Archive for June, 2012

Federal Workers Compensation and Continuation of Pay

Friday, June 29th, 2012 by

Like non-federal employees, those employed by the federal government are entitled to workers compensation benefits if they are injured at work. It is important, however, that the injured federal worker not confuse the Continuation of Pay (COP) benefit, a form of disability compensation, as indication that their Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP) claim has been accepted. Federal workers must know that part of the application process for COP overlaps the application process for federal workers compensation.

Although easily confusing, the COP benefit is provided by the employing agency to an employee with a traumatic work related injury. Those with occupational disease claims must use a different form to apply for federal workers compensation, the CA-2,  Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation form, and these individuals are not entitled to receive COP.

To further understand the different benefits and determine what you may or may not be eligible for, we should explain COP. COP, or Continuation of Pay, is a benefit that allows for a federal employee to receive up to 45 calendar days of their regular pay due to disability. This benefit is paid as salary rather than compensation and is subject to typical payroll deductions like retirement contributions and income taxes. This pay rate does not allow for Sunday pay or lost overtime wages, but will include missing night differential, hazard, premium and holiday pay.

The injured employee must file the CA-1, the Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation form, within 30 days of the injury. An employing agency will not authorize COP benefits or medical care without a signed CA-1.

When a federal worker suffers a traumatic injury, they do not have to use their accumulated leave time. The exception to this occurs if the employee’s COP is terminated as a result of financial circumstances and the employee then must use the CA-7, the Claim for Compensation Due to Traumatic Injury or Occupational Disease form, to apply for accumulated leave time, leave without pay and workers compensation. Remember, the federal workers compensation is non-taxable pay – 66% of your regular pay if you have no minor dependants or 75% if you do have minor dependants.

Check back next week for more information about COP.

-Harris Federal Law Firm

OWCP Schedule Award: 102 (Continued)

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by

The most important document required to be to eligible to receive a schedule award is the impairment rating performed by your physician. This must be included in your OWCP schedule award request file. The amount an injured federal worker is eligible to receive in a schedule award varies and depends upon which extremity is permanently impaired and by how much impairment. Each limb is categorized and assigned a number of weeks of compensation for loss of use. Should your doctor determine that you have a 10% impairment of your limb, then your award would be 10% of what your federal worker’s compensation wage loss benefit would be for those weeks. Recipients can choose a present day value lump sum or for the award to be paid over a period of time.

Your rating must be conducted in accordance with strict guidelines mandated by the federal government. Many doctors believe that they are capable of determining the impairment rating for an injured federal worker because they have examined non-federal workers compensation patients in the past; however, the impairment procedure for a federal employee is far different than that of a non-federal employee and it is important that your doctor is aware of this.

A potential issue related to the impairment rating is created by surgeons becoming hesitant to substantiate the impairment for fear that it is admitting an unsuccessful procedure and possibly malpractice. Fortunately for injured federal workers, the impairment rating does not have to come from your treating surgeon.

Always check with your doctor and his staff to verify the ratings were calculated correctly. You cannot afford to lose this important benefit due to the concern that you may agitate your doctor. Good luck!

-Harris Federal Law Firm

OWCP Schedule Award: 102

Friday, June 15th, 2012 by

We previously discussed how your doctor’s reports can have the greatest affect on your federal workers compensation claim and potential schedule award. If the report is not detailed well enough this could cause your claim to be denied, not because you do not have a valid claim, but because you have not proven your claim to the Office of Workers Compensation Programs, or OWCP. To save time, money and frustration it is wise to go to your appointments well equipped with organized medical records and the knowledge of what type of information your doctor must provide.

It is essential that your doctor acknowledge that you were not experiencing any of the symptoms caused by your work injury, or any symptoms in that area of your body, prior to the incident. In addition, it is necessary that your physician explain that it is possible for an individual to have a degenerative condition without symptoms and then following an accident, become symptomatic. It is possible that a pre-existing, weakened condition can make an individual more prone to injury that one without.

Should your federal workers compensation injury exacerbate a pre-existing condition, this does not mean you are not entitled to benefits. However, stating your condition in this manner will allow your doctor to attribute your impairments and restrictions to the work incident. If your records clearly reflect no prior medical treatment for the injured portions of your body within 12 months preceding the incident, your case will be much stronger.

Check back next Friday when we discuss impairment ratings!

-Harris Federal Law Firm

OWCP Schedule Award: 101 (Continued)

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by

As we discussed last week, your doctor plays a major part in your case in obtaining a schedule award due to a federal workers compensation injury.

It is imperative that you have your doctor on your side in this and make sure his or her medical opinion is detailed in nature. For the doctors who do try to assist patients in these types of situations, often times, they are unaware how specific his or her written opinion must be.

To improve your odds of a less complicated claim, there are a few things you should know to dispute a consulting doctor’s opinion. First, make sure your doctor provides you with a detailed report to be filed in your record with the Office of Workers Compensation Programs, or OWCP. This report will be used as a rebuttal against the consulting doctor’s written opinion.

While your doctor may not be used to having his or her professional opinion questioned, it is not uncommon with this process and this is why the detailed and specific report is necessary. If your doctor is vague or ambiguous this can have a major impact on your case.

Hiring a nurse to assist with the collection and organization of medical records is another way to improve your chances of a more detailed report. Another idea is to gather all of your records, securing them in a three ring binder with tabs, and add a table of contents and summaries. This makes it easier for your physician to review the opinions of other doctors and provide an overall thorough report. For more on navigating the schedule award process, check back next week for the continuation of OWCP: Schedule Award101.

-Harris Federal Law Firm

OWCP Schedule Award: 101

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by

When dealing with a federal workers compensation injury, workers are entitled to compensation benefits if and when they prove their injury occurred while on the job. There are several benefits available to the injured worker, including: wage loss, medical bill coverage and a schedule award. A schedule award is payment for the permanent impairment to an extremity as result of an on the job injury.

The award is not available for an injury to the spine, heart or brain unless this injury causes impairments to develop at a body part linked with the nerve. For example, some lumbar injuries can lead to leg problems and some neck injuries can cause hand and arm impairments. The schedule award payment can either be paid in a present value lump sum or choose to have the payment paid out over a period of time.

As mentioned previously, to be eligible for a schedule award the claimant most prove that the injury occurred at work and has caused a permanent impairment to an extremity. Therefore, it is extremely important that your filed federal workers compensation claim be accepted by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs, or OWCP, and that your doctor provides a responsive report that is detailed and precise.

When your doctor is not precise in his diagnosis of your injury, this creates a whole new obstacle. It is not unusual for the employing agency to hire a doctor for an agency medical exam. If this doctor describes your injury or condition as pre-existing or degenerative, then he is providing the basis for the workers compensation claim’s denial.

- Harris Federal Law Firm