Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: The clinical language

The antiseptic nature of language allows for the euphemism of linguistic cloaking to occur.  The corollary effect, however, is that it fails to provide a nexus to the humanity lost, and allows for an arrogance of language by imparting its distance and separation from warmth.

Clinical language has that characteristic, steeped in the mysterious and archaic history of Gregorian chants at altars once embodying the Eucharist’s theological secrets of transubstantiation with the priesthood undulating in phrases foreign to ears of modernity; and from that same pocket of incomprehensible linguistic sophistication that only New Englanders like Buckley and other intellectuals would bandy about with phrases we all nod at as if we understood them, comes the cold, clinical language that doctors, nurses and psychiatrists use in diagnosing conditions beyond the mere commoner’s ability to realize.

The clinical language bifurcates and objectifies; it is a way of keeping the discussion on a level of discourse where human emotions need not enter, will not intercede, and cannot invade through the impenetrable walls of the rational side of the brain.  Perhaps there is a need for that; a want, a desire and a worthiness to maintain that distance, so that the topics delineated, explained and obfuscated can be accomplished without the emotional turmoil of those consequences resulting from the realization that one is damaged goods beyond repair.

In the end, however, when the patient goes back home, discusses it with family, friends and close relations, the interpretive process must by necessity be utilized.

In former times, dictionaries were taken out, root words were defined and the Latin phrases whispered in secret murmurings of incantations incomprehensible were untangled, discerned and disassembled.  In modernity, we Google them and have the algorithm of computer intelligence in sunny California interpret the words for us to digest.  Then, the translation into the emotive language of kitchen-held talks in hushed tones where children strain to listen from stairwells around the corner; and tears wept, confidences given and lost, and the upheavals of families in crisis where the clinical language has been demythologized and demystified so that even the everyday person can recognize the human toil of a ravaged body and mind.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, whether that medical condition has been diagnosed in clothing termed by the clinical language used by the medical profession, or already interpreted in common everyday usage, the plan is to prepare an effective, understandable, cogent and coherent Federal Disability Retirement application, and one that can bridge that gap from phrases barely comprehensible to linguistic descriptions that present a viable case.

Doctor’s reports and office notes, clinical narratives and treatment records are all useful and necessary, but in order to create that legal nexus of presenting a persuasive argument and meeting the standard of proof of preponderance of the evidence in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is always a good idea to interpret and translate that clinical language into a delineation that touches upon the everyday emotions common to us all, by breaking down the bifurcated walls and allowing for the warmth of humanity to pervade the narrative of life.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: Recognizing Problems

Why are some better at preemptively addressing recognizable foreshadowing?  Is it a genetic predisposition related to the capacity of surviving?  Like the instinctive responses of animals, is it an inherent trait that favors those who are more “fit” with such a characteristic, and thus to the disadvantage of those who do not possess it, where recognition and preemptive engagement allows for survival and thus the genetic pool favoring by dominance of avoiding the mortality trap?  Have we replaced such instinctive abilities by relegating most problems to linguistic identification and capacity to solve?

For, in the human world where language prevails and electronic communication is now the preeminent engagement of consciousness, the “problems” to recognize are no longer the danger of an approaching predator nor the oncoming storm out in the middle of the ocean (although, a burning house or a hurricane imminent if you live on the coast are still real dangers), but for the most part, language games that need modification, curtailment or adjustment in order to correct the inconvenience of social constructs that have gone amok or astray.

Yes, the furnace may break down, the water heater may have sprung a leak, or the roof shingles may need replacing; but even those, the resolution is rarely one that is initiated by us; rather, it is to utilize the mode of communication and either by phone, email or text messaging, we make an appointment for someone else to fix the problem.  Recognition of the concern was still contained within the world of language, and the physical work attended to is relegated and delegated to some strange entity in another universe.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal employee or U.S. Postal Worker to take the next step by preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset – the process begins with a “real” problem:  the medical condition itself, which will not go away no matter the treatment modalities or the constant attempt to work one’s way through the chronic and progressively deteriorating situation.

Then, from the reality of the problem itself, the jump to recognizing the further concern must inevitably manifest itself – that of the incompatibility and incommensurate nature of the medical condition and being able to do all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

Thus, recognizing the problem is the first step in resolving the issues; however, resolution may sometimes need some expertise and advice beyond what the Federal or Postal employee can foresee in the foreshadowing of approaching dark clouds.  For, not all problems are equal, and certainly not all solutions, and while recognizing problems may resolve some of the concerns, the greater issue is whether the Federal or Postal employee will have all of the information available “out there” in the netherworld of an administrative and bureaucratic morass as that of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such that the problems one cannot recognize may be the one that defeats the solution never known.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Answering Questions

How do we come to learn how to do it?  Certainly, we come across certain eccentric individuals who defy every conventional norm, and somehow manage to appear as if they have done what otherwise we recognize as not having been completed.

Have you ever come across someone who just isn’t “quite right” – such that, when you ask a question, the tangents that flood forth and the meandering thought processes make it an arbitrary conclusion as to whether it was the specific question asked that prompted the incommensurate response, or just the mere fact of a tonal posit of a question-like query that compelled a verbal reaction, even if it has nothing to do with the substance of the question itself?

How do children learn how to answer questions?  Is it natural; is there a systematized process of acceptability; is it taught in any course with a heading like, “Elementary Basics 101: How to answer a question”; and do we presume that acceptable and normative constraints are just learned effortlessly?  Certainly, the classical educational approach of dialectical methodologies – of a question posited; raised hands, chosen orders and an answer provided; then the reinforced positive feedback by the teacher in either affirming or rejecting the response – is an approach that somewhat answers the mystery.

But what of that “weird” kid?  The one where the teacher asks:  “Is the earth round or flat?”  The kid answers:  “That is an oversimplification, as the geometrical constructs require a perspective that betrays ignorance of quantum physics, where flatness is a relative concept to roundness, and vice versa.”  Now, one may smile and wonder whether, perhaps such a child prodigy reveals an intelligence quotient beyond his age or class assignment, but all the rest of the kids would just roll their eyes about as the class bullies await for recess hour in order to beat that kid to a pulp.

But was the question answered, and to that end, satisfactorily?  Or, what if another kid, perhaps half-daydreaming, suddenly blurts, “It’s blue!  It’s blue!”  Did that kid answer it any less adequately than the first?  How do we learn to answer questions?

What if the questions are essentially legalese and incomprehensible, or of a “tricky” nature and makes one pause before moving forward?  Do questions posed, for instance, by law enforcement officials evoke greater caution (as in, “To the best of my recollection…”), and if so, why?  Is it because the stakes may be higher and the suspicion of the double entendre is always there?  Which brings us to the problem of Federal Disability Retirement applications, and specifically SF 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

The questions posed on the Standard Form 3112A seem simple enough; but simplicity does not necessarily mean straightforward, and indeed, when a Federal or Postal employee is completing SF 3112A, it is best to go back to fundamentals and ask yourself, How did I learn to answer questions, and are these questions the type that may need additional help, because – though they may seem simple enough and not quite in legalese – there is some trickiness in the very simplicity of the query.

And it is the rule to remember, that the simplest questions require the greatest pause, where suspicion will warrant a more extensive pondering of reflective repose.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire