As with most bureaucracies, the Office of Personnel Management is first and foremost established and guided by statutory mandate. However, there is a distinction to be made between the establishment of a particular agency, and the mission and substantive enforcement of the mission as mandated by statute.
Often, in its very decision-making process of reviewing, evaluating and deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement application (whether under FERS or CSRS), it is important to recognize that if a decision is made erroneously, it does not imply or infer a statutory violation. The statute is open to various interpretations, and such openness lends itself to a wide array of discretionary decision-making. Complaining or fuming about whether or not OPM violated its statutory mandate is an act of futility; the process itself provides for a paradigm of “checks and balances” — of having the Merit Systems Protection Board and an Administrative Judge look at a case and hold a Hearing on a case “de novo” — meaning, “anew” or “starting fresh”.
Further, if one believes that the MSPB Hearing and Administrative Judge rendered a wrong decision, there is the further step in the process of a Petition for Full Review, or an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court for review of any error of law made in the decision-making process. However, the best course of action if one is still before the Office of Personnel Management, or about to present one’s case at the Hearing Stage of the MSPB, is to focus upon the substance of one’s case, and not upon whether or not OPM or anyone else violated its statutory mandate.
Save your energy and choose your battles; moreover, it is important to keep a singular focus upon the proper goal — of obtaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire