In a Worker’s Comp (DOL/OWCP/FECA) case, causation and causality often loom as significant issues, and doctors often have to walk a difficult line in making unequivocal statements, or somewhat equivocating statements, as to the “cause” of a medical condition or injury. Such statements can sometimes be the singular focus as to the success or failure of an OWCP case. Why? Because compensable injuries and medical conditions must be related to the job — either as something caused by an accident while on the job, or in some way occupationally related.
In Federal Disability Retirement cases under the current FERS system, one can be on a skiing vacation and incur in an injury, and so long as that person is unable to, because of the injury or illness, perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, one is thereby eligible for OPM Medical Retirement benefits under the FERS system.
Sometimes, however, the issue of causation comes into the picture, but can work in a detrimental way, but need not. Let me clarify: In a chemical sensitivity case, or a psychiatric condition which finds its originating “causation” from the workplace, the doctor may want to relate the “cause” of the health condition directly to the workplace. This is fine, so far as it goes — and, ironically, most doctors (because they have no idea about FERS Medical Disability Retirement) think they are doing their patients a favor by relating it as “causally related” to the workplace. More often than not, however, it can open up a “can of worms” — of being characterized by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as a “situational disability“, which must be avoided like the plague.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire