There is the statutory legal criteria which is mandated by law, by case-law, and by regulatory dictum as to the proper application of review in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS. Yet, the question is whether or not the Office of Personnel Management has applied the proper legal criteria in making its determination, and the answer to such a question can only be evaluated based upon the language which is utilized by OPM in its denial letter.
An approval letter issued by the Office of Personnel Management is entirely unrevealing, precisely because it is simply a template letter advising the approved Federal Disability Retirement annuitant of the next steps to follow. However, when a denial letter is issued by the Office of Personnel Management, often the Claims Representative will insert language which “sounds good” and proper, and even convincing — but ultimately, wrong as far as the proper application of the law is concerned. For example, OPM may assert with unequivocal brevity that there lacks “compelling medical evidence” in the Federal Disability Retirement application. “Compelling” is not a legal criteria required by statute, case-law, or regulatory dictum. As such, it is a meaningless word-usage.
Moreover, it is harmful to a case because it means that OPM applied a standard of review which is nowhere found in any statute. Further, it gives an appearance of authenticity and authoritative credibility where none exists. What to do about it? It needs to be addressed and pointed out — but diplomatically. Diplomacy is nothing more than a forceful rebuttal clothed in the finery of courtesy, but it is a necessary ingredient in establishing the proper tone and tenor of a response to OPM.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire