Thursday, February 5, 2015

Representative Rant

While I was doing some research, I stumbled onto a website by accident. Normally, if this happens I just go back to my research but something about the material I was reading on this website caught my attention. Imagine my surprise when a couple of paragraphs in I realized I was reading my own work!

Turned out a husband and wife (who I will call Mr. and Mrs. X out of Dallas, Texas) who are in business representing claimants with their OWCP claims had stolen articles from this blog and were pawning them off as their own work. Their website even claims their material is copyrighted which is ironic since at least some of their articles were stolen from me over a year ago. I shouldn't have been surprised since it turns out Mr. X, the one who is identified as the person who posted the articles, states he is a retired claims examiner.

After reading through all ten articles posted on the website, it became clear that they stole my material for half their posted articles in their attempt to get your business. 

I immediately sent an email to them and demanded they remove the material they stole from this blog.

Over the next two days I went back and forth with Mrs. X. In response to my demand to remove my material from their website, the first email I received stated; “Would you kindly advise me what material you are talking about and I will remove immediately.” This is a telling statement. Had I received this demand I would have told the person where to go since I know with certainty I have written all of my own material with the exception of one guest article. Yet Mrs. X was quick to state as soon as I identified the material it would be removed.

Then, in typical claims examiner fashion, the opinion reversed itself. I received an email that stated in part; Mr. X “nor myself have ever knowingly stolen material from any website.” Which I again found ironic since half their articles were stolen from this blog and were nearly word-for-word what I’d written years before they posted it to their website.

If they didn't knowingly steal my work, where did it come from? Did it just appear by magic on their website? Did internet fairies put it there when Mr. and Mrs. X weren't looking? Are they saying they don’t know what is posted to their website or that it might be stolen? Are they saying they’re not aware of who posts on their website? Are they saying it was a mistake that Mr. X took credit for posting the articles? 

And if they've never “knowingly” stolen from another website, why was the first response that they would remove the material? Ultimately, what is posted on a business website is the responsibility of the business owner and most business websites have a limited number of people who can post written material without the business owner’s knowledge. Obviously, I didn't believe Mrs. X.

The new email also stated I would need to provide comparisons of all the material I believed was "close" in content to mine. Since most of what they had stolen was word-for-word, cut and pasted, obviously we weren't talking "close" in content, we were talking blatantly plagiarized.

I wasted my time in preparing a side-by-side comparison of my article regarding medical narratives which I posted July 29, 2011 and their article which claimed to be posted by Mr. X on January 21, 2014. I sent this side-by-side comparison and also listed four other articles that were obviously stolen from me, but wasn't going to waste more time doing more side-by-side comparisons for them.

In response to the side-by-side comparison, I received an email which states; “The specific article you have sent by attachment will be removed within 48 hours.” It would appear that I proved my article was in fact plagiarized and posted to their website, otherwise why would they remove it?

After some more back and forth with Mrs. X, I received an email that stated; “I have requested that our website designer remove all articles for re-write.” Re-write? They certainly didn't write five of the articles in the first place...I did. Interesting, since I alerted them that five of their ten articles were stolen from me, why would they remove all of their articles? Makes me wonder where the other five came from. And they did remove them. As of February 05, 2015 the entire ‘article’ section disappeared from their website. But the damage was already done. How much revenue was generated for them by using material plagiarized from me?

When I made my displeasure known to Mrs. X and told her I would be blogging about the incident, the final email I received stated; “I would suggest that before you proceed to attempt to hurt our business, you carefully consider repercussions.”

Excuse me? Typical claims examiner thinking. They steal my work and claim it for their own, generate revenue for themselves by using my work, get caught in their lies and are now concerned I might harm their business? Apparently they didn't consider the harm they did to my business or the repercussions by using my material to advance their income and increase their business using my stolen material for more than a year.

Obviously, they don’t know me very well…because like any claims examiner, retired or not, their little threat didn't faze me, I had truth on my side and as proof of that, you’re now reading the article I said I’d write.

You'd think as a 'retired' claims examiner Mr. X would be knowledgeable enough to compose and write his own articles and wouldn't have to plagiarize them from me or anyone else. At the very least you’d think Mr. and Mrs. X would know where their articles came from if they didn't write them on their own. Makes me wonder if they write their own appeals. Makes me wonder what else might be stolen from someone with the skills they might not have.

You'd think they wouldn't need to steal my material in their attempt to gain your business. You'd think Mr. X would know more about OWCP policy, procedure and regulations than I could possibly ever know since he is a 'retired' claims examiner. A claims examiner who wrote how many formal decisions denying benefits to claimants? A 'retired' claims examiner who is now in business to take your money to overturn the decisions written by his fellow claims examiners.

It would seem my thinking is correct since Mr. X claims that as a retired claims examiner he has insider knowledge regarding the internal operations of OWCP. He is also adamant that a claims examiner is not your friend, another little tidbit of irony.

Well here’s my question, if a retired claims examiner has all that insight into the internal workings of OWCP why were my articles stolen in an attempt to get more business? He has insider knowledge so why can’t he write his own articles in his attempt to get more business? Also, if the claims examiner is not your friend while they’re working for OWCP, how does retiring turn the claims examiner into your friend?

I'm all for a person making a living and this blog proves I care about what happens to claimants under the broken OWCP system, but I am not okay with 'retired' claims examiners who were responsible for so many horrible decisions that affected claimant’s lives now out there trying to drum up business from those very same claimants and using my stolen articles to do it. To me, this amounts to claims examiners still taking advantage and getting paid for it…again.

Being the thorough person I am, and the fact that Mr. and Mrs. X stole their articles from me and made me mad, I wondered if there was more being sold to claimants by Mr. and Mrs. X.

Reading the website, Mr. X sounded proud of being a "retired" claims examiner, touting his vast experience and expertise of the inner workings of OWCPland. Twice on his website, Mr. X claims that he consistently wins cases at all three appeal levels. You would hope so since Mr. X is a retired claims examiner, who should know better on what is required to reverse a bad decision than an ex claims examiner? So, I searched the ECAB for any decisions where Mr. X served as a claimant’s representative. 

I found ten ECAB cases where Mr. X was the representative for the claimant. Out of these ten cases only ONE was a reversal which is an outright win for the claimant. There were also TWO that were sent back (remanded) to OWCP for further development, not quite a win but not a total loss, at least not yet. 

This left seven ECAB appeals that Mr. X lost (affirmed). That got me wondering what Mr. X considers consistently winning since in seven of the ten ECAB cases Mr. X lost the claimant's appeal at the ECAB level. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't call outright losing 70% of cases consistently winning at the ECAB level. And we may never know what happened to the two remanded cases sent back to OWCP. One reversal out of ten appeals a 10% actual win record is not consistently winning, at least not to me, but apparently it is to Mr. X and he wants you to believe it too. It's unfortunate there isn't a way to check the other forms of appeals to see what his actual win/loss record is on those levels. 

I've said it before and I’ll say it again, by the time a claimant is looking for help, they are in a very vulnerable situation and some people will take advantage of that. 

Bottom line, be careful who you hire. Not everyone is as honest as they claim to be. Not everyone is as knowledgeable as they claim to be. And for Mr. and Mrs. X, you can believe that I will be watching you from now on.

Since ECAB decisions are published and are not copyrighted material and are open to public viewing, here are the ten ECAB cases I’m talking about:

These were the five stolen articles: