The existence of a standard constitutes an irrelevancy if the application of it is based upon an unknowable, incalculable methodology. Standards represent a paradigm which, if implemented, provide for stability and consistency, precisely because one can rely upon the same application in all instances, and indeed, that is what is often defined as “fairness”.
Thus, in sports — if the referee makes all calls based upon a known standard, there is very little to argue with respect to the “rules”; one may, of course, challenge the interpretation of the “facts” and charge that the referee is blind and did not see the play as reality reflected; but no one can argue the minutiae of the standard itself. In society, and in a civilization governed by rules and accepted procedures of administration, if a standard is disagreed upon, then a democratic method of change is normally considered an appropriate methodology of redefining the lines previously demarcated by the “old” standard.
In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is assumed that the standard which would constitute “fair play” will be one of “preponderance of the evidence”, but the actual implementation of such a legal standard will necessarily depend upon whether the Case Worker at OPM actually understands what that standard means.
It is, ultimately, a low civil “bar” to meet; and when a denial is rendered, the language contained within the denial will often reveal the extent of comprehension on the part of the OPM Case Worker. Pointing a misapplication of the standard is sometimes a useful tool in taking the Federal Disability Retirement case to the next level — the Reconsideration Stage of the process — but unduly focusing upon the mistakes of the previous Case Worker is often a waste of time.
Balance is the key; application of the correct standard is vital to the working efficiency of a bureaucracy; pointing out a misapplication is why attorneys exist. They are, ultimately, technicians of written standards.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire