Expert's View

Every once in a while a court case comes along that has me wondering what the world is coming to. This one is an October 16, 2009 decision from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The case was brought by Margaret L. Thomas against OPM.


The basis for her appeal was that her annuity was incorrectly calculated because OPM had used a high-3 average salary that was too low. Now, Ms. Thomas waited nearly 15 years before filing her claim with OPM; but, in her defense, she believed that she had pay slips and other evidence that supported her claim. However, because OPM had followed law and regulation in relying on the Individual Retirement Record provided by her agency, OPM denied her claim. So did the MSPB.

While Ms. Thomas and her attorney rolled out an impressive array of allegations before the Court of Appeals, including abuse of discretion and denial of due process, the court ruled against her with these words:

"Because the Board and OPM permissibly relied upon the certified IRR from the USPS to calculate and review Ms. Thomas’s high-three average retirement salary and monthly annuities, and Ms. Thomas’s other bases for reversal lack merit, this court affirms the Board’s decision."

As you were reading the above, I’m sure you noticed that the entire case was decided on whether the annuity computation process was correctly carried out under the law and regulations. Not once was there an examination of the facts. Was the IRR correct? Or was the evidence provided by Ms. Thomas correct? Unless the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, we’ll never know. And probably not even then.

If you are interested in reading the entire decision, go to www.cafc.uscourts/opinions/09-3160.pdf