Federal Workers Compensation

Introduction

“The OWCP administers four major disability compensation programs which provide wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits to certain workers or their dependents who experience work-related injury or occupational disease.”  DOL.gov.

OWCP is a program available exclusively to federal employees when they are either injured while performing their job duties or if they contract an illness or disease while performing their job duties.  The program is setup to help employees recover from their ailment, and either get back to work, be trained for a new position, or provide compensation while transitioning to full disability (either SSDI or disability retirement).  Federal employees’ workers compensation claims are governed by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.

When Should I File?

As soon as you are injured or become aware that an illness or disease was caused by your job, you need to let your supervisor know.  As with almost anything in the legal world, it is best to have a paper copy so you can later prove when you informed your supervisor.  You have three years from the date you became aware or should have known of the injury/illness/disease to contact OWCP unless you told your supervisor, then you have a virtually unlimited amount of time to do so.

How Do I File a Claim?

Once you inform your supervisor, you should be provided either a CA-1 form for an injury or a CA-2 form for anything else.  You will complete one section of this form and your Agency will complete the other.  You should also obtain a copy of form CA-35, which is a helpful checklist of the evidence you will need to submit with your claim for it to have the very best chance of being approved.  If you are approved, then you’ll need to file a form CA-7 to have OWCP pay you for the time you missed due to the condition.  You will need to continue submitting CA-7 forms every other week until you are recovered.  If you will not fully recover from the condition, you may also qualify for a scheduled award, which pays you a set amount for a permanent injury that disables your use of a body part.

I generally recommend that employees with a physical injury go ahead and apply for OWCP themselves.  The process is straight-forward for physical injuries and there are usually witnesses to help corroborate your story.  These claims are often approved fairly easily and don’t require any legal assistance.  Occupational illnesses/diseases and exacerbation of existing conditions are denied more frequently.  Be it fair or not, these conditions are placed under a much higher level of scrutiny.  If you need an approval on the first try due to financial hardship, then we may be able to help you complete your initial application and give you the very best chance of being approved on the first try.  Otherwise, like a physical injury, I would suggest saving your money and applying yourself on the first try.

What Happens if I am Denied?

Claims are denied for a wide variety of reasons.  Many times what appears to be a slam-dunk case is denied because of the way in which your doctor has written up the condition.  This isn’t your doctor’s fault, as most doctors have very limited experience dealing with OWCP and do not know that a single word in their notes can have a case denied each and every time. Your doctor needs someone who can help them understand what OWCP is looking for in their medical notes.  Other times, it is your own description of your condition that is the problem – again, simply due to terminology.  This is the point where you should contact us to discuss your options.

If your claim is denied, you are given many options on how to appeal the decision.  These options range from a written reconsideration, a submission of new evidence, or a hearing in front of a board of examiners.  Some cases may need to go in front of the Board; others may only need to go through the faster, more informal reconsideration process.  The decision as to how you appeal your case is almost as important as what you submit in your appeal, and is critical in determining how quickly you can get your benefits.  Again, if you have been denied, contact us today so we can evaluate your case and inform you of what we see as the very best option on how to move forward with your appeal.