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Disability Unit

     
    DISABILITY UNIT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Who actually schedules the appointments for a medical panel examination?
 
    The Medical Panel Unit at PERAC is responsible for the scheduling of all appointments and the notification of all parties which include the applicant, retirement board, the employer and the physician(s) who will be performing the examination. An applicant’s retirement board will forward the request for a medical panel once they accept his/her application for a disability retirement.
 

Does the Medical Panel Unit notify an applicant’s attorney or physician?

 
     The appointment letter which an applicant will receive states that it is the applicant’s responsibility to notify his/her attorney and/or personal physician, if the applicant wishes to have either or both of them attend the examination with him/her.
 
How long does it take to get an appointment for a medical panel evaluation?
 
     This may vary somewhat based on the specialty of the medical panel and the geographic location of the applicant. However, most medical panels are scheduled within ten days of the receipt of the Request For Appointment of a Regional Medical Panel from an applicant’s retirement board.
 
When does the medical tribunal hold a hearing on an applicant’s disability retirement application?
 
     There is no medical "tribunal" established to review disability cases under G. L.c. 32, s.6 and s.7. A medical examination by the regional medical panel is not a legal hearing. An applicant will see physicians who are specialists in his/her area of disability. This exam will be similar to medical evaluations which the applicant may have undergone during his/her period of disability.
 
Can an applicant request that the Medical Panel Unit change his/her appointment with very little notice to the Unit?
 
     The Medical Panel Unit cannot change or reschedule appointments at the last minute and an applicant can be charged the total cost of the physicians’ fees for failure to appear for a scheduled appointment(s). If an applicant is unable to attend a scheduled medical panel examination due to an extenuating circumstance such as a death in the family or his/her own hospitalization, the applicant must notify the commission at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled examination to request rescheduling. An examination will not ordinarily be rescheduled for a reason other than for such an extenuating circumstance.
 
Can an applicant call a medical panel physician to re-schedule his/her appointment?
 
     Appointments may only be changed by PERAC staff members and an applicant must contact the Medical Panel Unit and speak with one of the staff members if a conflict arises. The telephone number of the Medical Panel Unit is on the appointment letter.
 
Can an applicant’s personal physician attend the medical panel examination?
 
     An applicant’s physician as well as his/her attorney may be present during the examination, but may not necessarily take an active part in the process other than answering questions from medical panel physicians. The medical panel physicians are interested in speaking with the applicant and in performing a non-invasive hands on examination, if appropriate.
 
Why does an applicant need to obtain x-rays or MRI’s since an applicant’s retirement board is sending his/her medical information?
 
     The written reports of x-rays, MRI’s, and echocardiograms are often included with the medical records sent by an applicant’s retirement board. The physicians who examine an applicant in connection with his/her disability claim often prefer to view the actual test or x-ray. It is extremely important that an applicant makes available to his/her retirement board all medical records from treating physicians, consultants, hospitals and other facilities where tests or treatments have been undergone. There is never a problem with too much information being supplied, but there are delays when additional information has to be requested.
 
How long does the examination take?
 
     The medical panel physicians will have had the opportunity to review an applicant’s medical records prior to seeing the applicant. The actual examination normally will take approximately 30-45 minutes. If an applicant is seeing a joint medical panel, one of the doctors will do a hands on exam, while the remaining two physicians will observe and ask questions. The physicians will assess an applicant’s past and present medical condition and will ask questions appropriate to his/her claimed incapacity. All of the findings from the applicant’s medical records and the actual examination will be considered when completing the medical panel certificate and narrative.
 
How long does it take the medical panel doctors to get the reports back?
 
     Medical panel physicians have sixty days in which to complete and return certificates and narratives to PERAC following a regional medical panel examination. Only occasionally do the physicians need this length of time and then it is usually due to the doctors’ request for more medical information. The usual time frame is three to four weeks for return of a completed report.
 
Who will inform the applicant of the medical panel findings?
 
     The applicant’s retirement board will notify the applicant and his/her employer of the results of the medical panel examination within thirty days of its receipt of the medical panel report or in the case of separate examinations, within thirty days of the receipt of the last of the separate reports.
 
Can an applicant obtain a copy of the completed medical panel report?
 
     An applicant is entitled to receive a copy of the medical panel reports, but the applicant must request it from his/her retirement board. In the case of separate examinations, the retirement board will wait for the return of all three completed exams before responding to such a request.
 
What happens if both the medical panel and the retirement board find an applicant to be disabled?
 
     The applicant’s retirement board must determine whether or not to approve the application. An applicant has the right to a hearing before his/her retirement board before the board votes on the application. If the board votes to approve an application, it must send the approved application to PERAC for final review by the Commission. The Commission may return the application to the board for further action within thirty days of its receipt if it finds the board’s decision to have been made upon unlawful procedure, unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary and capricious, or a result of fraud or misrepresentation. If the Commission approves the application or fails to take action within thirty days, the applicant’s retirement board will notify the applicant that his/her application for disability retirement has been granted.
 
What happens if the medical panel does not find an applicant to be disabled?
 
     As set out above, an applicant has the right to request a hearing before his/her retirement board upon being notified about the findings of the medical panel. An applicant’s board may deny the application, or may seek additional information or clarification from the medical panel or may petition PERAC to schedule a new examination. If the Commission declines to schedule a new panel, the retirement board must deny the application. An applicant will be notified of his/her right to appeal the denial of his/her application to the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board.
 
 
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