Friday, March 25, 2011

FECA Manuals

When claimant's begin the claims process with the OWCP, they tend to believe what they're told by their Claims Examiners, (CE's) and their Agency, and later find that the information is less than truthful or completely inaccurate, sometimes to the detriment of their claim. It's understandable that a claimant would believe their CE and/or Agency, why wouldn't you?, you were hurt on the job and these are the people assigned to help you, it seems reasonable they'd know what they're doing. The problem is, most claimant's have never been through the OWCP process, some don't even learn of OWCP's existence until their claim is filed and by the time they figure out the information they've been given is wrong, they have to play catch-up to fix it.

Unfortunately, no one is going to come to your rescue. You must be your own advocate in the OWCP process and in order to do that, you must know the rules. How can you know the rules, if you don't read the rule book? 

The FECA Manuals are the most important weapon an OWCP claimant has. These Manuals are the rule books of the game, the rules everyone, including your CE, your Agency and you must follow. A claimant cannot fight an OWCP decision, conclusion or opinion without the FECA Manuals. Flying blind or just winging it with OWCP is going to end up with denials from OWCP and/or financial and mental frustration while dealing with the injuries you've suffered. This is not a good place to be.

OWCP and your Agency are required to follow the FECA Manuals but the sad fact is, they often misinterpret or just plain ignore them. This works in a claimant's favor if the claimant takes the time to read the FECA Manuals. If you're familiar with the FECA Manuals, the errors of the CE's or Agency's 'wisdom' will stand out. If you receive a letter, decision or any documents from OWCP or your Agency and you see errors or something just doesn't sound right,  then it's a good bet you need to look in the FECA Manuals. You don't have to read the Manuals cover to cover or become an expert, but you should read the parts of the FECA Manuals that pertain to your situation.

When you're a claimant in the OWCP system, there are circumstances you have no control over; OWCP-directed medical examinations, vocational rehabilitation, wage earning capacity determinations, job offers, etc...and although you must cooperate during these situations, OWCP has a responsibility to follow its own procedures. If OWCP doesn't follow the FECA Manual, you can use that to your advantage to overturn whatever decision OWCP has made.

For example, if you've been placed in vocational rehabilitation, read FECA part 2 at 2-0813. If OWCP denies your claim because causal relationship wasn't established, read FECA part 2 at 2-0805. Whatever your situation, there's a corresponding FECA chapter that pertains to you.

Finding what you're looking for in the FECA Manuals isn't hard to do. At the beginning of each FECA Manual there's a List of Chapters that shows you exactly what the chapter covers and the section where you can find it. It's as easy as scrolling down the page to find what you're looking for. If you don't see what you're looking for immediately, or you want to search deeper, you can search by typing what you're looking for into the search bar at the top of the page.

Once you've confirmed OWCP or your Agency did not follow the rules of the FECA Manuals, you must bring it to OWCP's attention. It's not enough to tell OWCP there's an error, you must show them the errors. In most cases, OWCP won't just fix a mistake without a little push from you or in some cases, a shove. The best way to do this is to quote the incorrect information you received and then cite and quote the FECA Manual passage that proves the error.

The FECA Manuals are not just for OWCP to use against you. You can and should use them against OWCP and/or your Agency if they don't follow those same rules. OWCP counts on you not knowing what's contained in the FECA Manuals, it makes their job easier if you don't know they've made a bad decision, if you blindly follow whatever they tell you. Don't be afraid to throw the FECA Manuals back at OWCP or your Agency. You can't get in trouble for bringing errors to their attention. OWCP expects you to abide by the rules of the FECA Manuals, you should expect them to do the same.  
You can find parts one and two of the FECA Manuals on the "Links" page.


  1. How can I get a FECA manual? Is it online?

  2. http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/procedure-manual.htm