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Saturday, December 29, 2018

OWCP and Government Shutdown

During previous government shutdowns, OWCP payments were not affected and should not be affected during this shutdown.

Processing claims and payment of benefits are considered essential work, so the claims examiners assigned to do that work should still be working.

Employees that are not responsible for processing claims or compensation payments are likely furloughed if this shutdown is like past shutdowns.

Don't be surprised if you cannot contact OWCP during the shutdown as customer service employees are considered non-essential and are also likely to be furloughed.

Medical bills and medical authorizations should not be affected, as these are processed through a contractor.

OWCP Connect and ECOMP should not be affected so you can still upload documents or check on the status of your claim through OWCP Connect.


Monday, August 13, 2018

OWCP Codes

A list of OWCP codes can be found here:

https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/dfecdd/CMFDataDictionary20091211.html


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bad Information Abounds

Today, I stumbled on a July 2018 article on a blog written by a law firm that claims they have been assisting injured federal employees since 1994.

The article was about OWCP's field nurses and after reading it, I came away shocked and have been shaking my head ever since. 

According to this law firm, that claims they handle OWCP claims and have been doing so for 24 years, a claimant should be as cooperative as possible with an OWCP field nurse.

The article says:


"First, it is important that you remain calm and concede to have a nurse attached to your OWCP federal workers’ compensation case. This is because refusal would look like you are being uncooperative which might make FECA cut off or reduce your payouts. As such, you should speak to the attending nurse and accept their requests to attend your doctor’s visits. However, resist the urge to tell them about your condition should they ask you; this is because they are not on your side and may just be looking for a loophole or piece of information to influence OWCP’s decision to take you off compensation. Your answers should be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and should always refer them to your physician the minute they start asking convoluted medical questions."

The article goes on to say:

"...it’s in your best interests to be as cooperative as you can without being verbose to avoid sabotaging your compensation."

And of course the article ends by saying call us.

I'm having heart palpitations reading this article. 

First, FECA doesn't cut off your benefits. FECA is the law, the Act under which OWCP benefits are paid. 

Second, the OWCP field nurse program is VOLUNTARY. You DO NOT have to "concede" to have an OWCP field nurse attached to your claim and you don't have to be cooperative.

How do I know this? It's in part three of the FECA Manual, which anyone can find at 3-0201-6(c)(5): 

"Although the intervention program is voluntary, participation should be strongly encouraged."   

Third, OWCP CANNOT reduce or suspend your benefits if you are "uncooperative" with their field nurse. That's the vocational rehabilitation process, not the field nurse program. 

Being "uncooperative" doesn't "sabotage" your claim because the field nurse program is VOLUNTARY. 

Time after time, the ECAB has stated:

The regulations do not equate the assignment of an OWCP nurse with vocational rehabilitation. 

Here's an ECAB decision that lays this out:  

https://www.dol.gov/ecab/decisions/2006/Dec/06-0777.htm

This case sums up the error of reducing or suspending benefits stating:

"Appellant's refusal to cooperate with the nurse intervention program does not constitute a failure or refusal to cooperate with the early or necessary stages of vocational rehabilitation under section 8113 of the Act. The Office's application of section 8113 to reduce appellant's monetary compensation to zero was in error. Consequently, it did not meet its burden of proof in reducing appellant's monetary compensation benefits."

Forth, you DO NOT have to allow a field nurse to attend your medical appointments and you DO NOT have to allow a field nurse access to your doctor or refer them to your doctor if they ask medical questions. Why? Because the field nurse is VOLUNTARY.

I know physicians who handle OWCP claimants and when an OWCP nurse walks into their office, the doctor or the staff tells them to get out and never return because these physicians know the damage an OWCP nurse can do to a claim.

It's bad enough that claimants are subjected to inaccurate information from OWCP and by their employer, but to have a law firm that doesn't even know the basics out there drumming up claimants to hire them is truly concerning to me. 

I'm sure this law firm has no problem taking a fat retainer from a claimant and also charging them an hourly fee and yet they believe you must cooperate with a field nurse or risk "sabotaging" your claim or risk your compensation being "cut off" or reduced. 

Claimants aren't expected to know all the rules and regulations in OWCPland, but if an 'expert' is taking your money, it's their job to know. 

In my opinion, this article, which was just written, gives extremely bad advice that could damage your claim much more than if you didn't allow OWCP's nurse on your claim. 

For instance, if OWCP's nurse is allowed access to your doctor and tells your doctor something that isn't true and this results in a change in your treatment or status, or bullies your doctor into releasing you back to work when you're clearly not ready for that, that's much more damaging than OWCP getting cranky because you know the field nurse program is voluntary and you don't choose to cooperate. 

If this law firm doesn't know that, what else don't they know? 

I've said it time and time again, be careful who you hire. 

Just because someone says they know what they're doing, it doesn't make it true and this article shows that a law firm that claims they've been dealing with OWCP claims for almost a quarter of a century doesn't even know the field nurse program is voluntary. 






Monday, May 14, 2018

OWCP-Washington, D.C.


I have returned from my whirlwind Washington trip where I spent four days talking about OWCP and changes that could be made to help claimants.

I concentrated on changes that I believe would be effective, but avoided talking about ‘reform’ which is a scary and daunting thought to most people and let’s face it, reform probably wouldn't work anyway.

My theory is OWCP doesn’t follow its own regulations now, so even with the best reform in the world, unless OWCP followed those new regulations, the same adversarial system would exist.

So instead I discussed changes I believe would help level the playing field and give claimants a chance against the system. Since time is limited when meeting with a Senator or staff member (sometimes only a few minutes), I started with what I believe would make the most difference to claimants.

The three things I believe would make a difference are:

1)   Putting a cap on what OWCP physicians can receive for an exam. In my opinion, this takes away the financial incentive to provide a report against a claimant and would eliminate some of the biased doctors who are only in it for the money.

When these biased doctors leave because they can’t get millions a year, it also forces OWCP to bring in new doctors who may not be as biased.

If nothing else, this would save the American taxpayers millions of wasted dollars a year.

2)   Allowing every OWCP-directed exam to be recorded by the claimant.

This would provide the claimant with proof of what did or did not happen in the exam, what exam was or was not performed and give a claimant proof should OWCP use a negative report against a claimant giving the claimant a leg to stand on.

3)   Update the FECA manuals to specifically explain ‘Medical Rationale’.

It is obvious that the medical community and OWCP have differing opinions of what medical rationale is. OWCP only says it’s a “reasoned” or “rationalized” medical opinion.

But when a claimant’s physician includes a “reasoned” or “rationalized” medical opinion, OWCP still denies a claim due to a lack of medical rationale without explaining what the doctor didn’t provide.

I discussed that OWCP should have to update the FECA manuals to specifically explain what they consider to be medical rationale and provide one example of what they would accept as medical rationale and one example of what they will not accept as medical rationale.

This way a claimant can provide their physician with this section of the FECA manual and the physician can provide exactly what OWCP requires. This would lessen the need to repeatedly go to a physician for another report (and another and another) and significantly shorten the acceptance process ending the need for multiple appeals.

As a side effect, this change may bring more physicians willing to take an OWCP patient because they’ll know exactly what OWCP needs from them.

I spoke with three Senators and more staff members than I can count and also pitched these same ideas to NARFE's vice president of advocacy. 

Obviously not everyone was interested in what I had to say, but I am encouraged that there were several that did listen, took notes, asked questions and seemed interested in what I was saying.

Since it is the staff members who will be able to bring these issues to the Senators and/or Congresspeople, I will follow-up with those that were interested and hopefully form relationships with them and with a little luck, these changes will be made and that will help claimants fight against a system that seems so set against them. 

While I don't expect things to change overnight, I am hopeful that I can forge relationships and get the right people interested in making these simple, yet important changes.

I will continue the fight.

*A huge thank you to Mark who made my Washington meetings possible. I couldn't have done it without him and am forever grateful for his time and infinite wisdom.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

NRP-BEWARE Of USPS Letter

Yesterday, a client contacted me about a letter she received from the USPS in regard to the NRP settlement.

This letter states in part:

"During the course of this case, it came to light that certain individuals were never assessed under the National Reassessment Process. In AJ Stilp's Order, she held that individuals who were not subject to the National Reassessment Process do not fall within the class definition in the above-referenced case and are not class members. If you are receiving this Notice, you are one of the individuals who has be found to not meet the definition of class membership in the above-referenced case.

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that you are not a member of the class in the above-referenced case."

The problem is, my client was assessed under NRP.

My client received this letter and believed it. She believed she was being notified she was not a member of the class because the USPS had determined she wasn't assessed under NRP.

Luckily, my client contacted the law firm handling the case and told them about this letter and she was told that her name WAS on the list of individuals who are part of the class and she needed to file her claim paperwork.

Had she not followed up, she might have continued to believe she was not part of the Class Action and could have missed the April 12, 2018 deadline for filing her paperwork.

If you've received this letter, make sure it's accurate and not the USPS' way of lower the number of members of the class by sending bogus letters to employees telling them they aren't part of the Class Action.

Here's a copy of the letter:



Monday, March 26, 2018

NRP Class Action Settled

To any postal employee affected by the USPS' National Reassessment Process, otherwise known as NRP, the class action has finally been settled.

After 12 long years, the EEOC's final decision found in favor of the employees, finding that the USPS discriminated against injured employees. The final decision finds that the USPS targeted these employees by canceling jobs that accommodated their restrictions, created a hostile work environment, improperly used their private medical information and forced some injured employees to resign.

Claims for monetary awards are due NOW. The deadline for individual Class members is 30 days from the date when you receive written notice about the case.

Since the USPS could 'accidentally' fail to notify Class members, it is being suggest that you submit a claim by April 12, 2018 to be safe.

Failure to submit a claim may result in loss of individual relief.

Information on how to file claims can be found here: http://nrpclassaction.com/

Here is the final version of the Class Action: http://nrpclassaction.com/files/pdfs/decision-on-request-for-reconsideration-03-09-18.pdf

Friday, March 16, 2018

OWCP Reform

In May or June I will be travelling to Washington, D.C. to discuss OWCP reform with members of Congress.

One of the things I want to discuss is the amount of money an OWCP physician makes and how this exorbitant amount of money causes bias against claimants.

I will be discussing reform of placing a cap on the amount an OWCP physician can charge.

If you have been to an OWCP-directed second opinion or referee exam, please take a moment to go to ACS and check what the physician was paid.

If you want to help me help all claimants by discussing reform, please send me the proof of what your OWCP physician was paid for your exam. You can send it to: owcpslayer@gmail.com

To find your bill, go to ACS at: https://owcp.dol.acs-inc.com/

After logging in, go to Resolved Bills (paid and denied) and look for a bill that says PROMPT PAY. This is an OWCP physician's payment.

Thank you to everyone who has already sent me their PROMPT PAY bills, I truly appreciate it!