What constitutes “answering the question”, and more importantly, how does one determine when its opposite occurs — NOT answering the question? Does the former occur if the questioner fails to follow up, and does the latter become an issue if the person asking responds with, “That doesn’t answer my question,” or some such similar declarative assertion?
Take the following hypothetical: Person A asks Person B, “So, where do you come from?” Person B answers, “The skies of Normandy were grey on that June day in 1944.” Now, Person A could have various responses to such a statement, as in: 1. “No, no, I asked where you came from.” 2. “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?” 3. “That doesn’t answer my question.” 4. Or, silence, with no follow-up.
Person B, of course, could similarly respond in variegated ways, as in: A. “I just told you.” B. “Yes” or “No” (in response to the follow-up question, “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?”). C. Silence, or “Yes it does.” D. Nothing further.
It may be that Person B simply has a poetic bent, and from his perspective, the mundane query was answered in a metaphorical, literary manner. More to the point, however: Who determines if a question has been answered (leaving aside the further query of whether the answer itself has “sufficiently” or “fully” been responsive to the question) — the one who asks, or the one who answers?
In a normal conversation, of course, the issue rarely comes about; in an argument where one or the other side, or both, are trying to get answers and defeat the other side, the heat of the moment may determine the answer to the question; and the penultimate paradigm of the question, “Who determines whether the question has been answered?” occurs in the highest form during a deposition or cross-examination in the legal arena.
Observing what occurs during a court proceeding is an interesting experience of human behavior; of the back-and-forth between counsels and the witnesses being deposed or examined, as in: “You didn’t answer the question.” “Yes, I did.” “I asked you…”. “Asked and answered.” “Objection, the question has already been asked and answered.” And on and on until a singular point is pursued to an exhaustive level ad infinitum and ad nauseum.
Is the issue of what constitutes an answered question somewhat akin to the question or “original intent” — i.e., that just like an author’s original intent as to the meaning of a written document is what should rule, similarly, the person who asks the question has the sole power to determine whether or not the question asked has been answered, and moreover, adequately and sufficiently answered?
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, these questions concerning the “answering of questions” will and should come to the forefront when confronted with the questions asked on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.
Inasmuch as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has promulgated the questions in a carefully-crafted manner, there are some inherent pitfalls and dangers in what constitutes an adequate response, a sufficient answer and the complete delineation that rises to the level of a satisfactory statement.
SF 3112A is replete with unanswered questions within the very substance of each question, and the answers you provide are best guided by an attorney who has had the experience of legal encounters previously, and who specializes in the Law of Federal Disability Retirement.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire