Lawyers are trained to engage in linguistic gymnastics; that is precisely why Plato railed against rhetoricians of his day, as they used language to distort the fullness of being (as Heidegger would say). For, the malleability of language allows for a spectrum of purposive and mischievous play upon words; only an abiding sense of integrity in the face of a world which has abandoned parameters and boundaries of what constitutes “fair play” in the arena of linguistic word games, would save the original foundation of the correspondence theory of truth. But in this postmodern world where objective truth can no longer be argued for, subtlety in playing a language game is no longer necessary; one can simply, deliberately and without conscience switch one word for another, and maintain a straight face.
So, in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement case, when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management inserts words which clearly do not reflect the legal standard as presently existing, what does one do? When the standard is raised to require “disability which precludes you from the workplace”, or evidence of a medical condition which is “compelling”, how does one respond? Such unwarranted and baseless legal applications are inserted in many denials from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, requiring a Request for Reconsideration or an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. In the end, in order to properly respond, one must first recognize the malleability of language; then to identify the proper legal standard to be applied; then to selectively address such improper legal standards.
In a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, the ultimate problem is that one is dealing with a Leviathan of an agency — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — and one which has the power to engage in rhetorical flourishes with unfettered abandon.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire