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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Timeliness of claims - statute of limitations - don't rely on your OWCP claims examiner

I have recently had several OWCP clients' workers compensation claims erroneously denied as being untimely. The time for filing a traumatic injury claim is within three years of when you knew or should have known you were injured. There are circumstances where you can get around the time limitation. With regard to an occupational injury or disease, there is also a three year time limitation. However, with an occupational injury or disease, the claim is timely so long as it is filed within three years of when you were last exposed to the work factors contributing to your condition. That means if you are subjected to loud noise on the job, and have known for more than three years that that noise has damaged your hearing, you can file your claim up until it has been more than three years since you were last exposed to noise on the job. This type of claim can still be filed even after three years have passed since you were last exposed under certain circumstances. Its not clear why different claims examiners in different OWCP offices are getting this wrong and erroneously denying claims filed far more than three years after the injured worker was aware of their illness, but well within three years of when they were last exposed to the relevant work factors that contribute to the illness. If your claim is denied for any reason, keep in mind that you are entitled to appeal rights for a reason. The reason is that far too many OWCP claims examiners are poorly trained and unfamiliar with basic principles applicable to this system. Those running OWCP spend far too much time lobbying Congress to strip benefits from this program and far too much time working with employing agencies to come up with strategies to deny injured workers benefits that they are entitled to receive. Instead, those running this program should be focusing on providing competent training and mentoring to claims examiners who all too often are assigned so many cases that they are unable to provide quality work. In the end, its much easier to deny a claim and let someone else figure it out, especially in a work environment that values the volume of work completed and places no value on the quality of work completed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Government Shutdown and OWCP benefits

I have been receiving many concerned calls from FECA claimants regarding the status of their OWCP benefits in light of the government shutdown. OWCP is continuing to operate. While district offices are not answering telephones, wage loss payments, medical bills, and many case adjudication actions are all continuing to occur. The Branch of Hearings and Review is not conducting hearings during the shutdown.