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Legal Insider: Navigating OPM in Disability Retirement Applications

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.

By Kimberly H. Berry, Esq.

Federal employees filing for disability retirement are either covered under 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 is a well-written physician’s statement.

When evaluating a federal employee’s disability retirement application, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is primarily seeking 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. OPM most likely will deny a disability retirement application without such a statement.

OPM’s Standard Form 3112C and instructions do not actually provide much detail as to what specifically should be included in the physician’s statement. However, based on our experience, it is crucial that the physician provide a great deal of detailed medical documentation in the statement. The best 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. The federal employee should provide the physician with a copy or summary of his or her official and actual job duties. 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 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.

If a federal employee retains our firm to assist in his or her disability retirement application, we usually coordinate with the employee’s physician regarding the statement, assist the physician with information that might be important to include in the statement, and help to answer the physician’s questions about the disability retirement process. In addition, we often assist the physician with the actual drafting of the physician statement since we recognize that physicians have very busy schedules. Also, it is sometimes helpful to offer to pay for the physician’s time in preparing the statement, if appropriate. Typically, most physicians want to help their patients in the disability retirement application process and are usually the first to recommend disability retirement to the federal employee.

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. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

The views and opinions expressed in this sponsored column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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