Tuesday, October 6, 2015
I get contacted a lot by claimants who want information about how to file for a schedule award.
Most of these claimants have already hired someone who is going to take a percentage of the schedule award to “help” them but even after hiring them, they’re having trouble getting the answers they need.
Anyone who has read me, emailed me or talked to me knows how much I hate this practice. So once again let me stress the fact that an attorney or representative is not allowed under the Act to take a percentage of a schedule award or a percentage of anything related to your OWCP claim.
A contingency fee or a percentage is not allowed under OWCP for any reason.
Should you be looking for an attorney or representative to hire for any reason and they offer to relieve you of a percentage of your compensation or schedule award-that’s a clue that the attorney or representative isn’t on the up and up and doesn’t play by the rules. That might be a clue that maybe they’re not the right attorney or representative for you.
Even if you’ve signed a contract agreeing to a percentage, you do not have to abide by that contract since a percentage is not allowed under the Act.
Another thing that really bothers me about this is that the attorney or representative who is taking a percentage of a schedule award isn’t doing any work to receive that percentage.
It is actually simple to file for a schedule award by yourself. You only need two things:
One is an impairment rating under the 6th Edition of the Guides to Permanent Impairment.
A physician does this, so the attorney or representative has nothing to do with the impairment rating. They don’t do ANY work on the impairment rating…the physician does.
The second thing you need is a CA-7 with the portions relating to a schedule award completed.
Again, an attorney or representative doesn’t do ANY work for this. You can easily complete your name, address, claim number, date of injury, etc…You don’t need to pay someone thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to complete a few sections of a CA-7.
If you are still employed by your agency, you submit the CA-7 to your agency and the employer’s section is completed by the agency (remember to get a signed copy).
If you are not employed by your agency, you send the completed CA-7 to OWCP along with your impairment rating.
That’s it! That’s all there is to filing for a schedule award.
I get contacted all the time if a claimant has a question about completing the CA-7. I’m sure some of those people are reading this now. I’ve never charged anyone to help them complete a CA-7 for a schedule award. That’s because it only takes about five minutes of my time.
Obviously, I’m not against being paid for the work we do, but I am against those who illegally take a percentage of a claimant’s schedule award and/or compensation and make a really good living at it while claimants struggle with financial hardship.
If OWCP denies the schedule award or reduces the percentage, there are options and even if you need or want to hire help, you still should not pay a percentage of your schedule award.
I would love to see a trend where claimants file their own schedule award paperwork and keep the payout for themselves. After all, the claimant is the one with the permanent impairment they’ll have to live with, why should attorneys or representatives get a percentage of what is rightfully the claimant’s especially when they do nothing to ‘earn’ that illegal percentage?
Jesse Slade: firstname.lastname@example.org