Unequivocal statements can go either way: They can either show the force of authority, or unravel a lack of knowledge. In a Federal Disability Retirement case, where a Federal or Postal Worker is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, such statements of “unequivocal” authority can be seen at any stage of the process. An unequivocal statement of disability can be made by a treating doctor. An unequivocal statement of denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application can be made by an OPM Representative.
What is the distinction and difference between the two? For the former, the medical doctor who makes an unequivocal statement of disability is based upon the history, clinical examinations, experience, possible diagnostic testing, and other criteria applied in coming to a medical conclusion. There accompanies it the force of the doctor’s credentials. The latter is an opinion based upon (hopefully) a comparison of the documentation submitted by the Federal or Postal worker, and the “letter of the law”. But that assumes that the OPM Representative understands and correctly applies the law. Such an assumption is often erroneous, inasmuch as the OPM Representative is not a lawyer — and that is just the first of many reasons.
Don’t be fooled by unequivocal statements; authority of such statements must have a force of rational basis and credentials, and not just because a person “says so”.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire