Accommodation Shouldn’t be That Hard to Prove
After over 20 years of dedicated service as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, Claimant applied for federal disability retirement due to mental impairments, including personality disorder and depression. Her psychological injuries made her miss work and, when she did go to work, kept her from doing her job well.
The claimant had a lot of evidence supporting her. Her doctor was very clear about claimant’s problems being real and debilitating. Her supervisor agreed with the assertion that claimant was unable to continue working because of her conditions. The supervisor stated that her performance was less than satisfactory and that her attendance was unacceptable. Even the Postal Service itself had certified that accommodation of the claimant was not possible. The Postal Service stated that the severity of her condition and the requirements of her position made accommodation impossible.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) denied her claim, asserting that she had not proven that she could not be accommodated in her position. What was even stranger was that the administrative judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) agreed with the OPM! The judge seemed to think that the Postal Service’s certification was the only recorded evidence that addressed accommodation. The MSPB judge didn’t think that the certification was enough and that the claimant had not bet her burden of proof.
The Claimant, however, persisted and appealed the Board’s decision. On appeal, the Court reversed and granted the claimant federal disability retirement benefits. The Court found it very important that the OPM had not even tried to challenge the certification issued by the Postal Service. Furthermore, other evidence from the record clearly supported the conclusion that accommodation could not be made for the claimant at her old position.
This case teaches us that proving accommodation can’t be made shouldn’t be impossible. The claimant had offered an abundant amount of proof concerning accommodation and the OPM still denied her claim. The Court had to set the record straight regarding what a claimant needs to prove. The OPM and administrative judge were wrong to say that claimant hadn’t met her burden. She had evidence that accommodation wasn’t feasible from a doctor, her supervisor, and her employing agency—that was enough!