C. Glenn Flanagan believes he has learned a basic truth -- it is easier to pump oil for the Saudis than it is to pump money out of them.

Flanagan is an American who is eligible for workmen's compensation from the Saudi Arabian government. Collecting it has been difficult.

Since being "medically terminated" by Aramco (Arab-American Oil Co.) in 1977, Flanagan, a former Aramco plant inspector, has found it necessary to "maintain a presence" in Washington several days a year.

The trip is the next to last step in a longer annual journey that begins in Flanagan's doctor's offices in Miami, progresses through the bureaucracy of the Florida state government, moves through the State Department and winds up on U.S. soil at the Saudi embassy here.

The final destination is the Saudi counterpart of the Department of Labor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Why is this trip necessary?

"Government red tape," a Saudi commercial attache here admitted frankly. "In any government anywhere in the world you have red tape. This is just a bit of ours," he said.

The attache said foreigners receiving Saudi workmen's compensation must verify their disability every year to keep their checks flowing.

"It is routine . . . just to ascertain that the recipient is still alive and is eligible," the attache said.

Flanagan became eligible in 1977 as the result of severe back and neck problems stemming from injuries he received on the job in 1963 and 1972.

Foreign firms pay into a Saudi workmen's compensation insurance pool in a way similar to that in which U.S. employers fund domestic compensation plans. Foreign workers injured on the job automatically become eligible for some degree of Saudi compensation, depending on their salaries, lengths of service and extent of disability, the attache said.

Flanagan worked 17 years for Aramco in Saudi Arabia, according to company personnel officers in Houston. The officers verified his claim that he was "medically terminated" on an "83 percent permanent total disability."

As a result Flanagan, 56, is eligible for a $1,200 monthly payment from the Saudi government in addition to a $516 monthly U.S. Social Security check.

The catch is that he won't receive his Saudi check if he fails to collect the required notarized statements, the appropriately stamped state and federal documents, and to get them to the Saudi embassy on time -- March 31 -- every year.

To protect himself against that disaster, Flanagan has taken up a highly personal brand of lobbying.

In 1977, too ill to come to Washington, he paid a personal emissary up to $100 a day plus expenses -- to hand carry his officially stamped and ribboned papers from federal office to federal office.

"It was worth it," he said.

For the past three years, Flanagan and his wife have driven to Washington from Miami -- at the rate of 300 miles a day -- to walk the papers through the federal bureaucracy.

Flanagan was grateful for the help, but still a little muffed at the Saudis.

"You spend all of that time helping them get their oil out of the ground, and you think that they could be just a little bit more understanding," he said.