What is a conversation? Or, is it an empirical phenomenon that — only when we are in the middle of it — we know as we experience it, but otherwise is undefinable? If there are 5 people in a room but only 1 is doing the talking, is a conversation ongoing? Must there be a “back and forth” give and take, or must something more be involved? If the same 5 people are in the same room, and all of them are talking all at once, does that rise to the level of a conversation? Does interruption and talking over one another undermine the definition?
What if there is extraordinary politeness — of each waiting his and her turn — and where no one interrupts, there is a pause between each discourse and a civility beyond mere lack of rudeness, but upon listening, one realizes that each one of the individuals is speaking about a completely different topic, and there is no interaction or even acknowledgment that anyone is listening to anyone else — does this all of a sudden undermine the concept of what is occurring?
This is an Age of Discord — of intractable positions taken, where the foundations that once formed the Age of Reason have been decimated and we are left with empty voices of loud vehemence, hollow in content but roaring in volume. Truth, objectivity, logic and rational methodology — the very essence of discourse and conversation — have been hollowed out and cast aside.
It is now in camps of “us” against “them”, but the singular missing component that has devastated the capacity to have a conversation is the one that no one ever talks about: The ability to recognize and admit that someone else’s argument is superior to one’s own.
When was the last time you heard someone say: “Hey, that argument is quite good and persuasive. I think you are right.”? Instead, it is the familiar refrain: “That’s just your opinion.” And as the volume of decibels increases, the content of substance proportionately and precipitously falls.
There are, of course, various levels of conversations, but one level is clear: Listen to the other side. This also includes reading, recognizing and understanding the applicable statutes in an administrative process in order to meet all of the elements of the burden of proof. Being intransigent and stubborn are qualities that makes one feel empowered, but concurrently, are often self-defeating.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal and Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it all begins with knowledge — of the statutes, the case-law and the precedents that apply.
We may all have to concede that the Age of Conversations is over; what we may be left with is a process where, at the very least, one must listen and try to learn.
Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process which is never simple, and must be approached with knowledge, tenacity and an ear to listening to what is needed in order to meet the eligibility requirements. Having a medical condition is a start, but it is not enough. And like conversations that may have started but puttered out without fanfare, preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application will take more than talking about how we “feel”.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire