Transcript of Video:
Hi everyone, Scott Kolligian, Ohio disability lawyer here. Today I want to talk to members of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System about the most recent revisions to a form that is submitted with your OPERS Disability benefits application.
The form is the Report of Physician or DR-APS. It has been around in one form or another for quite some time, but this most recent version, enacted in September of 2021, has some excellent changes, and some concerning ones as well.
Mental Health Questions
Let’s start with a great change. The newest OPERS Report of Physician form asks questions about your mental health limitations in a good amount of detail, which is excellent! Previous versions essentially asked questions related to physical limitations, and it took some finessing to adequately communicate your limitations from a mental health impairment on the older versions.
This newest version allows our clients to pursue a disability claim in a much clearer and concise manner. In fact, it dedicates a full 2.5 pages to questions about your psychological symptoms!
Physical Ability to Work
One change that is a “mixed bag” so to speak is the removal of an entire page of bubbles to be filled in by your doctor to assess your physical ability to work. This page always irritated doctors and sometimes lead them to refuse to fill out the form (or they would refer you out for an evaluation that might be several months away). If they actually filled out the page, doctors oftentimes missed the boxes asking for precise amounts of weight that you were restricted to.
In the newest form, this page is gone. This is excellent because it will hopefully avoid unnecessary delays in waiting for testing or your doctor to correct errors or omissions. But, the newest version does not ask your doctor about lifting, carrying, standing, or walking restrictions at all. This may open the door to OPERS interpreting the medical records differently than how your doctor would have restricted you.
Length of Report
Another difference is the size of the report. It’s 12 pages now, compared to 8 in the previous version. Doctors already do not like filling out forms. The 50% increase in the number of pages that you ask them to complete at a minimum will cause some eye rolls from your doctors but could push them to say that they are unwilling to fill out the forms altogether. That would put you in quite a bind because an OPERS disability benefits application requires a doctor’s certification of your inability to perform your job.
That being said, the new form has a separate box to fill in related to a number of different body systems that are affected – it’s quite comprehensive as a matter of fact and allows your doctor to precisely identify your impairments as they related to vision, hearing, breathing, your heart, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, neurological issues, cancer, immune system issues, etc. Although the form is 12 pages, if your disability only consists of musculoskeletal issues or neurological issues, or cardiovascular issues, then the doctor only has to answer questions related to those sections. So altogether, maybe it is less of a burden on your physician than the previous version. I just hope the doctors don’t look at it and think that it is too time-consuming and then just reject filling it out altogether.
How Changes Will Affect Claims
As of the date I am posting this, the use of the form is still early, only a handful of months. Therefore, it is probably too early to tell how this will affect claims in the long run, and tell how doctors will react to the 12-page form vs. the former 8-page version.
As of right now, the newer version of the Report of Physician form has some positives and some concerns. The key to a strong disability claim remains the same. You should carefully coordinate your application, the OPERS Report of Physician, and all of your medical records so that they clearly state the condition or conditions that prevent you from performing your occupation as well as the limitations that come from those conditions. Clarity is so important. Consistency is equally important. At our office, we work hard to ensure that your application is both clear and consistent with all of your medical records.