I often refer to a favorite short story of mine, inasmuch as it serves as a paradigm for why I practice disability retirement law: the master storyteller, Anton Chekhov, wrote a brilliant short story entitled, Grief (translator’s subtitle: “To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief,”), where the cab-driver, Iona Potapov, tells the profound story of human need — of a son’s death; a tale of tragedy, and of human indifference.
And in the course of driving various strangers in his carriage/cab, where he attempts to tell his very personal story of human tragedy, in the end, he must turn to his horse, and speak the mournful song of human desire to the only one who will listen: “That’s how it is, my old horse. There’s no more Kuzma Ionitch. He has left us to live, and he went off pop. Now let’s say, you had a foal, you were that foal’s mother, and suddenly, let’s say, that foal went and left you to live after him. It would be sad, wouldn’t it?”
Each of us has a human tale to tell. The human tale in disability retirement is often one of enduring devotion to one’s life work; of a medical condition beyond one’s control; and the need to change course in one’s life.
As an attorney, I am very busy in my practice. The cost of success, of course, is less time — less time for family, less time for personal pursuits (my first and greatest love is and continues to be the study of Philosophy — that is what I studied in College; that is what I studied in graduate school, before heading off to law school; and I find that, each year, I have less and less time in reading the major works of philosophers — but this is often outweighed by the professional satisfaction I get in obtaining disability retirement benefits for my clients); less time for reflection. I receive many, many calls on a daily basis from clients and potential clients who need to file for disability retirement benefits.
I try and listen to each human story — but to listen to the fullness of each story would be to take away from the time needed to spend on someone else.
That is why, often, I must direct the conversation with a series of questions. I am not a therapist or a doctor — I am an attorney. If I do not focus upon the direct and impactful issues, and help my clients focus upon the significant issues which directly touch upon Federal Disability Retirement, I am not doing my job. Thus, if I am somewhat focused upon certain foundational issues when speaking to people on the telephone, it is only because I am trying to do the best for all of my clients — to direct and re-direct the issues, like a laser-beam, upon the important issues concerning Federal Disability Retirement.
In doing so, I hope I am not like the indifferent passengers who left Iona Potapov on the side of the road, to have him tell his human story to the only one left to tell: his horse.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire