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Friday, October 11, 2019

ATTENTION TSA OFFICERS


As an alternative to AFGE, ONE TSA was created by TSA Officers, FOR TSA Officers. No locals larger than us, no money rerouted to other causes, no blind adherence to partisan politics. OUR people, OUR power, OUR message in OUR OWN words.



ONE TSA is currently representing TSA Officers in airports around the country.

Our experienced Board is well versed in the CBA, grievance, and arbitration process, as well as the current benefits they individually fought for on behalf of TSA Officers.

To provide complete employment coverage, we have contracted with LEOS Protection, a nationwide legal defense plan with extensive experience defending TSA employees in areas such as disciplinary actions, grievances, OWCP claims, EEOC claims and Disability Retirement.

In addition, our experienced Director of Legislative Affairs will push forward our issues while educating lawmakers about the job we do.

Finally, funds will be returned to the workforce via programs such as scholarships and benevolent assistance.

For more information or to join, visit our website: https://onetsa.org/join

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

OWCP-Lawyers, Representation And A New “Game” In Town


I’ve written about a lot of the pitfalls of being an OWCP claimant and how it’s not just OWCP that takes advantage of you.

I recently heard about a “consulting” business for the legal side of an OWCP claim, the representation side. To me, this appears to be a new way for someone to make money off claimants trying to get help with their OWCP claims.

Although this particular business has been running since January 2018 (more than a year and a half), the website has almost no content, including exactly what they do and how they do it.

My guess, because who knows, is this business takes a monthly fee from OWCP representatives like me and then they funnel people like you to my business. Or it could be they take a monthly fee from those who need these services, such as unions and associations.

Or it could be both. This way they’d be paid both coming and going; by those like me who do the work and those like unions with claimants that need the work.

This plops someone into your lap to handle your claim, without knowing they’re not qualified until it’s too late. The consulting firm doing this gets paid and has no liability in how your claim is handled or who it’s handled by. They just cash checks and make money.

But here’s the thing, that means that people like you, the claimants, have no idea who they’re getting or the depth of their skill and quality of their work. As long as someone can pay the monthly fee, the representative gets claimants sent to them whether the representative is qualified or not.

For example, I know of a newly formed association that offers legal services to its members. An attorney with minimal experience in federal employment law handles the majority of their legal issues.

This attorney’s background is in tax, property, and general law. This attorney was hired, not because of skill and experience, not because they are the most qualified, but because they are a friend of the person who formed the association.

If you’re a federal employee with a legal issue, the last thing you want is someone learning on the fly. Federal employees come up against agencies who have their own legal teams, who are prepared, experienced and willing to play dirty, to lie and cheat.

Do you really want your representation to be someone who handled your divorce? Who wrote the appeal for your property tax problem? Who just started handling OWCP claims? Or is new at disciplinary actions? If your representation isn’t experienced, the agencies will know that and will roll right over them.

At the end of the day, these people go home with no adverse effect to their lives. That is not necessarily how it goes for the employee whose life is adversely affected by the issue they’re dealing with, whether that’s an OWCP claim or another federal employment issue.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money, but I do have a problem when claimants are taken advantage of or spend money and don’t get what they paid for. When they're told someone is good, but they're not. But it seems to me that anyone reputable, who knows what they’re doing doesn’t need to have claimants funneled to them by a "consulting" firm.

People can put out information that makes them sound experienced. Information that convinces you of their knowledge, qualifications, and skill. 

But remember what’s on someone’s website is designed to get your business, to get them paid and isn’t necessarily the truth. Someone can advertise their skill and experience with federal employment law and/or OWCP when in reality they have little or no experience.

As we know, many people who handle OWCP claims are less than knowledgeable and care more about your bank account rather than helping you. This ends up costing the claimant money they don’t have and delaying the issues of their claim even more.

Most claimants don’t know how OWCP works or how to fight them and many hire help. Unfortunately, sometimes claimants don’t know the person they hired isn’t competent until it’s too late. As an example, the most well-known OWCP attorney, who does a lot of advertising, has the worst win record of anyone handling OWCP claims. 

OWCPland is a broken, complicated system with a lot of different variables. It is not something you can just easily learn and just because you learn it, doesn't mean you're good at it. 

If you’re going to hire someone or have someone assigned to you, you want the best you can find and while there are many who take on the OWCP beast, there are very few that are not only good at it, but have the claimant’s best interest in mind.

So how can you protect yourself?

Whether you’re looking on your own or your union/association is “assigning” someone, start by asking questions, who is the person? Is it just one representative or a revolving door?

Once you know their name check them out yourself. Even some unions and associations fall into the same traps as claimants. Some don’t care who you end up with. Some believe what they’re told by the people who are selling their services. 

Some may be using this “consulting” firm to give them an “expert” because they believe the "consulting" firm has done the checking for them.

Some see the popular ones who spend the most on advertising and assume they must be good at what they do.

Once you have the name(s) you can easily Google them and see if there are any reviews, see if people are talking about them and what they’re saying.

Go to their Facebook page and read the reviews. Is anything written? If not, it’s very likely that “Five Star” review was done by a friend or family member who was asked to leave a “Five Star” review so they look good.

Most (not all) people who leave a review write something that says how the person helped them or didn’t help them. But if someone has multiple reviews/recommendations and none of them have anything written, that’s a red flag those reviews/recommendations aren't legitimate.

Is there more than one “Five Star” review left on the same day? That’s a clue the review may not be legitimate because it’s rare to get more than one legitimate review on the same day. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that it’s fishy especially if nothing is written in review.

Go one further, look at their personal Facebook page if they have one. See who likes their posts; are any of those people the same people leaving those “Five Star” reviews? Are the "reviewers" on their friends list?

In the case of the attorney I mentioned above, in addition to more than one review on the same day, every “Five Star” review and recommendation was done by someone who appears to be a friend from their personal Facebook page and not a single word is written in “review” of the attorney. 

No one, not even the best can guarantee a win but in the case of OWCP, you need someone who knows what they’re doing. Someone who cares about more than just your bank account. 

I’m not going to mention this ‘consulting’ business by name so they get no advertising, but if you are a member of a union or association (especially a newly formed one) and they "assign" you someone for legal services as part of your dues, don’t rely on their choices without doing some homework of your own and that doesn’t just apply to OWCP.

Should you want to see my Facebook page, here's the link: 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

OWCP Schedule Awards-Pay Rate Dates

OWCP uses the following information when determining the pay rate date of a schedule award: 
Legend:
DOI=Date of Injury
DDB=Date Disability Began
DOR=Date of Recurrence
DMI=Date of Maximum Medical Improvement
DLE=Date of Last Exposure
Traumatic Injury Claims -
With prior disability:
Pay Rate Date = DOI, DDB, or DOR (whichever is greatest)
SA Start Date = DMI 
Without prior disability:
Pay Rate Date = DOI
SA Start Date = DMI
Occupational Disease Claims -
With prior disability, working full duty (still exposed to injurious work factors) at time of rating exam:
Pay Rate Date = DOI, DDB, or DOR (whichever is greatest)
    (DOI = Date of Last Exposure = Date of Impairment rating exam)
SA Start Date = DMI
With prior disability, not working or working limited duty at time of rating exam:
Pay Rate Date = DOI, DDB, or DOR (whichever is greatest)
SA Start Date = DMI
Without prior disability:
Pay Rate Date = DOI 
    (DOI = DLE = Last date exposed to causal employment factors in full-duty capacity or date of medical exam if still exposed)
SA Start Date = DMI
Occupational Hearing Loss and Asbestosis Claims -
When claimant is disabled due to occupational hearing loss or asbestosis:
Pay Rate Date = DOI, DDB, or DOR (whichever is greatest)
SA Start Date = DMI
When there is no disability, claimant has continuing exposure:
Pay Rate Date = DOI 
    (DOI = DLE = date of last exposure before diagnostic exam - audiogram/chest x-ray)
SA Start Date = DMI
When there is no disability, retired:
Pay Rate Date = DOI
    (DOI = date of retirement or last documented date of exposure to hazardous noise or asbestos)
SA Start Date = DMI

Monday, April 22, 2019

OWCP-Now That Your Claim Is Accepted

If your claim was not immediately accepted and you had to appeal and won, these are the things you should do…

Now that your claim is accepted, you can claim your mileage. This would be any mileage to/from any appointment pertaining to the now accepted conditions.

This includes the pharmacy, but you have to write in pharmacy because there isn’t a space for it on the form.

You can submit multiple mileage forms at the same time. You should immediately get caught up on your mileage and then you can submit mileage forms every 4-5 months so you get a bigger check. All mileage forms go to the London, KY address.


All your medical providers who submitted bills that were denied should now re-submit the bills for payment. This should be done ASAP. Your providers may not know this, so you should contact any physician who had a billed denied and tell them to re-submit the bill.

Once OWCP pays a provider, they are paid in full. The provider cannot charge you for any difference between their bill and what OWCP pays.

You can check for your paid/denied bills by using this link: https://owcpmed.dol.gov/portal/

In the upper left corner, click on Claimant next to FECA. Click Accept and then enter the information requested, claim number, date of birth and date of injury.

When the screen changes, click on Resolved Bills (paid and denied). The list will not indicate who the provider is, but you can figure it out by looking at the Date of Service date. This will be the date of your appointment.

If you filed a CA-1 claim and you claimed COP which was paid and later taken away and replaced by your leave, the COP should now be paid back to you and the leave restored.

COP is through your agency and not OWCP. So this action will come from the agency.

If you used leave that was not used to cover COP, then you can do a Leave Buy Back, (LBB). This would be a CA-7, checking the LBB box.

Keep in mind your leave was paid at 100% of your salary and any OWCP compensation is paid at 75% if you have dependents and 66 2/3% if you have no dependents.

If you do the LBB, you complete the CA-7 and submit it to your agency. Your agency will then generate a bill and you will have to pay back the amount you received for the leave, the leave is restored and OWCP processes the CA-7.

Here’s the link to the CA-7: https://www.dol.gov/owcp/regs/compliance/ca-7.pdf

If you cannot work, you will file a CA-7 for wage-loss compensation. While your claim is accepted for medical benefits, OWCP compensation is not automatic.

In order to receive compensation, your doctor needs to write a report that specifically addresses the dates of disability, why you cannot work, what job duties you cannot perform, explain why you cannot perform those job duties and connect these reasons to the work-related injuries.

The same is true if your doctor has determined you cannot work eight hours but can work less than eight hours. 

The reasoning cannot be due to pain as OWCP has determined pain is a symptom. See this related article for more: http://theowcpclassroom.blogspot.com/2015/03/painin-your-report.html

If you can work, but require restrictions, your doctor can provide those restrictions on an OWCP-5. Once complete, you would keep a copy, give a copy to your agency and send a copy to OWCP.

Once the agency has these restrictions, you would not work outside of those restrictions. It is your responsibility to make sure you stay within those restrictions.

Your agency will likely need to provide a job offer that includes your restrictions. I've written other articles about job offers you can read.

OWCP-5c for musculoskeletal conditions: https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/OWCP-5c.pdf
OWCP-5a for psychological conditions: https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/OWCP-5a.pdf
OWCP-5b for cardiovascular/pulmonary conditions: https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/OWCP-5b.pdf

You can find information about your claim by signing up for OWCP Connect: https://owcpconnect.dol.gov/owcplogin/

You cannot apply for a schedule award until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement, (MMI). This means you’ve received all treatment, any surgery, gone through any rehab, etc...Once MMI occurs, you would need to find a rating doctor, preferably one who has done impairment ratings for OWCP before.


When you have the rating, you’d complete a CA-7 with the schedule award box checked, submit the rating to OWCP and the CA-7 to your agency. OWCP will then process the schedule award.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

OWCP and Government Shutdown

During previous government shutdowns, OWCP payments were not affected and should not be affected during this shutdown.

Processing claims and payment of benefits are considered essential work, so the claims examiners assigned to do that work should still be working.

Employees that are not responsible for processing claims or compensation payments are likely furloughed if this shutdown is like past shutdowns.

Don't be surprised if you cannot contact OWCP during the shutdown as customer service employees are considered non-essential and are also likely to be furloughed.

Medical bills and medical authorizations should not be affected, as these are processed through a contractor.

OWCP Connect and ECOMP should not be affected so you can still upload documents or check on the status of your claim through OWCP Connect.


Monday, August 13, 2018

OWCP Codes

A list of OWCP codes can be found here:

https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/dfecdd/CMFDataDictionary20091211.html


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bad Information Abounds

Today, I stumbled on a July 2018 article on a blog written by a law firm that claims they have been assisting injured federal employees since 1994.

The article was about OWCP's field nurses and after reading it, I came away shocked and have been shaking my head ever since. 

According to this law firm, that claims they handle OWCP claims and have been doing so for 24 years, a claimant should be as cooperative as possible with an OWCP field nurse.

The article says:


"First, it is important that you remain calm and concede to have a nurse attached to your OWCP federal workers’ compensation case. This is because refusal would look like you are being uncooperative which might make FECA cut off or reduce your payouts. As such, you should speak to the attending nurse and accept their requests to attend your doctor’s visits. However, resist the urge to tell them about your condition should they ask you; this is because they are not on your side and may just be looking for a loophole or piece of information to influence OWCP’s decision to take you off compensation. Your answers should be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and should always refer them to your physician the minute they start asking convoluted medical questions."

The article goes on to say:

"...it’s in your best interests to be as cooperative as you can without being verbose to avoid sabotaging your compensation."

And of course the article ends by saying call us.

I'm having heart palpitations reading this article. 

First, FECA doesn't cut off your benefits. FECA is the law, the Act under which OWCP benefits are paid. 

Second, the OWCP field nurse program is VOLUNTARY. You DO NOT have to "concede" to have an OWCP field nurse attached to your claim and you don't have to be cooperative.

How do I know this? It's in part three of the FECA Manual, which anyone can find at 3-0201-6(c)(5): 

"Although the intervention program is voluntary, participation should be strongly encouraged."   

Third, OWCP CANNOT reduce or suspend your benefits if you are "uncooperative" with their field nurse. That's the vocational rehabilitation process, not the field nurse program. 

Being "uncooperative" doesn't "sabotage" your claim because the field nurse program is VOLUNTARY. 

Time after time, the ECAB has stated:

The regulations do not equate the assignment of an OWCP nurse with vocational rehabilitation. 

Here's an ECAB decision that lays this out:  

https://www.dol.gov/ecab/decisions/2006/Dec/06-0777.htm

This case sums up the error of reducing or suspending benefits stating:

"Appellant's refusal to cooperate with the nurse intervention program does not constitute a failure or refusal to cooperate with the early or necessary stages of vocational rehabilitation under section 8113 of the Act. The Office's application of section 8113 to reduce appellant's monetary compensation to zero was in error. Consequently, it did not meet its burden of proof in reducing appellant's monetary compensation benefits."

Forth, you DO NOT have to allow a field nurse to attend your medical appointments and you DO NOT have to allow a field nurse access to your doctor or refer them to your doctor if they ask medical questions. Why? Because the field nurse is VOLUNTARY.

I know physicians who handle OWCP claimants and when an OWCP nurse walks into their office, the doctor or the staff tells them to get out and never return because these physicians know the damage an OWCP nurse can do to a claim.

It's bad enough that claimants are subjected to inaccurate information from OWCP and by their employer, but to have a law firm that doesn't even know the basics out there drumming up claimants to hire them is truly concerning to me. 

I'm sure this law firm has no problem taking a fat retainer from a claimant and also charging them an hourly fee and yet they believe you must cooperate with a field nurse or risk "sabotaging" your claim or risk your compensation being "cut off" or reduced. 

Claimants aren't expected to know all the rules and regulations in OWCPland, but if an 'expert' is taking your money, it's their job to know. 

In my opinion, this article, which was just written, gives extremely bad advice that could damage your claim much more than if you didn't allow OWCP's nurse on your claim. 

For instance, if OWCP's nurse is allowed access to your doctor and tells your doctor something that isn't true and this results in a change in your treatment or status, or bullies your doctor into releasing you back to work when you're clearly not ready for that, that's much more damaging than OWCP getting cranky because you know the field nurse program is voluntary and you don't choose to cooperate. 

If this law firm doesn't know that, what else don't they know? 

I've said it time and time again, be careful who you hire. 

Just because someone says they know what they're doing, it doesn't make it true and this article shows that a law firm that claims they've been dealing with OWCP claims for almost a quarter of a century doesn't even know the field nurse program is voluntary.