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Sinville v. Office of Personnel Management

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit


October 8, 1999

DINAH E. SINVILLE, PETITIONER,
v.
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, RESPONDENT.

Before Lourie, Clevenger, 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.

DECISION

Dinah E. Sinville appeals from the February 4, 1999 final decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board affirming the decision of the Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") denying her claim for a disability annuity under the Federal Employees' Retirement System ("FERS"). See Sinville v. Office of Personnel Management, Docket No. SF-844E-97-0092-I-3 (February 4, 1999). Because the Board's factual determinations concerning whether Sinville was disabled within the meaning of the FERS statute are unreviewable and Sinville has not shown that the Board otherwise erred, we affirm.

DISCUSSION

Ms. Sinville began her employment with the United States Postal Service on January 30, 1988. On June 15, 1994, Sinville received a notice of removal for falsifying her application for federal employment by failing to disclose that she had received prior psychiatric treatment. Pursuant to a settlement agreement, she resigned on October 4, 1995. On July 10, 1995, approximately three months prior to her resignation, Sinville had submitted an application for disability retirement under FERS, claiming she had a mental or emotional disease that prevented her from performing the duties of her position as a distribution clerk. OPM denied her claim, concluding that she was not disabled. Specifically, OPM concluded that Sinville had failed to prove that she had a medical condition of a severity that prevented her from performing the essential duties of her position, warranted exclusion from the workplace altogether, or resulted in deficient behavior. See 5 U.S.C. § 8451(a)(1)(B) (1994); *fn1 5 C.F.R. § 844.103 (1996).

Sinville's first appeal to the Board from OPM's denial of her disability claim was dismissed without prejudice to allow OPM to consider the results of a medical evaluation ordered by the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. After reviewing a sixty-one page medical report written by Dr. Richard Ness, OPM again dismissed Sinville's claim. Sinville's second appeal was dismissed without prejudice because her testifying psychologist, Dr. Philip Carman, was unable to appear as a witness. On her third appeal, both Sinville and Dr. Carman testified at the hearing. After reviewing the record, the testimony of Sinville, and all of the submitted medical evidence and testimony, the administrative Judge ("AJ") concluded that Sinville had failed to establish a disability.

Sinville appealed the AJ's initial decision to the full Board. The Board denied her petition for review, thus rendering the initial decision final. See 5 C.F.R. § 1201.113(b) (1997). Sinville timely appealed to this court. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(9) (1994).

The Board's factual determinations concerning whether an employee is disabled within the meaning of the FERS statute are not judicially reviewable. See Trevan v. Office of Personnel Management, 69 F.3d 520, 523-24 (Fed. Cir. 1995). While the "factual underpinnings" of disability determinations may not be judicially reviewed, such review is available 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) (internal quotations omitted).

Sinville principally argues that the Board erred in affirming OPM's Conclusion that she was not disabled. We understand Sinville to further argue that the Board erred by failing to consider certain medical evidence that she submitted, and by weighting the opinion of Dr. Ness over the opinions of other doctors.

While Sinville asserts that the Board erred in finding her to be not disabled within the meaning of the FERS statute, we lack authority to review the record to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Board's disability determination. See Baker v. Office of Personnel Management, 782 F.2d 993 (Fed. Cir. 1986). Likewise, we have no authority to review Sinville's fact-based contentions that the Board failed to take into account certain medical evidence and improperly weighted certain medical opinions over others. See Trevan, 69 F.3d at 523-24. Moreover, we do not find, nor does Sinville argue, that 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 process." See Lindahl, 470 U.S. at 791. We note that even if this court had authority to review the factual basis for the Board's decision, that decision is amply supported by the record, which includes the sixty-one page medical report prepared by Dr. Ness and the medical opinion of Dr. Goudlock.

We conclude that the Board did not err in holding that Sinville was not entitled to disability retirement benefits. We therefore affirm.


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