By Kimberly H. Berry, Esq., www.retirementlaw.com
Federal employees filing for disability retirement are covered by either the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). One of the key components of a federal employee’s successful disability retirement application before OPM is the physician’s statement. This article discusses some helpful guidance when obtaining a physician's statement.
Physician’s Statements in OPM Disability Retirement Applications
When seeking disability retirement, a federal employee should present a well-written physician’s statement. When evaluating a federal employee’s disability retirement application, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) primarily seeks medical evidence that supports the federal employee’s information provided in his or her application. In order for OPM to support a federal employee’s claim that he or she is disabled and unable to provide useful and efficient service in his or her current position, the federal employee should provide a well-written and detailed physician’s statement when submitting the application. In many cases, OPM may deny a disability retirement application without supporting medical documentation. Of all of the items in a federal employee’s disability retirement submission to OPM, the physician’s statement is arguably the most important element of the federal employee’s disability retirement application.
Important Information to Include in Physician’s Statements
Physician statements should include important information about a federal employee’s disability. Unfortunately, OPM’s form SF-3112C and instructions do not actually provide much detail as to what specifically should be included in the physician’s statement. As a result, many physicians are often confused as to what type of information should be included in the SF-3112C. However, based on our experience, we find that it is critical that the physician provide a great deal of detailed medical documentation in the SF-3112(C). The most helpful type of physician’s statement further addresses the federal employee’s specific medical conditions and symptoms, and how they prevent the federal employee from performing his or her job duties as described in the federal employee’s position description.
In preparation for asking a physician to complete the federal employee’s SF-3112(C), the federal employee should provide the physician with a copy or summary of his or her official and actual job duties. For instance, the federal employee should provide a copy of his or her position description to the physician. When preparing physician’s statements, it is important to keep in mind that OPM is not necessarily focused on whether the federal employee is fully disabled from completing a particular type of work. OPM is typically more interested in detailed medical evidence establishing how the federal employee is disabled in such a way that prevents the employee from performing his or her current job duties.
Approaching a Physician for a Statement
When a federal employee retains our firm to assist in his or her disability retirement application, we typically coordinate with the employee’s physician regarding the content needed in the SF-3112(C). We may also help to answer the physician’s questions about the disability retirement process. Many physicians are unfamiliar with the OPM disability retirement process, so we find that it can help to have legal counsel explain the process to them.
Additionally, we often assist the physician by providing him or her guidance as to the type of medical evidence that OPM is seeking when they review the SF-3122(C). Also, because health insurance generally does not compensate a physician for the completion of such paperwork, it is important to offer to pay for the physician’s time in preparing the statement, if appropriate. Typically, most physicians like to help their patients in the disability retirement application process and are usually the first to recommend disability retirement to the federal employee when appropriate and warranted.
When considering OPM disability retirement, it is important to obtain the advice and representation of legal counsel. Our firm represents federal employees in the disability retirement process before various federal agencies and OPM. Please contact us at www.retirementlaw.com, www.berrylegal.com, or by telephone at (703) 668-0070, for a consultation to discuss your individual disability retirement matter.