Saturday, July 9, 2011

Standard Operating Procedure, (SOP)

Today's topic is what has become standard operating procedure but in reality should be classified as 'scare tactics' commonly used in OWCPland by both OWCP and your Agency. Let's take them one at a time...

First, your Agency. When Claimant's are first thrown  into the OWCP system, they believe that their injuries will be properly attended to without having to fight tooth and nail for proper medical care and treatment. You were injured while working, why wouldn't you think it would be taken care of? Unfortunately, most Claimant's find out the hard way just how wrong they are about that. Your injuries should be properly attended to, but sadly, the system really doesn't work that way.

Many Claimant's speak to their Agency for advice with their OWCP claim. Most Agencies are required to help a Claimant with their claim. To be honest at the very least. Well, if you're reading this, you may have already figured out your Agency will lie to both OWCP and you. Or you're constantly being told, 'I don't know'. When it comes to a choice between believing you or believing your Agency, OWCP will most likely side with your Agency. So you want to counter anything mis-stated.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Anyone reading this should also spread the word...your Agency will lie to you so verify EVERYTHING you're told by your Agency. Don't just blindly believe what you're told and if you're new and have been blindly following your Agency...stop now.

My experience is the more Agency lies or erroneous information you can prove, the better you can use it to your advantage. It's a credibility argument that you can make. You are honest...they are not. Depending on what/where they lie, there are laws you can cite.

Suggestion number one; Get it in writing. This applies to everything that involves your OWCP claim. Proof is the name of the game and believe me, you may be pleasantly surprised by what some people will put in writing that you can use later. If you have a telephone conversation, get the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Take notes and then type those notes up and send a copy to OWCP. Now your side of the story is in your file.

Telephone conversations are supposed to be put on a form called a CA-110. When you get copies of your file, you get copies of the CA-110's. Once you see them, you may notice that OWCP's version of your telephone conversations are quite different that what actually took place, so it's always good to get your side in your file.

Federal Agencies run on policy, procedure and regulations. So if your Agency tells you anything you must do or anything they cannot do, ask for it in writing with the corresponding policy, procedure or regulation. Then you can look it up yourself and see if what you're being told is true. Or you may find that policy, procedure or regulation doesn't apply to you or isn't accurate to the situation.

Second, your Claims Examiner, (CE)/OWCP; we could cover this topic for weeks, months even and not be done talking about it. The main thing I want to bring up here is intimidation tactics. Sometimes, your CE will threaten to send you to an OWCP second opinion physician. This is often used simply as a scare tactic. If your CE uses this tactic, simply don't respond to it. They're going to do what they're going to do and you have no control over that. It doesn't take long in the system to learn about OWCP's physicians. There is absolutely nothing a claimant can do if a CE schedules a second opinion except go to the appointment. So there's no use in being in a panic over it. The examination is not the important part, it is the report that's important and I've discussed before what to look for in an OWCP medical report.

Even if you don't do it yourself, there are people out there that know what to look for, how to challenge an OWCP medical report.

Another common scare tactic is to threaten to cut off your compensation. Again, make sure you get it in writing. If the CE won't put it in writing, there's a good chance it's an intimidation tactic. It's simply meant to scare you. It's much better for your Agency and OWCP to have you afraid. It makes it easier for them to control you.

Suggestion number two; Don't Show Fear or Emotion. Really, this should be a rule and it should be number one. Being injured and then thrown into this wacky system is extremely emotional. You're banged up, the future seems scary and unknown, and Bam, the crazy train stops in OWCPland and drops you off. Those running the system rely on that fear and emotion. OWCP actually refers to this system as non-adversarial. Personally, I don't think that word means what OWCP thinks it means. I don't know about you, but I find the system extremely adversarial.

Suggestion number three; Whatever you put in writing to OWCP read it over and remove anything emotional....Just stick to the facts. Same goes for telephone conversations. Scream bloody murder and curse all you want...curl up in the closet and cry like a little baby, AFTER you hang up the phone. AFTER you type up your correspondence to OWCP or your Agency.

If the CE will put their scare tactic in writing, did the CE use the proper regulation? For instance, CE's love to confuse Field Nurses and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors. They send one Claimant after another letters threatening to suspend their compensation. They do this because under the Vocational Rehabilitation process, your compensation CAN be suspended for non-cooperation. The Field Nurse program is voluntary and OWCP CANNOT suspend your compensation for non-cooperation. It doesn't stop the CE from threatening you, but using the FECA Manual and cited regulation, you can prove you are right and OWCP is wrong and your benefits can't be suspended.

These are just two common tactics used. The bottom line is, for every move OWCP makes, there is a counter move for the Claimant. All is not lost. CE's and Agencies often don't seem to understand their own rules and regulations or purposely mis-quote or mis-cite them. Use that to your advantage. If you can get lies and inaccuracies in writing, consider yourself lucky. And remember, you don't have to live in fear, because there are counter moves and they might just be trying to scare you. Remember, it works to their advantage if you are afraid, if you don't know the 'rules'.

The sad fact is, no one is coming to the rescue of an injured Federal employee. You have to take responsibility for your own claim...which you can do. An educated Claimant is a powerful Claimant.