Case-law from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as judicial opinions rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, maintain the standard of acceptable proof for a Federal Disability Retirement case submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for Federal and Postal employees under either FERS or CSRS.
The primary basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application is clear: A medical condition which exists, which prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of one’s job; that a legally viable accommodation is not possible; that reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade is not reasonably feasible; that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months; and that the Federal or Postal employee must file for such benefits during the tenure of one’s employment as a Federal or Postal Employee, or within 1 year of being separated from Federal employment.
The core of one’s proof is generally based upon the treatment and opinion of one’s treating doctor.
Every now and again, however, there are “collateral” sources of proof which should be considered, and for various reasons, which must be relied upon for establishment of one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. Such proof may include: opinions rendered by Second-opinion or “referee” doctors in an OWCP case; percentage ratings provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs; SSDI approval determinations; separation from the Agency based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; medical notes for FMLA; and even (sometimes, but rarely) a decision granting disability benefits by a private insurer; and other such collateral sources of proof.
Such proof, of course, should never replace the centrality of one’s own treating doctor, and further, should always be targeted and submitted with discretionary judgment. Sometimes, it can be the “other evidence” which makes the difference in a case; other times, if used indiscriminately, can be an indicator of the weakness of one’s case.
Be careful; be targeted; use discretion.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire