I often wonder how many unrepresented disability retirement applicants there are who, having received a denial letter at the First Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, never file a Request for Reconsideration because they believe what the Office of Personnel Management stated in the Denial Letter. Sometimes, I will get telephone calls from people who want to file, and during the course of the conversation, it will come out that they had filed a few years previously, and had been denied. “Did you file a Request for Reconsideration, at the time?” I ask. “No,” is the answer. “Why not?” I ask. The typical answer? “Because I just thought there was no way to fight them on it.”
I used to be amazed at such answers, but after some thought, it makes sense. As an attorney, my first instinct (both trained and natural) is to always take something to the next level, with the firm belief that I will prevail just by pure persistence, and by using the law as “a sword” in the process of fighting for my clients. But most people are not lawyers (some would say, thank goodness for that, we have enough lawyers in the world), and when the Office of Personnel Management writes up a denial letter, then allegedly cites “the law”, and makes bold conclusions such as, “You do not meet the eligibility criteria under the laws governing disability retirement…” It all sounds convincing. It all sounds like any further action will be an act of futility. But just because OPM “says so” doesn’t make it true, doesn’t make it right, and certainly doesn’t make it unwinnable. They may say you don’t meet the eligbility criteria; I would argue otherwise.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire