QUESTION: How will my doctor react when I ask for help in getting disability retirement?
ANSWER: Probably not very well. Most will not be happy, for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the reasons often
expressed by physicians who are asked by patients to help them get disability retirement:
"These questions OPM asks are ridiculous!"
It's absolutely true that at least some of the five questions that doctors are asked to answer on the "Physician's
Statement" are either absurd, unintelligible, or medically irrelevant. In fact, the degree to which the physician
should consider each and every question varies with the nature of the case. In general, the more subjective the
symptoms, the more carefully each of the questions should be dealt with. Unfortunately, this is a difficult judgment
call for physicians who don't have any direct experience with OPM's disability retirement program. A primary
task of the attorney is to encourage and assist the physician in this task.
"I can't possibly charge for all the time its going to take me to answer these questions!"
Not unreasonably, physicians want to get paid for their time and work. Physicians are often unsure as to how to
charge patients for the sometimes great amount of time and work required to properly prepare a "Physician's
Statement." It does not fall easily under a predetermined diagnostic code on some form, and insurance will often
not cover it. The remedy is to assure your physician that you will pay fully for all the time involved that is not
"No one will ever believe that this patient is disabled!"
Many doctors, just like most of the rest of us, tend to define a disabled person as some sort of basket case.
Doctors are concerned that they will be perceived as dishonest in going to bat for a patient who doesn't appear to
fit that picture. The physician needs to come to terms with the disability retirement law, and how it differs from
other laws such as workers' compensation. Doctors who are not experienced with disability retirement for
government employees do not understand that the program does not require total disability, and it even permits
you to work at another job while collecting. But quite truthfully, this is the type of lesson best taught by an
attorney with sufficient experience to answer the inevitable questions that the physician is going to raise. If
necessary, an attorney can assure a physician that the patient is a proper candidate for disability retirement.
"I'm going to end up in court on this one!"
Most physicians dread the thought of being hauled into court as a witness in any sort of legal matter, let alone in
what they perceive as some difficult-to-prove "subjective" symptoms case. Not to worry! Disability retirement
cases never make it to court, and rarely ever make it to a hearing at the MSPB. One way to dispel the physician's
anxiety on this issue may be by providing a copy of this book as part of your campaign to enlist wholehearted
cooperation. If that doesn't work, have your doctor phone me.
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