  Explanation and understanding is always the best avenue to easing the mind of suspicion.

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

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Disarming the Doctor

To some extent, there is indeed a “difference” and a “distinction” between an Administrative process of law, and a “legal” or “courtroom” (i.e., “adversarial”) process of law.  Doctors are, by either personal & professional direct experience, or from hearing or reading about others, keenly aware of the horrors of the “legal” process.  Malpractice lawsuits, personal injury lawsuits, subpoenas, depositions, being cross-examined by a defense attorney (or the Plaintiff’s attorney, whichever may be the case) on the stand — these are all intimidating factors that are deliberately avoided. 

Because of such negative experiences, perspectives, memories or viewpoints about the legal process, it is often an unfortunate fact that doctors “run for cover” whenever there is even a hint that one is being asked to involve him or herself in such a “legal process”.  Doctors will outright refuse to write a medical report; one may be dropped as a patient suddenly and without warning; there may be considerable delays and obfuscation in responding to a request for a written narrative report.  These are merely some of the underlying reasons why an SF 3112C should never be used — because it does not properly explain what it means to “get involved” in the administrative process.  To this extent, it is important to have an attorney who will carefully, and with great tact, explain the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits — and thereby “disarm” the doctor from being intimidated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The “Cover” of an FCE

Most doctors are unfamiliar with the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, but are more often than not familiar with the process, procedures, and correlative headaches associated with Worker’s Comp benefits.  Because of this greater familiarity, there is often an underlying suspicion that comes along with it — that rendering any medical opinion must be accompanied by some underlying justification and “objective” methodology of supporting the medical opinion.  And this is understandable. 

In this day and age of malpractice lawsuits, of questioning every test, procedure and opinion, it is rare that a medical doctor is comfortable and secure in rendering a medical opinion about one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, based solely or primarily upon clinical examinations and reviewing of diagnostic results.  Enter the FCE — the “Functional Capacity Evaluation”.  The FCE provides “cover” for a doctor’s medical opinion, because the doctor can point to an apparently “objective” evaluation — a third party rendering a number of physical tests, exertional exercises, physical capacity movements, etc., which serve to provide a framework from which a doctor can render an “objective ” opinion.  Why it is accepted that pointing to someone else’s evaluation — as opposed to relying upon one’s own clinical examinations, reviewing one’s history, reviewing diagnostic test results, etc. — is any more valid, is a great mystery.  But if it makes the doctor feel more comfortable, then a person considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should go ahead and agree to submit to an FCE, if that is what it takes to get the doctor on board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire