Friday, February 19, 2016

OWCP Attorney-The Best Choice?

The ECAB decisions for January 2016 show that 33 appeals were filed through attorneys. Of these 33 appeals, 26 of them were affirmed, meaning the claimant lost. 26 out of 33 attorney filed appeals lost, the other seven were remanded back to OWCP. None of them were reversed. One attorney had eight appeals decided in January and lost all eight.

I have a problem with this. Yes, it’s true that there are some issues that are difficult to get accepted. I’m not talking about the difficult, complicated issues. I’m talking about basic issues of getting a claim or disability accepted.

If you are in the business of helping OWCP claimants with their claims, there are things you know or should know. If you don’t know the basics about OWCP, you have no business taking on an OWCP claim. More importantly, in my opinion you have no business taking a claimant’s money.

The most basic of things with OWCP is that ALL claims hinge on medical evidence. We all know this. Claimants learn this pretty quickly so attorneys and non-attorney representatives who do OWCP claims for a living should know it better.

Whenever a claimant comes to me for help in getting a claim accepted, one of the first things I do is look at the medical evidence. If the medical evidence is lacking, there’s no point in charging the claimant to appeal a decision until the medical evidence is up to OWCP’s standards and if you’re helping claimants for a living, you should be able to easily tell whether or not the medical evidence is sufficient. If the medical evidence isn’t sufficient, you shouldn’t be taking the claimant’s money to appeal when you know they’re going to be denied again for insufficient medical evidence.

We all know OWCP doesn’t play fair. Even when the medical evidence is sufficient, OWCP likes to deny a claim. But it seems to me that the attorneys aren’t playing fair either. In all the cases at the ECAB level that were denied based on a lack of medical evidence, how many previous appeals were done? How much did it cost the claimant to get to the ECAB level only to lose again on a lack of proper medical evidence?

The ECAB is the top of the OWCP food chain. A claimant shouldn't go to the ECAB unless or until all of the evidence to overturn the decision has been submitted. So why go to the ECAB if the claimant is still missing the evidence to overturn the decision?

One case in particular is: 

In this case, in addition to lacking and contradictory medical evidence, nurse’s notes and a physician's assistant reports were submitted. A nurse and a physician’s assistant are not considered physicians under the Act so this does not constitute medical evidence and it’s confusing to me why these reports would be submitted in support of the claim when this isn’t even considered medical evidence by OWCP.

Twenty six claimants who had an attorney lost their ECAB appeals in January. It’s true that I don’t know the details of these cases, but the numbers don’t lie.

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the OWCP attorneys. I personally think a lot of non-attorney representatives and advocates do a better job and most charge less and I'm not saying all the attorneys that handle OWCP are bad at their job.

Five appeals were decided in January where the claimant had a non-attorney representative. Two of those were reversed, meaning a full-blown win for the claimant. The high-priced attorneys had no reversals out of 33 appeals that were submitted, but the non-attorney representatives had two out of the five appeals they submitted.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with anyone making a living. But if you’re charging a claimant, the very least you should be able to do is recognize the medical evidence is insufficient BEFORE you file an appeal and most especially before you get to the ECAB level.

An attorney or non-attorney representative is supposed to help the claimant. Whatever the issue is, the job is to get the issue resolved so that the claimant gets the benefits they’re entitled to. All attorney and non-attorney representatives charge for their services. A claimant is paying for the expertise and knowledge. So at the very least, shouldn’t an attorney or non-attorney representative tell a claimant where their evidence is lacking before charging them for an appeal or multiple appeals they know are going to lose?

Most people hire an attorney under the belief the attorney can get things done. They charge a lot of money for their knowledge and expertise in their field of practice. But more and more I'm noticing that when it comes to OWCP, having an attorney doesn't necessarily increase your chances of winning. 26 people learned that the hard way in January.