Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Mailbox Rule

The Mailbox Rule is another one sided rule used by OWCP. The Mailbox Rule is simply this:
"In absence of evidence to the contrary a letter properly addressed and mailed in the due course of business, such as in the course of the Office's daily activities, is presumed to have arrived at the mailing address in due course"
What this means for Claimant's is all OWCP has to do is show that there is a letter and that letter was properly addressed. OWCP does NOT have to prove the letter was actually mailed to you. If you cannot prove this is inaccurate, then as far as OWCP goes, you got the letter whether you actually got it or not.

That's how it works for OWCP, but Claimant's have to be able to prove they mailed their items. A Claimant can do this in two ways...
1) You can locate the document(s) in question in your OWCP file. This is all well and good unless OWCP conveniently removes the document(s) from your file. In this case, you have no proof the document(s) were actually mailed and received by OWCP. Where OWCP simply has to show there is a letter and that letter has your last known address on it, a Claimant has to prove the letter was actually mailed.

2) A Claimant can prove they actually mailed document(s) by sending everything that goes to OWCP either delivery confirmation or certified mail. This is the cheapest way to track your OWCP correspondence. Delivery confirmation is slightly cheaper than certified mail, but either one will do.

In addition to sending your OWCP correspondence via delivery confirmation or certified mail, you should also write the tracking number on the document(s) you're sending. This way the document is identified by a specific tracking number. When I write to OWCP, I type the delivery confirmation number in the 'footer' of each page.

You don't have to use a separate tracking number for every document. If you're sending several documents, you can send them under the same tracking number, just make sure that tracking number is on every page you're sending so the documents can be identified later.

If you don't write the number on the document(s), then OWCP can simply say we didn't receive those items. OWCP can say something was sent delivery confirmation or certified mail, but it wasn't the document you say it was. Unless the tracking number is written on the document(s) OWCP can simply deny, deny, deny.

Once you mail your items, keep an eye on the tracking number and when the item is received by OWCP, print out a receipt showing it was received. You can track your items through the postal services Track and Confirm website. I usually staple the original receipt onto the track and confirm receipt so that I can easily make a copy of both on one page if I need to. You can find Track and Confirm on the "Links" page.

You can pick up a stack of delivery confirmation or certified mail receipts at your post office along with Priority Mail envelopes. If you keep a stack around the house, then you'll always have them when you need to send OWCP any correspondence.

I cannot tell you how many times a tracking number with proof of receipt put OWCP back in its place and proved the documents were actually mailed and received by OWCP. I'm always able to prove that I did in fact send the document(s) and exactly when OWCP received document(s) because I don't send anything to OWCP without a tracking number on it.

You can find more information about the Mailbox Rule at 20 C.F.R. 10.127 and in the following ECAB decisions:


I've put a link for the Code of Federal Regulations, (CFR) on the "Links" page.