As children, we were encouraged to “ask questions“, and often with such niceties as, “Now, remember, there is no such thing as a ‘dumb question'” (despite all of us, even in tender years, knowing the untruth of such an assertion as we witnessed the facial expressions of horrified teachers, parents and neighbors — and of course, the smug, sidelong glances of those older siblings).
But the problem with taking such childhood experiences long into adulthood, is that it ignores the obvious: the character and essence of a question determines the outcome of the answer. Sometimes, a bad question leads to a bad answer. In such an event, one must consider reformulating the question, or ignoring it altogether.
In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal and Postal employee encounters multiple ‘bad questions’ — first in the form of the Standard government forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801, with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS employees) and the questions posed in such forms — especially on SF 3112A (Applicant’s Statement of Disability); then, in a denial at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (for, in such a denial are contained inherent questions of what allegedly one ‘must’ do in order to meet the standards of OPM); then, finally, the questions which must be answered in order to satisfy an Administrative Judge at the MSPB.
But questions are funny vehicles of communication; often, it reflects more upon the questioner rather than upon the one who answers, and in the case of an OPM Case Worker, and of certain particular persons, this is all the more so. Lest we forget another adage we learned in grade school (more on the playground among bullies, tough guys and the ‘cool’ set): Don’t ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire