Attorney for Federal Disability Retirement Claims: The concise sentence

What is the difference between being concise and performing with precision?  The former is often applied in the universe of words and communication; the latter, in areas where quantitative measuring tools can be determined, such as in science or in mathematical sectors.

We say of a person who speaks voluminously but with little substance that he or she represents the antonym of conciseness; and so a comparison is often made between volume spoken or written and concepts or thoughts conveyed.  Of Literature, most would agree that Hemingway is the representative paradigm of conciseness, whereas Joyce and Faulkner reflect the very opposite, though all three are considered classic and great authors.

Do we excuse such authors as Joyce and Faulkner because, in literature, we tend to focus upon the stylistic brilliance of their writings as opposed to the “meaning” that captures the undercurrent of their works?  In other words, although they may give us “too many” words and thus are, by definition, lacking of conciseness, we nevertheless overlook such imprecision precisely because we do not attribute “amount” as the necessary and sufficient cause of determining the worth of good authorship.

Hemingway used to say that, in writing, he had already formulated each sentence before setting it upon paper, whether in handwriting (a lost art) or at the typewriter (a manual, when those contraptions existed and where the clack-clack of metal keys pounded deep into the twilight of a writer’s life).

Why do we applaud and celebrate the concise sentence?  Does it make a difference whether or not a sentence, say, with 7 words communicates a thought as opposed to a paragraph with a thousand words that conveys the identical conceptual construct?

Take the following 2 examples: 1. Lessening of debt equals wealth. Or, 2: If you have less to owe to others, then it is the same as savings; or, as Benjamin Franklin used to say, a penny saved is a penny earned, and the reality of it all is that we have more to spend and retain wealth, not so much because you have more money, but you have more because less is spent on paying other people your hard-earned dollars.

Now, both sentences convey essentially the same meaning.  The first one, however, is comprised of 5 words. The second one took…many words to communicate the same thought.  Does it matter whether a concise sentence is used, as opposed to one that is not, if the same two convey identically reflective thoughts?

It might make a difference, because of one factor that has not been discussed: Being concise often possesses the added feature of being precise, and precision is important in the accuracy of conveying thought.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are thinking about preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, there is a dual-key component to preparing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability: Be concise, but do not forego length for completeness.

In other words, being concise in order to convey the proper information is important; but, at the same time, do not sacrifice wordiness just because of the limited “boxes” that are provided on SF 3112A.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement from Civil Service: By what measure?

Does a formula, a paradigm or a standard instill in us the direction we so desire?  How is it that we compare X to something, and is the contrast a necessary prerequisite to achieving and accomplishing, or is that some artificial, societal construct that we have manufactured in order to sell ourselves a “bill of goods”?

Yes, yes – Western Civilization (remember that middle-school subject taught under the general aegis of that title?) always begins with the philosophical precept of Aristotle’s, of “First Principles” and the “causes” of events and occurrences, but where is it stated that we must have a “measure” by which to compare and contrast?  By what measure do we apply ourselves, or is not the evolutionary will to survive and the genetic predisposition to propagate a sufficient factor in the drive to excel?  Like peacocks during mating season and robins that reveal a ferocity of savagery in the spring months, is there a measure by which we are deemed a success or failure, and by a standard where comparisons are made, conclusions are reached and judgments are rendered?

Rare is the solitary figure who abandons all implements of societal judgments and goes it alone without the condoning nod of an authority figure.  Lone wolves are figments of mythological fables; the rest of us follow the herd by the measure set by others in a society of gossipers and watchdogs set upon us without warning or consistency.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the standard of measure has always been some unstated and unfairly predetermined set of rules that are governed by a bunch of words we never agreed to – i.e., “productivity at the cost of health”; “loyalty to the mission of the Federal Agency without regard to medical conditions”; “repetitive work leading to stress injuries where proving causation is nigh impossible”, and other such silent statements of accord – but where the last bastion of hope often resides in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

All of these many years, the Federal or Postal worker has toiled under tremendous pressure by the measures set by the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal facility; fortunately, the standard by which OPM Disability Retirement benefits are granted is predetermined by statutory authority, and not by arbitrary fiat by a supervisor, manager or some other head of the department or agency by will of authority or changeable character of an individual.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM must follow certain eligibility guidelines and statutory confinements, as with most other set standards; but by what measure you may live your life after winning an OPM Disability Retirement annuity – that is set by you, the lone wolf.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Distractions

They are the projects of life of which Heidegger recognizes, allowing for avoiding the inevitabilities of life’s challenges; of fate, mortality, future insecurity, and death.  What quantifiable slice of one’s life is governed by distractions?  Must it always be less than 50% in order to remain so, and if it exceeds that halfway point, does it then become something substantive and not merely the peripheral meaning of what it means to “be distracted”?  If a distraction is considered to be an aside – that which waylays a person’s attention by focusing upon a central project of life’s endeavor – what then defines an inversion of that perspective?

Take, for example, the following:  A mechanical engineer is working on a technical project that consumes one’s focus, concentration and attention to detail, but has a unique and eccentric ophthalmological condition, whereby the eyes are compelled to follow any and all red objects that pass by.

Now, the company has attempted to accommodate the medical condition by requesting that no employee shall enter into the mechanical workshop wearing red, but on this particular day, some investors are visiting, and a man in the troop of intruders is wearing a red tie, and a woman in the entourage is sporting a red sweater.  They go from bench station to the next cubicle, within the purview and arc of dimensional periphery of the eccentric man’s attention, and with each movement, every sidelong blur, his eyes are “distracted” by the red moving objects.

Out of every minute of work, fully 45 seconds are spent on focusing upon the red objects that detract from the necessary mental acuity attending to the project at hand, and indeed, while they are far enough away such that from an objective viewpoint, the objects are mere inches in proportion and are of a distance as to almost be unnoticeable to others in the group of engineers, for the eccentric mechanical engineer, it is the focal point of his attentions.

The distraction is such that it disrupts the sequence of testing conditions and interrupts the validity of the technical precision required, and a coworker finally declares, “You’ve been too distracted and the project has to be scrapped.”  Would we agree that, because of the numerical disproportionality of concentration attributable, “red-object observation” takes precedence as the primary project, and it is the engineering project that is the distraction?  Or, because it is a medical condition of which he “cannot help it”, do we excuse the distraction in its entirety?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the central point made here is precisely how the Federal agency and the Postal facility views the issues significant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service possess a myopic view of “work”, and even if the Federal or Postal employee is able to continue making valuable contributions to the workplace, they often see the differentiation between “work” and “distractions” as one quantifiable by time alone.  This is too bad, but a reality that must be faced.  For, medical conditions are not mere distractions; they are life’s interludes that can often be faced and overcome, if only outmoded ideas about what constitutes workplace contributions are set aside, and realize that even distractions delaying the central mission of a Federal agency or Postal facility are not the most important, or even of much significance, when it comes to the worth and value of a human life.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Under the clump of olive trees

There are certain phrases that turn one’s attention, and daydreams of exotic lands and foreign places become projected onto one’s imagination, like camels, Arabian nights and sand dunes in faraway corners.  But, then, reality imposes itself; such places probably exist a few miles hence; those distant lands are now war-torn and deemed by the State Department to be forbidden avenues for sightseers and tourists in cut-off shorts and Hawaiian Shirts (did you know that the latter are apparently “back in style” – as if they ever were?), with warnings and cautionary predictions where officialdom has already evacuated the premises.

The soft snore from a picturesque scene:  the shepherd with a crooked walking stick, the flock grazing in the near distance; a straw hat edged slightly over the forehead, an arm lazily twisted behind as a pillow against the rocky surface; under the cluster of the olive trees, where a partial shadow allows for the coolness in the heat of midday slumber.  Or, what of a child’s delight in fairytales and picture-books, of Arabian nights with camels chewing silently while tents alight with shadows from within reveal the soft mutterings of foreign tongues, yearning for the delectable offerings sizzling atop the burning fires glowing in the star-filled twilight of the vast ocean of sand dunes and shadows.

Of course, those days of yonder years are now gone forever.  There are no scenes of picturesque quietude; in modernity, every corner of the earth has already been visited; the Himalayan monk sits with earphones and scans the images of Facebook and the world he abandoned for prayer, meditation and enlightenment; and that herd of camels has now been replaced by hooded terrorists lurking to kidnap and maim.  Yet, we all retain and preserve those images of quietude and peaceful reserve; in an insane world, a virtual universe of sanity is necessary, even if non-existence must be acknowledged and admitted to.

For each of us, perhaps it constitutes a minor variation:  becoming lost in a sports league; watching movies in regularity of escaping; a hobby in the cavern of one’s garage; physical labor or forlorn love with strangers; this is a society which requires distraction.  Or, as Heidegger puts it, varying projects in order to avoid the ultimate encounter with Nothingness.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition creates a working hell at work, what comprises the image of resting under a clump of olive trees?  Certainly, not the daily grind and antagonism experienced by supervisors, managers and coworkers who disallow any meaningful contribution because of the limitations imposed by the medical condition itself; and, certainly not the enduring of pain and anguish implemented by the constant fight against the illness.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a pathway, for many Federal and Postal employees, to a state where one can attend to, and focus upon, caring for one’s self.  OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit which is part of the employment package for all Federal and Postal employees, and utilization of it requires a proper formulating, preparation and filing through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to prove one’s entitlement to it.  It is a “means” to an “end”; and the means provide for a pathway outside of the daily pain and suffering which defines one’s life; the “end” is that virtual image we all strive for – to lay one’s head upon a comforting pasture under the clump of olive trees.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire