U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
January 12, 1999
KIMBERLE A. RINDERLE, PETITIONER,
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, RESPONDENT.
Before Rich, Bryson, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.
NOTE: Pursuant to Fed. Cir. R. 47.6, this Disposition is not citable as precedent. It is a public record. The Disposition will appear in tables published periodically.
Kimberle A. Rinderle seeks review of the final decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board), Docket No. CH-831E-98-0022-I-1, sustaining the denial of her claim for a disability retirement annuity. Because Ms. Rinderle failed to establish that she was disabled before her separation and thus unable to render useful and efficient service in the grade or position she last occupied, we affirm.
Ms. Rinderle was separated from her position as an Industrial Engineering Technician at Newark Air Force Base, Ohio due to a reduction in force (RIF) on September 30, 1996. In January of 1997, Ms. Rinderle applied for a disability retirement annuity based on arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes Type II. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) denied her application after reviewing the medical information she submitted because she did not show a deficiency in service nor a disabling medical condition such that her condition was incompatible with useful and efficient service or retention in her position. OPM upheld these findings on reconsideration. The administrative Judge (AJ) affirmed noting that "[a]lthough the record shows [Ms. Rinderle] has ongoing medical difficulties, it does not show these problems prevented her from performing her duties prior to the time she was separated from federal service by a RIF." The AJ's initial decision became final when the Board determined that Ms. Rinderle's petition for review did not meet the criteria for review under 5 C.F.R. § 1201.115 (1997). See 5 C.F.R. § 1201.113(b) (1997). This appeal followed.
We review a final order of the Board regarding disability retirement cases pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 8347(c)-(d) (1994). The decision of the Board must be affirmed unless it is found to be "(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; (2) obtained without procedures required by law, rule, or regulation having been followed; or (3) unsupported by substantial evidence." 5 U.S.C. § 7703(c) (1994). We are precluded from reviewing the factual determinations underlying a petitioner's claim for disability retirement and may review the decision only to determine "whether there has been a substantial departure from important procedural rights, a misconstruction of the governing legislation, or some like error 'going to the heart of the administrative determination.'" Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 791 (1985) (quoting Scroggins v. United States, 397 F.2d 295 (Ct. Cl. 1968)).
Ms. Rinderle arguably makes allegations that could fall under our scope of review. In particular, she alleges that (1) she was never told by OPM exactly what medical information needed to be presented to support her claim, (2) the medical information she did submit was not properly reviewed by qualified medical personnel, and (3) the Board's decision in Chavez v. Office of Personnel Management, 6 MSPR 404 (1981) is an "old ruling [that] needs to be updated."
As to her first allegation, Ms. Rinderle was advised of the "Medical Documentation Requirements" on a form that she signed and submitted with her Statement of Disability in her original disability benefits application filed January 10, 1997. In addition, she was clearly advised of the requisite medical information to support her claim for a disability retirement annuity in a letter from OPM dated June 16, 1997. Thus, Ms. Rinderle cannot claim that she was not aware of the required documentation. Moreover, under Lindahl, we cannot review the factual determinations of the AJ and the Board that the medical information Ms. Rinderle did submit was inadequate to support her claim because it failed to show "detailed physical examinations demonstrative of a progression of [Ms. Rinderle's] long-standing conditions" and because Ms. Rinderle's medical conditions "existed for many years without detailed evidence of them worsening."
Second, Ms. Rinderle alleges that her submitted documentation was not reviewed by medical personnel. However, Ms. Rinderle points to no statute or regulation requiring OPM to provide a medical panel to review her evidence. Ms. Rinderle had the burden of establishing her disability as a prerequisite to an entitlement to benefits, see Cheeseman v. Office of Personnel Management, 791 F.2d 138, 141 (Fed. Cir. 1986), a burden OPM found, and the Board agreed, Ms. Rinderle failed to carry. We agree with the government that, to the extent a medical analysis of her records was required in order to establish the validity of her claim, she was required to provide that medical analysis.
Third, Ms. Rinderle challenges the viability of Chavez, a Board opinion decided in 1981. The government is correct that we continue to cite Chavez with approval. See, e.g., Trevan v. Office of Personnel Management, 69 F.3d 520, 522, 527 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Moreover, Ms. Rinderle's request that the law be "updated" without explaining what specifically needs to be changed strongly suggests that her quarrel is not with anything substantive in the law, but rather with the result in her particular case. Dissatisfaction standing alone is not a reasoned basis on which to overturn the Board's case law.
In her reply brief, Ms. Rinderle submits a letter from her doctor, Dr. Donald B. Adams, dated February 19, 1998 in which he states "[i]t is most difficult for this patient to carry on her regular duties because of the above mentioned problems [i.e., asthma, diabetes Type II, arthritis, morbid obesity, hypertension]. ... With all these complications I do feel that Ms. Rinderle should be reconsidered for disability." Regardless of whether this information should be even considered at this late stage in the proceedings, particularly given the AJ's generosity with the record, it is irrelevant as it fails, as did all of Ms. Rinderle's other medical documentation, to show that she was disabled as of September 30, 1996, the date of her separation.
For the foregoing reasons, the decision of the Board denying Ms. Rinderle's petition for review is affirmed.