Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Don't Sign That Medical Release!

When you're injured at work, most people have no idea what the process is and you end up trusting your agency. You're told what to do, what to sign, what doctor to go to and what to give the agency. Because it’s your first time and you don't know…you do what your agency tells you.

There's a lot agencies do wrong, but today I want to focus on additional forms your agency may tell you to sign...specifically a medical release.

Sometimes these forms are signed without reading them because you don’t know what’s required and your agency is telling you to sign specific forms to file your claim.

The ONLY forms you are required to sign and submit through your agency are the proper claim form (CA-1, CA2 or CA-2a) and a claim for wage-loss compensation (CA-7/CA-7a) if relevant. No other forms are required by OWCP to file a claim. 

When it comes to medical documentation, your agency is only entitled to your physical restrictions. This is done on either a CA-17 or an OWCP-5. Your agency is not entitled to medical reports, medical records, test results or any other personal medical documents.

You are not required or obligated to sign any other forms your agency provides. You are not required to submit any information to your agency other than what is contained on your claim form. OWCP will notify you if they require further information on your claim. 

Your responsibility for documentation is to OWCP not your agency. Your agency makes NO decisions on your OWCP claim.

Some agencies have developed their own medical release and tell an injured employee they have to sign it when they file their OWCP claim. The agency makes it appear that this is part of the OWCP claim process. 

These extra forms are not required by OWCP in order to file your claim. These forms are generated by and for the sole benefit of your agency.

Let me be clear, your agency does not have the right to your medical documents in an OWCP claim. OWCP is the sole holder of the medical information and medical records in any OWCP claim. Your obligation is to submit medical information and any other relevant information to OWCP...not to your agency.

If your agency requires information about your OWCP claim, they should be told to contact OWCP. OWCP will determine if your agency is legally entitled to the information.

The agency-generated medical releases I've seen make it clear the agency will use any medical documentation they receive AGAINST you if they choose to. By signing a medical release, you are agreeing to allow the agency to use your medical information against you if the opportunity arises. 

So if you have a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by work, the medical release allows the agency to obtain records that cover the pre-existing condition. With a signed medical release, your agency doesn't just have the right to collect work-related medical documents, they can collect your past medical records as well.

Most medical reports do not include information that ONLY pertains to your OWCP claim. Often medical reports or notes include other information that has nothing whatsoever to do with an OWCP claim. Things like medications you take, family history, past medical or surgical history, etc...By signing a medical release, the agency can receive medical information that has nothing to do with your OWCP claim. 

In my opinion, these medical releases are extremely broad. For instance, there is one currently being used by a Law Enforcement agency that states that the agency can obtain "any medical records or other information that is paper, oral or electronic." To me that says the agency can receive any medical record they want, past, present or future. 

Your agency cannot force or bully you to sign these forms and the agencies know they are not entitled to your medical records...which is why they require your signature allowing the agency access.

I would wager if you read these agency medical releases, you'll see the word:

My advice is DO NOT sign any form that is not required by OWCP and know you have no obligation to provide your agency with your personal medical information if you file an OWCP claim. 

If you’ve signed one of these releases, you can rescind it.
  • Ask your agency to give it back.
  • If that doesn’t work, write a letter to the agency and tell them you rescind any medical release you signed. 
  • If you have to, notify your physicians and other providers you’re rescinding any medical release the agency has.