Many clients come to me after having attempted to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits on their own. Having been denied once, they are now in what is called the “Reconsideration Stage”. It is often a purely financial decision for a person to file for disability retirement without the assistance of an attorney; however, in doing so, many pitfalls may abound, and it may be difficult to correct mistakes already made.
While claims may be denied at the first stage for a variety of reasons, one consistently recurring reason for a denial is the insufficiency of the medical documentation. Remember two (2) fundamental rules in disability retirement applications: First, never –NEVER– sign a Physician’s Statement (SF 3112C) and allow the Office of Personnel Management to have indiscriminate access to your medical records, and Second, quality of medical records is more important than volume. Indeed, I have been able to pass through a number of disability retirement applications based upon a one-page narrative or progress note, while clients who had previously attempted to file on their own and who had submitted 300+ pages of medical documentation had their applications denied before coming to me.
Always remind yourself that this is a medical disability retirement application. Long-winded personal testimonials about your medical conditions are nice, but they do not strike at the heart of the issue. If you cannot afford to hire an expert in the field of disability retirement to prepare and file your application for you, at least try to give yourself the best chance possible by keeping in mind the following: In the recent case of Tan-Gatue v. O.P.M. 90 M.S.P.B. 116 (2001), the Board stated that they have “consistently found that medical conclusions based on a long familiarity with a patient are of greater weight than those based on a brief association or single examination.” Furthermore, “the Board gives greater deference to medical opinions that are supported by reasoned explanations than it gives to mere conclusory assertions.” In other words, make sure and have your treating doctor write a “quality” narrative in explaining why you are unable to perform the essential elements of your duties.
Whenever I am hired, one of the first things that I do is to write a 3-page letter to each of the medical providers, outlining the type of medical report which is needed to allow the disability retirement applicant to obtain his or her annuity. This letter is important in guiding the doctor to provide a “quality” medical narrative in preparing the disability retirement packet. Remember, disability retirement is a benefit granted to all Federal and Postal employees, but it is merely a “passive” benefit unless and until you affirmatively prove your case that you are entitled to it. Prepare your disability retirement application as if it is a lifetime investment; for, indeed, it is a lifetime investment.
If you believe that you need to consult an attorney concerning disability retirement, please contact me at 1-800-990-7932 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire