A new administrative rule will limit evidence the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund will consider when addressing disability retirement applications and requests for reconsideration, as well as allow OP&F discretion on whether to schedule medical examinations. Ohio Adm.Code 742-3-05 will include a new provision limiting disability retirement applicants to submitting medical records OP&F considers "objective, relevant, and recent." By "recent," OP&F means medical records "dated within two years from the date of application for disability." If an applicant submits medical evidence outside of these parameters, OP&F will return the medical documentation to the applicant, along with a letter.
The decisions rendered by OP&F are "final" administrative decisions. If a police officer or firefighter (i.e., a "member" of OP&F) disagrees with OP&F's decision, their remedy is to file a mandamus action with the Tenth District Court of Appeals of Ohio. In our experience, in order to show that an administrative agency has abused its discretion when rendering a decision, it is best for the Court of Appeals to have a complete picture of the medical conditions or injuries from which the injured worker or member suffers. By limiting the member to submitting only two years of their medical records, this could have a negative impact in those cases where a disability retirement application is denied, or a low percentage is awarded. In a mandamus action, the Court of Appeals would only be able to consider the medical evidence that was before OP&F at the time OP&F made its decision.
The new administrative rule also removes a mandate that OP&F obtain a medical examination after an application for disability retirement has been submitted. Ohio Adm.Code 742-3-05(C)(5) states the member "may" be scheduled for an independent medical examination and vocational evaluation. The removal of the term "shall," and insertion of the term "may" could result in OP&F obtaining a file review type of report. Only time will tell how OP&F decides to implement this change.
For further information about these changes, or to see how our office can assist with your application for disability retirement, please call us at 614-221-1300.