Visit my website: www.owcplawyer.com

Sunday, November 4, 2018

OWCP no longer putting claims personnel names on correspondence

If you have gotten mail from OWCP since late August, you may have noticed that OWCP claims personnel names no longer appear on most documents. Instead, on the page that should have a signature line, you will see what is called a QR code at the bottom left, it sort of resembles a square bar code. That code contains various information including the name of the author in the format of their first name and last initial, ie "Jeff Z". OWCP explained in FECA Bulletin No 18-07 that "[e]mployees have expressed security and safety concerns regarding use of names in ... communications" as the reasoning for making this change.

This policy is being implemented in slightly different ways by each district office, so depending on the office you are assigned to, you may see some variations.

In order to know the name of the person who sent you correspondence from OWCP, you will need to download a free "QR reader" app. Go to the app store where you download apps for your device and search for a "QR Code Reader" which you should be able to download for free and then use the camera on your device to read the QR Code.

If you are interested in more information on QR codes here is a link to the wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code


Following is the full text of FECA Bulletin No. 18-07:


FECA BULLETIN NO. 18-07
Issue Date: August 17, 2018

Subject: Protecting the Identity of Employees in Written and Oral Correspondence
Background: Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC) employees routinely respond to a myriad of written and telephonic inquiries, and issue written correspondence when developing and adjudicating a claim, and when terminating, reducing or suspending medical and/or compensation entitlement. Employees have expressed security and safety concerns regarding use of names in these communications.
DFEC recognizes the importance of the safety and welfare of its employees in its mandate to fulfill the requirements of the FECA, 5 U.S.C. 8101 et. seq. As a result, DFEC has changed its longstanding procedure of placing employee names on written correspondence, including all formal decisions. A similar change will also apply to oral communication.
Notice regarding this change was published in the Federal Register on April 18, 2018. See Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 75, page 17196.
Purpose: To provide guidance on the format by which DFEC employees should identify themselves on written and oral communication/correspondence.
Applicability: All National Office and District Office personnel.
Action: Balancing the safety of our employees and the communication needs of our stakeholders, DFEC will use the below methods in identifying the authors of its written and telephonic communications:
  1. All signatures and names currently appearing on outgoing correspondence will be replaced with "Division of Federal Employees' Compensation," and the author of the document will be captured in the case management system.
  2. To preserve the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board's (ECAB) ability to identify the adjudicator of certain decisions such as reconsideration decisions, DFEC will use a Quick Response (QR) Code to identify decision authors.
  3. A naming convention for the staff will be used to provide every employee with a pseudonym for use in telephonic and other oral communications. The naming convention to create the pseudonym will be the employee's first name and last name initial. If more than one individual within an office has the same combination (e.g. two Thomas J.'s) then their middle initials will be added.
  4. Outgoing correspondence (including decisions) will not contain or otherwise reveal the pseudonym when printed. Instead the pseudonym will be embedded into a QR Code on the letter, allowing a QR scanner device to reveal the pseudonym.
Disposition: This Bulletin is to be retained until incorporated unto the DFEC Procedure Manual.

ANTONIO RIOS
Director for
Federal Employees' Compensation
Distribution: All DFEC staff

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sometimes you can get reimbursed for legal fees and other expenses related to your OWCP claim

This is a topic I have previously posted, but its important and bears repeating. If you are receiving a check from OWCP and are also entitled to Social Security Disability payments from SSA, you may be able to recover legal fees and other unreimbursed expenses through your Social Security disability claim. If SSA is reducing your check, they are taking an "offset" because you are receiving a check from OWCP, you can recover your unreimbursed expenses from SSA. This also applies to other expenses related to your workers compensation, for instance paying for medical a report.

SSA has a document available online explaining how to report expenses such as attorney fees paid in connection with receiving benefits from OWCP. The attorney fees (and other qualifying expenses) will be used to reduce the offset amount. Please click on the link below to SSA POMS - DI 52150.050 - Excludable Expenses, and carefully follow SSA's instructions:

https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0452150050
If this link does not work, do a google search for the document number  "POMS 0452150050"

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Submitting FECA medical bills and reimbursement requests to OWCP

Recently, a client was complaining that nothing had happened with her request for reimbursement for traveling to an OWCP directed medical exam. After spending more time on this than seemed reasonable, I was able to determine that the problem was that she uploaded the reimbursement through the ECOMP interface. The problem is that reimbursement and bills must be mailed to the DFEC Mailbox address:

This is a reminder that when dealing with OWCP, one must always remember that everything this program does is designed for the convenience of OWCP and employing agencies. While employing agencies are given unfettered access to your file, and extensive ability to upload and characterize all sorts of documents through ECOMP, a claimant must send in a written request for access to their file, and, if you're lucky, an updated copy will be sent out after 30 days, and typically, that copy was made shortly after it was requested, and then held until the end of the thirty days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Requesting copies of medical records from medical providers

I frequently hear from injured workers that they have difficulty requesting copies of their records, either being told they are not allowed to have a copy or being charged exorbitant fees. The following article lays out some very good tips and instructions on how to request a copy of your records, and how to do so in ways that minimize the cost. Keep in mind that for many medical providers, sending out copies of your records has been turned into another profit center. By understanding your rights, you can avoid improper charges and obstacles to getting a copy of your medical records:

https://www.theexpertinstitute.com/top-ten-rules-for-requesting-low-cost-medical-records-under-hitech-hipaa/

Monday, August 13, 2018

OWCP Provider Number

In order for a medical provider to bill OWCP for medical care, the provider needs to register through OWCP's contractor to get a provider number. I have found that sometimes the process of registering for a provider number or straightening out problems with a provider number can become an obstacle to a physician's office being able to accept and treat federal workers compensation claimants. If your physician's office is having problems registering for their provider number or renewing their provider number, please ask whomever at the physician's office is having a problem with this process to call me directly. Here is a link to useful information on this program to share with your physician's office:

https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/medicalprovider.htm

Friday, August 10, 2018

OWCP allowing federal employee workers compensation paper files to be destroyed

Beginning in 2003, OWCP migrated from maintaining federal employees' workers compensation claims as paper files to an imaged system. When there is no activity for an extended period, paper files are shipped off to the federal record center. The federal record center destroys files after 15 years. If you had a pre 2003 paper file that is now considered a "retired" file, meaning it has been shipped off to the federal record center, you are at risk of your paper file being destroyed. This recently arose for a new client of mine who sustained an ACL injury in the early 1990s, underwent surgical repair, recuperated, and returned to work. Now he is being told he needs to consider a knee replacement procedure, but OWCP reports that they cannot retrieve his file. It was shipped off to the federal record center in 2003, and the federal record center routinely destroyed the file in 2016.

If you have an old injury and OWCP sent the file to the federal record center, if you do not have a completed copy of your file, you should make OWCP send you a copy before its too late.

Friday, July 6, 2018

This is an interesting article for federal employees regarding offsets between FERS pensions and SSA benefits

This is a little off topic from my usual OWCP related post, but federal employees should find this article interesting as it provides some accessible information explaining the interplay between your FERS and SSA benefits:

https://www.fool.com/retirement/2018/06/19/can-my-pension-lower-my-social-security-benefits.aspx