Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Periodic Roll Payment Schedule


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Schedule Awards-Do It Yourself

Most attorneys and representatives charge a percentage (a contingency fee) to handle the filing of a schedule award. Contingency fees are not allowed at anytime in OWCP but OWCP doesn't stop this practice and a lot of claimants aren't aware contingency fees aren't allowed so attorneys and representatives get away with taking a hunk of your schedule award.

Most claimants believe that filing for a schedule award is difficult and complicated...but it's not.

A schedule award pays for the permanent loss of use of a covered body part. Think about that for a minute...Permanent Loss of Use. It's unconscionable to me that if a claimant has a permanent loss of use because they were injured at work, that someone would take advantage of that for a percentage of the award.

The thing is, of all the things an attorney or representative might have to do, filing a schedule award takes the least amount of work.

In order to file for a schedule award you need to have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, (MMI) and have an impairment to a covered body part. If that criteria is met, then you need a proper impairment rating and a completed CA-7. That's it. That's all it takes to file for a schedule award with OWCP.

Almost every claimant with an accepted OWCP claim has completed a CA-7 at some point. It's not complicated and it's not hard to do. Even if you needed help, it wouldn't take more than 10 minutes for someone to walk you through completing a CA-7.

The physician does all the work for the impairment rating, so there's nothing there that requires professional help from an attorney or representative.

The most important part of a schedule award is is not an attorney or representative, it's the choice of rating physician. You want someone who has experience and knowledge dealing with OWCP impairment ratings and does it properly.

Once OWCP receives the rating report and CA-7, they begin to process the claim. First, they send the rating report to the District Medical Adviser, (DMA). The DMA checks the rating and calculations. The DMA has three choices; agree with the rating, increase the rating or lower the rating. The DMA then supplies the Claims Examiner, (CE) with a report that provides their calculations and discusses their reasoning.

Normally, the CE will use the DMA's rating percentage and notifies you of the outcome.

You can accept the rating OWCP approves even if it's lower than the rating your doctor gave you. If you do this, you receive payments for the percentage OWCP has approved.

One year after the start date of your schedule award (or last exposure) you can be re-rated if your conditions have worsened or there's a greater percentage of loss, which is pretty common.

If the new rating is higher than the rating you received, you would be entitled to the difference. For instance, if OWCP approved and paid 10% and later you were re-rated at 15% and OWCP accepted the 15%, you would receive the additional 5% (15%-10% previously paid=5% owed).

There are times with a schedule award when an appeal is necessary, but these appeals are usually based on medical evidence. Medical evidence comes from a physician not an attorney or representative and is something YOU would obtain-the attorney or representative doesn't obtain medical evidence on your behalf, you have to get it from a physician.

When OWCP decides on the percentage they'll accept, it's not easy to change their mind so the appeal process can take up to a year or more. If you check ECAB decisions, you'll see that even with an attorney, a high percentage of the appeals are denied. Why pay someone to go through the appeals process when you can submit new medical evidence on your own if an appeal is necessary.

A less frustrating and cheaper way to handle this is to accept the percentage OWCP has approved and submit an increased rating after a year.

There are a lot of times that you might need professional help with your OWCP claim but filing your claim for a schedule award shouldn't be one of them. If you hire an attorney or representative, most will take 10%-30% of your award.

I'm not saying don't hire professional help if you need it or want it, but if you do make sure you don't agree to give a percentage of your schedule award away. Why give away a percentage when you don't have to? That payment belongs in your pocket, not an attorney's, after all, you're the one with the permanent loss of use.

For more on increased schedule awards, see FECA Manual part two at 2-0808-9:


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Law Enforcement Officer Services

It is with great pride that I announce Jesse Slade and Associates has been selected to act as an OWCP expert in the Law Enforcement Officer Services, (LEOS) plan.

The LEOS plan provides legal defense services to federal, state and local law enforcement officers as well as ALL other federal civilian and postal employees and is the most comprehensive representation available to Law Enforcement officers, civil servants, postal employees and unions.

Membership dues are $15.00 per pay period, or every two weeks.

Membership in the LEOS plan provides:

24/7 Emergency line

Consultation and representation from experienced attorneys and staff representatives during:

o   Critical incidents
o   Internal Affairs or OPR interviews (when permitted)
o   Pre-disciplinary / pre-termination hearings
o   Arbitration hearings
o   Grievances

Representation at Merit Systems Protection Board/Employee-Management Relations Board hearings

Criminal defense of the officer when not scoped by their agency

Civil defense of the officer when not scoped by their agency

OWCP/DOL consultations, representation and correspondence (excluding appeals and pre-termination rebuttals which are offered at a 30% discount for members)

OWCP schedule award claim filing

OWCP second opinion or referee physician rebuttal when appropriate

OPM Disability Retirement benefit advice and counsel

OPM Disability Retirement filings

EEOC benefits– Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attorney consultation including initial contact with Agency, assisting in EEOC Counselor contact, assistance with filing of an informal complaint, providing assistance in mediation, assistance in preparation of the formal complaint, and attorney representation and assistance with the EEOC investigation. (Litigation at the formal EEOC complaint phase requires a $5000 flat rate payment for attorney representation; representation for flat fee discontinues once the EEOC complaint reaches district court)

Offensive lawsuits against agency (when systemic abuse or wrongdoing is evident)

Group representation at Labor-Management Committees or Boards

Group counsel at Local, State or Federal Agency meetings (when permitted)

For more information or to become a member:
(844) LEOS911
(844) 536-7911

Or visit our website at: https://www.leosprotection.com/

Monday, September 26, 2016

Travel Status

There are some federal employees who are required to travel as part of their job. An employee who is required to travel as part of their job is considered to be in Travel Status.

When you are in travel status, you are covered continuously during the trip, except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown. This is true whether the travel is within or outside the United States.

The rules of travel status that apply are taken from Larson’s The Law of Workers’ Compensation.

The relevant passage states:

“Employees whose work entails travel away from the employer’s premises are held in the majority of jurisdictions to be within the course of their employment continuously during the trip, except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown. Thus, injuries arising out of the necessity of sleeping in hotels or eating in restaurants away from home are usually held compensable.”

Injuries sustained while in a travel status would be considered work-related as long as you were considered to be in a work status. For instance, while in travel status you are considered working while driving, when boarding a plane, while flying, travel to and from the hotel, or going to eat, while in your hotel room, etc.

If physical therapy, (PT) is required of you, then approved activities would be covered if you were working out (engaging in PT). Whether or not you are covered while performing PT is dependent on the agency's authorized PT activities.

For instance, if the agency authorizes jogging/running as part of required PT and you are injured either on a treadmill or while jogging in the area, this would be work-related. But you have to be within the activities the agency has authorized.

Some agencies have specific activities that are considered required or suggested PT such as jogging, swimming, cycling, etc...If an agency specifies that jogging be done on a treadmill and you are hit by a car jogging on the street, you would not be covered under OWCP. If cycling is an approved form of PT but it’s specific to a stationary bike and you are out riding a bike and are injured, that would not be covered.

Some agencies authorize weight-lifting, but some do not. If weight-lifting is not authorized and you engaged in weight-lifting and were injured, that would not be covered. Or if you went water skiing or rock climbing as PT, but water skiing and/or rock climbing are not authorized PT activities, then you would not be covered.

So if you are engaging in required PT while in travel status but perform activities outside what the agency authorizes as PT, then you have deviated from the work-related activities and that is considered a personal decision to engage in recreational activity.

These activities would be considered a personal choice and not work-related and OWCP will deny the claim.

There are other instances where injuries that occurred would not be considered in performance of duty. These instances occur when you deviate from your work activities.

My suggestion would be that you be  aware of what the agency does and does not authorize as PT. This is because even if you are engaging in an authorized activity, the agency often fights the claim. Part of the problem is that the agency doesn’t understand what is and isn’t covered while in a travel status or if they do, they just don’t want claims to be accepted so they fight them.

For instance, if you went swimming in a hotel pool and swimming was part of authorized PT, if you were injured, that would be considered work-related. But if you went to the ocean to swim, that would be a deviation unless the agency has authorized swimming in the ocean.

If you are in travel status and went out to eat, that would be considered in the performance of duty. But if you went to eat and then went to meet a friend or went to a bar (a secondary location) or went to run a personal errand, then that would be a deviation and you would not be considered working or in performance of your duties.

If you went straight to/from the restaurant to the hotel, you're covered if injured. But if on the way back to the hotel you decided to go for a walk or sight-seeing and were injured, that would not be covered because you deviated from the route back to the hotel.

Also, you wouldn’t be covered under OWCP if you engaged in something you shouldn’t or something dangerous. For instance, if you were hailing a taxi to return to your hotel after dinner, but decided to stand in the middle of the street to do it and were hit by a car, this isn’t going to be considered work-related because you put yourself in danger by standing in traffic. Or if you were engaging in ‘horseplay’ (roughhousing or fooling around) and were injured, you would not be covered under OWCP.

An easy way to remember it is to think of it as a straight line. As long as you are going to or from without deviation, you're covered. When that straight line is broken, you're not covered.

When you deviate from the normal incidents of your trip and engage in activities, personal or otherwise, which are not reasonably incidental to the duties of your travel status contemplated by the employer, you cease to be under the protection of FECA and any injury occurring during that deviation is not compensable.

When an employee is in travel status and is injured, the first thing OWCP is supposed to do is determine if the employee deviated from their work activities. If it’s determined the employee did not deviate outside what is considered work activities, then like all OWCP claims, the medical evidence becomes crucial.

So when you give your statement of events, it should be specific about not deviating from what you were doing. In other words, you should detail that straight line. You should say that you didn’t deviate from your line of travel and that you were not on a personal errand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Don't Sign That Medical Release!

When you're injured at work, most people have no idea what the process is and you end up trusting your agency. You're told what to do, what to sign, what doctor to go to and what to give the agency. Because it’s your first time and you don't know…you do what your agency tells you.

There's a lot agencies do wrong, but today I want to focus on additional forms your agency may tell you to sign...specifically a medical release.

Sometimes these forms are signed without reading them because you don’t know what’s required and your agency is telling you to sign specific forms to file your claim.

The ONLY forms you are required to sign and submit through your agency are the proper claim form (CA-1, CA2 or CA-2a) and a claim for wage-loss compensation (CA-7/CA-7a) if relevant. No other forms are required by OWCP to file a claim. 

When it comes to medical documentation, your agency is only entitled to your physical restrictions. This is done on either a CA-17 or an OWCP-5. Your agency is not entitled to medical reports, medical records, test results or any other personal medical documents.

You are not required or obligated to sign any other forms your agency provides. You are not required to submit any information to your agency other than what is contained on your claim form. OWCP will notify you if they require further information on your claim. 

Your responsibility for documentation is to OWCP not your agency. Your agency makes NO decisions on your OWCP claim.

Some agencies have developed their own medical release and tell an injured employee they have to sign it when they file their OWCP claim. The agency makes it appear that this is part of the OWCP claim process. 

These extra forms are not required by OWCP in order to file your claim. These forms are generated by and for the sole benefit of your agency.

Let me be clear, your agency does not have the right to your medical documents in an OWCP claim. OWCP is the sole holder of the medical information and medical records in any OWCP claim. Your obligation is to submit medical information and any other relevant information to OWCP...not to your agency.

If your agency requires information about your OWCP claim, they should be told to contact OWCP. OWCP will determine if your agency is legally entitled to the information.

The agency-generated medical releases I've seen make it clear the agency will use any medical documentation they receive AGAINST you if they choose to. By signing a medical release, you are agreeing to allow the agency to use your medical information against you if the opportunity arises. 

So if you have a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by work, the medical release allows the agency to obtain records that cover the pre-existing condition. With a signed medical release, your agency doesn't just have the right to collect work-related medical documents, they can collect your past medical records as well.

Most medical reports do not include information that ONLY pertains to your OWCP claim. Often medical reports or notes include other information that has nothing whatsoever to do with an OWCP claim. Things like medications you take, family history, past medical or surgical history, etc...By signing a medical release, the agency can receive medical information that has nothing to do with your OWCP claim. 

In my opinion, these medical releases are extremely broad. For instance, there is one currently being used by a Law Enforcement agency that states that the agency can obtain "any medical records or other information that is paper, oral or electronic." To me that says the agency can receive any medical record they want, past, present or future. 

Your agency cannot force or bully you to sign these forms and the agencies know they are not entitled to your medical records...which is why they require your signature allowing the agency access.

I would wager if you read these agency medical releases, you'll see the word:

My advice is DO NOT sign any form that is not required by OWCP and know you have no obligation to provide your agency with your personal medical information if you file an OWCP claim. 

If you’ve signed one of these releases, you can rescind it.
  • Ask your agency to give it back.
  • If that doesn’t work, write a letter to the agency and tell them you rescind any medical release you signed. 
  • If you have to, notify your physicians and other providers you’re rescinding any medical release the agency has. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Field Nurse-Is Yours Legit?

As if there wasn’t enough to contend with, a new issue for claimants has come to my attention and it's getting more widespread. It is important that this information gets to ANY claimant who finds themselves with a nurse on their claim.

Agencies are assigning nurses to OWCP claims and in some cases, these nurses are misrepresenting to a claimant and/or their providers that they were assigned by OWCP or that they are contracted by OWCP.

In some cases, the agency nurses are misrepresenting that even though employed by the agency, they have the right to access your medical records and get involved with your providers because you were injured at work.


In some cases, the agency and/or its nurses are preventing an injured worker from seeing a qualified physician by recommending a physician or telling the injured worker they have to see a particular physician. You do NOT have to have an agency-recommended physician as your treating physician.

In some cases, the agency and/or their nurses are directing claimants away from certain physicians, saying the physician is under investigation when they are not. This is currently most widespread in Arizona.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, DO NOT believe your agency without proof what they’re saying is true. It’s hard enough to find a physician that will take an OWCP patient, now the agencies are trying to eliminate physicians, especially the good ones, that do accept OWCP claimants by telling lies about the physicians to scare claimants away.

For injured Border Patrol employees, there is at least one agency nurse in Arizona that is currently not licensed in the state of Arizona and is inappropriately inserting herself into claims as if she has a legitimate right.

In some cases, the agency and/or their nurses are inappropriately obtaining your medical records from your medical providers. When you’re injured, your agency does not receive or manage your medical records…OWCP does.

In some cases, the agency and/or their nurses are contacting your providers in person or by telephone. The agency and/or their nurse CANNOT contact your medical providers in person or by telephone.

However, your agency can contact your providers in writing. If any agency is contacting a provider, it MUST be in writing and a copy of the letter must be provided to both you and OWCP at the same time it’s sent to your provider. The agency can ask your provider about work limitations and possible job assignments.

If the agency writes your provider and the provider is going to respond, they should respond to OWCP. The doctor has no obligation to respond to the agency. Your agency is not involved in the decisions of your claim. Your agency doesn't review or weigh medical evidence. Your agency does not manage any part of your claim. Your obligation is to OWCP not your agency.

Your obligation to your agency is to notify them when you have been released to work and to provide any physical restrictions through a completed CA-17. 

If the agency needs information, they can contact OWCP and if they are legally entitled to the information, OWCP will give it to them. 

If your agency contacts you for medical reports, you should send the reports to OWCP and NOT the agency, but you can and should provide the agency a current CA-17.

The agencies and/or their nurses are inserting themselves into claims and asking providers for information such as billing codes. Legitimate OWCP Field Nurses don’t need to ask for billing codes. Since all your bills go through OWCP, they can easily find out what’s being billed. They don’t need ask your providers for billing codes.

Your agency and/or their nurses CANNOT attend medical appointments, CANNOT participate in your treatment, CANNOT make treatment recommendations, CANNOT schedule appointments and CANNOT discuss your claim or your injuries with your medical providers.

Because of these new agency tactics, ANY nurse assigned to your claim should be properly identified as an OWCP Field Nurse. 

When OWCP assigns a Field Nurse to your claim, you will be notified in writing. If you did not receive a letter from OWCP assigning a Field Nurse to your claim, there is a chance the nurse contacting you is not assigned by OWCP but is an agency nurse.

ALL claimants should ask their Field Nurse for the letter OWCP sent them and identification to confirm they are in fact the OWCP Field Nurse assigned and not an imposter sent by the agency to wrongfully obtain your medical information and documents.

Once you know the nurse's name, you should also confirm the nurse has a current and valid license in your state.

If an agency nurse inserts themselves into your claim, I suggest you contact OWCP in writing and let them know the agency is acting outside its bounds of the Act.  A copy should also be sent to your agency and the agency should be told to remove their nurse from your claim immediately. That the nurse is not to contact you or any of your providers again. And most important, your providers need to be notified in writing that the agency nurse has no legal right to any information involving your claim.

If an agency nurse is or has been assigned to your case and improperly obtained medical information, you can also file a complaint with your state’s nursing board for improperly inserting themselves into your claim and/or directing the course of medical treatment, possible Privacy Act and/or HIPAA violations and violating 20 CFR §10.506. You can also talk to your union about filing a grievance.

You do NOT have to interact in any way with an agency nurse or an OWCP Field Nurse for that matter. 

It is not in your best interest to allow your agency access to your medical records or your providers. They are not entitled to the information and if the agency requires information regarding your claim, they should be told to contact OWCP. 

A CA-17 indicating your physical restrictions is all the medical documentation your agency should require. If they need anything else, the agency should be told to contact OWCP. 

Your agency has NO authority to insert themselves into your claim. If the agency requires information about your claim, they should be told to contact OWCP. If the agency is legally entitled to the information, OWCP will provide it to the agency.

If I haven't said it enough: The agency should contact OWCP if they need information about your claim. 

Also something to remember, Field Nurses are Voluntary. Even if you’re assigned a Field Nurse by OWCP, you do not have to allow them access to you, your home, your providers or your medical records.

Claimants unfortunately have to protect themselves and the best way to do that is by knowing your rights. You are NOT required to cooperate with an agency nurse in any way, shape or form and if one has inserted themselves into your claim, you should immediately put a stop to it.

Policy and Law:

From the FECA Field Nurse Handbook Part Three:

6. EA (employing agency) Nurses: Several EAs have developed their own nurse intervention programs. Whereas the concept of early intervention is in keeping with current case management techniques, the activities of these EA nurse programs should be coordinated with the OWCP adjudicatory and case management activities.

a.      Specific guidelines established for EA Nurses and EA Nursing Programs include:

(1)  The IW's (injured worker's) participation in an EA nurse intervention program is voluntary;

(2)  An EA nurse intervention program is limited in its scope and authority, and has no jurisdiction over issues under the purview of OWCP;

(3) OWCP FN (Field Nurse) intervention activities/actions supersede the EA actions and the EA nurse should suspend any independent actions during the course of OWCP nurse intervention; and

(4) OWCP officially recognizes only one EA point of contact responsible for coordinating compensation and RTW (Return to Work) efforts (e.g. the EA ICS (injury compensation specialist) or EA duty station supervisor).

b.     Communicating with EA Nurses. As noted above in 6a(4), the FN should only be communicating directly with the identified EA point of contact. The EA nurse is not recognized as a point of contact for case-related communications, however, the EA nurse can act as an EA resource during RTW conferences. The EA nurse may assist the EA and FN with issues related specifically to the RTW effort and identification of light duty work (as well as identification of any barriers the IW may encounter upon RTW). The FN may recommend to the EA point of contact that the EA nurse be made available to participate in RTW discussions and work site evaluations; however, such RTW discussions and work site evaluations should not be delayed in order to accommodate the EA nurse's schedule.

The agency may monitor the employee's medical care through requests to the employee, or his or her physician, within certain guidelines contained in the FECA's regulations, specifically 20 CFR §10.506. This section says:

"The employer may monitor the employee's medical progress and duty status by obtaining periodic medical reports. Form CA-17 is usually adequate for this purpose. To aid in returning an injured employee to suitable employment, the employer may also contact the employee's physician in writing concerning the work limitations imposed by the effects of the injury and possible job assignments. (However, the employer shall not contact the physician by telephone or through personal visit.) When such contact is made, the employer shall send a copy of any such correspondence to OWCP and the employee, as well as a copy of the physician's response when received. The employer may also contact the employee at reasonable intervals to request periodic medical reports addressing his or her ability to return to work."

The Border Patrol's union has noticed the problem and have written this article:

Related article on OWCP’s Field Nurse program: http://theowcpclassroom.blogspot.com/2011/03/field-nurse.html