Re-reading Anton Chekhov’s famous short story, “Grief”, is instructive in multiple ways — the effective use of limited dialogue; creating of word-pictures which set the tone of the story; the metaphorical use of language; and the answer to the question, What makes a particular aggregation of words effective in their linear combination? It is a very short narration of events, even for a “short story”. Yet, as a classic piece of literature, it stands alone in its powerful evocation of the plight of man: the need to relate human suffering, in its proper manner, in a particular way — so as to relieve the sufferer from the very essence of his turmoil. To whom it is told, of course, is not important; how it is stated, is the point of the story.
In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, both the “to whom” and “how” are equally important, and that is the difference and distinction from fictional prose. The audience in a Federal Disability Retirement application must always be kept in mind — a Federal Government bureaucrat, who has seen many Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS.
Like the passengers to whom Iona Potapov attempted to relate his story, the Claims Specialist at OPM will have a calloused view of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application — not necessarily because of an inability to empathize, but because any singular Federal Disability Retirement application will be merely one of thousands to view, and after time, the conglomeration of words simply spill over one into another. As such, “how” the narrative portion of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is told, becomes all-important. The type of prose, of course, is far different than Chekhov’s fictional account of the suffering of a man; but the metaphorical use of language should be invoked where applicable, all the while understanding that being concise and conservative in choosing the right words is the most effective way of communicating.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire