Language is a malleable vehicle. There have been times in the history of language, when the staid and stodginess period of loss of vibrancy became the rule, followed by epochs of radical vicissitudes, upheavals and counter-conventional revolutions in the medium of language games. Whether this encapsulated slice of linguistic alteration, upending traditional forms of communication because of electronic media and the hype of language abbreviated by Twitter, Texting and Tablet Titillations, will last the short life of technological innovation and obsolescence, is yet to be determined.
For example, the time of Shakespeare’s linguistic explosion of experimentation and expansive usage became in retrospect a richness of entering into connotative language meanings from which we benefit to this day. But steadiness, continuity and conditions of stability are also important in order to take the proverbial breather to accept, embrace and assimilate (a term widely used for contextual purposes in modernity applied to immigration reform, as well) the linguistic revolutions that become incommensurate with meaning, communication and conveyance of terms.
Terms are important, both in common usage and in technical application. In the arena of Federal Disability Retirement Law, different words are splayed about, sometimes without regard to proper application, especially when the “law” often requires a greater attention to precision of meaning. Some simple and common crossovers of linguistic confusion involve: “medical retirement” and “disability retirement” – do they mean the same thing?
If reference to either term involves the submission for an early retirement to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then the answer is “yes”, they do mean the same thing. Federal Disability Retirement is identical to “Federal medical retirement” if by such words the query is referring to filing for an early retirement based upon the Federal or Postal worker’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, and therefore the intention is to access an early annuity because of one’s early retirement based upon the medical condition, and submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Some other terms often confused or conflated: “On-the-job injury” or “pre-existing condition”; these terms are often used in the language-arena of Worker’s Compensation issues, and rarely have any import – or applicability, at all – in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application. For, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the applicant is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it matters not whether or not one has been disabled “on the job” or away at a skiing accident; instead, what is important is the impact of the injury or disease upon one’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position. As for a “pre-existing” condition – that, too, is more likely appropriately defined in an OWCP context, and rarely in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.
In any event, “terms” are meant to be used within a context-appropriate content of filings, and in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to clarify and conform to the applicable statutory mandates in defining and using the terms which are most appropriate and effective.
For, in the end, the explosion of language during the era of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age reverberates with critical linguistic richness to this day; yet, if we were to have a conversation with a bloke from that era, the terms employed would not only confuse us, but confound us with a profound sense of despairing lack of cogency despite our self-aggrandizing declarations of superiority and advancement in the modern parlance of greater self-esteem.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire