Neither length nor detail constitutes legitimacy. The spectrum of the types and styles of denial letters issued by the Office of Personnel Management in Federal Disability Retirement cases under FERS & CSRS range from a short paragraph under the “Discussion Section”, to 3 – 4 pages of apparent references to doctor’s notes, reports, etc. — with a lengthy lecture about the need for “objective” medical evidence, and about how a particular medical condition “may be” treated by X, Y or Z treatment modalities.
Don’t be fooled. One may think that, because OPM provides a seemingly “detailed” explanation of why a particular disability retirement application was denied, that such lengthy detail means that it is somehow “substantive”. In fact, I often find the opposite to be true: the shorter the denial, the greater the substance.
The lengthy denial letters contain “substance”, all right — but substance of the wrong kind. They contain: Mis-statements of the law; mis-statements of the criteria to be applied; inappropriate assertions of medical opinions (contrary to what one might think, the OPM representative does not normally have a medical degree, let alone a law degree), and a host of other “mis-statements”.
Sometimes, the weightier the denial, the more confusing as far as how to respond. And, perhaps, that is one methodology as to how OPM wants to approach the case: If it seems long and complicated, maybe the applicant will sigh, give up, and go away. Don’t.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire