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Snyder v. Office of Personnel Management

U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit


February 05, 1999

DAVID L. SNYDER, PETITIONER,
v.
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, RESPONDENT.

Before Mayer, Chief Judge, Rich, and Bryson, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.

Decision

Daniel L. Snyder appeals from a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board), No. SF-0831-98-0005-I-1, affirming the final decision of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) finding that Mr. Snyder was not entitled to an annuity under the Civil Service Retirement Act. We affirm because substantial evidence supports the Board's decision.

Background

Mr. Snyder was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for three months in 1975, during which time he contributed $163.56 to the Civil Service Retirement System Fund (CSRS Fund). In December 1975 Mr. Snyder filed an application for a refund of his CSRS contribution. Postal Service records show that the agency authorized the refund of Mr. Snyder's contribution in January 1976.

Mr. Snyder was again employed by the Postal Service from July 1978 to December 1984, during which time he contributed $5,754.75 to the CSRS Fund. In December 1984 Mr. Snyder filed another retirement contribution refund application. As part of the application process, Mr. Snyder acknowledged that, by receiving a refund of his CSRS Fund contribution, he was forfeiting any future retirement benefits related to his Postal Service employment.

Some time later, Mr. Snyder contacted the office of Senator Alan Cranston and requested assistance concerning receipt of his refund. Senator Cranston sent a letter dated April 26, 1985 to the OPM, requesting that Mr. Snyder's refund be expedited. In a contact report dated May 3, 1985, an OPM employee noted that the OPM had received Mr. Snyder's records from the Postal Service on April 4, 1985 and that the OPM had authorized payment of his refund on April 17, 1985. *fn1

There is no evidence of further communication between Mr. Snyder and the government concerning his CSRS refunds until June 1997, at which time Mr. Snyder applied to receive retirement benefits from the Postal Service. In August 1997 the OPM refused Mr. Snyder's request for CSRS benefits, based on Mr. Snyder's forfeiture of those benefits when he received the refunds he requested in 1975 and 1984. Mr. Snyder appealed to the MSPB, asserting that he had either not received or not cashed the 1985 refund check.

The MSPB administrative Judge held a hearing, at which Mr. Snyder asserted that the OPM did not prove that he had actually received the refund of his CSRS Fund contributions, and that he should therefore be entitled to a CSRS annuity. In her opinion, the administrative Judge stated that Mr. Snyder had the burden of showing his entitlement to a retirement benefit by a preponderance of the evidence, and found that Mr. Snyder had not met this burden. The administrative Judge therefore affirmed the OPM's decision. The Board denied Mr. Snyder's petition for review of the administrative Judge's decision, which made that decision final and appealable to this court. Mr. Snyder has appealed to this court.

Discussion

We affirm a Board decision unless it is (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. See Frederick v. Department of Justice, 73 F.3d 349, 351-52 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (quoting 5 USC § 7703(c)). The substantial evidence requirement is met if a reasonable mind might accept the evidence as adequate to support the Conclusion that was reached. See id. at 352.

The administrative Judge properly held that the burden was on Mr. Snyder to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he did not receive a refund of his retirement contributions, and therefore was entitled to CSRS benefits. See True v. Office of Personnel Management, 926 F.2d 1151, 1153 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (burden is on petitioner); see also 5 U.S.C. § 8342(a) (1994) (person applying for and receiving lump-sum retirement sum voids all retirement annuity rights). The administrative Judge found that Mr. Snyder had applied for a refund of his retirement contributions, that there was no evidence to show that refund checks were not issued by the Treasury Department (Treasury), and no notification by Treasury that any refund check was returned to it as not delivered to Mr. Snyder. *fn2 The administrative Judge also noted that, following the May 1985 response by the OPM to Senator Cranston's office, there was no evidence that Mr. Snyder had initiated further contact with the senator's office or OPM. The administrative Judge found this to be persuasive evidence that Mr. Snyder had received a refund check in 1985, stating that

"[o]ne would expect that after contacting Senator Cranston's office, if the appellant had failed to receive his refund payment, he would have continued inquiries to the agency and the Senator after 1985. Accordingly, I find the appellant's testimony that he cannot recall receiving the refund insufficient to sustain his burden of proof in this case, and inconsistent with the documentary evidence of record."

Based on the administrative record before us, to which our review is limited, see Fed. R. App. P. 16(a), we are satisfied that substantial evidence supports the administrative Judge's Conclusion that Mr. Snyder received a refund of his CSRS Fund contribution in 1985. We therefore affirm the administrative Judge's decision, which in turn affirmed the OPM's denial of additional retirement benefits to Mr. Snyder.


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