It can be done inadvertently, without malice, and often unintentionally — and so long as one remains within the insular world of language, no harm occurs in most instances, in most circumstances.
Of course, to literally go off on a tangent — if you are walking in the wilderness without a compass; out in the deep sea in a small skiff; wandering about in a neighborhood known for drive-by shootings — can be quite another thing.
But for the most part, when we say that “So-and-so often goes off on a tangent” or “Sally has a tendency to go off on tangents”, we merely mean that the focus of the conversation, the content of the primary narrative, the point of the lecture being given, etc., the central idea, theme or point of someone’s statement, discussion “talk”, etc. is being waylaid by some divergent, often irrelevant side-show.
It is like a movie badly edited — you know, those scenes which often are “extras” which were taken out because of time-constraints or creative doubt as to their relevance to the story. Or, sometimes people go off on tangents for a reason — deliberately and with intent — as when you want to divert the focus of the narrative away from the main point, precisely because the main point is not a very strong one to begin with.
In a Federal Disability Retirement case, this can happen on both sides — from OPM’s side, going off on a tangent can mean that they do not want to focus upon the medical reports and records, but instead want to deny you based upon tangential issues of performance ratings, conducts issues, accommodation offers, etc., as opposed to focusing upon the main point of a Federal Disability Retirement application: Your medical conditions. Or, from the perspective of the applicant — the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — of irrelevant background, or on issues which may actually weaken and harm a case.
Contact an OPM Lawyer who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law and make sure that you remain focused on the centrality of the multi-faceted issues presented in a Federal Disability Retirement case, and not on irrelevant issues by going off on a tangent.
Robert R. McGill
Lawyer specializing exclusively on Federal Disability Retirement Law