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Federal Workers' Compensation

The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs 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.

Here is a forum for members to share and exchange experiences regarding to workers' compensation related issues.


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Jareni  
#1 Posted : Monday, January 13, 2020 12:40:27 PM(UTC)
Jareni

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Hi all!

Long time lurker as I've been going through my OWCP process. First time posting because I'm not sure how to prepare for this situation:

I received an email from my GG14 supervisor requesting I come into the office to discuss a change in my employment status.

Here are my major questions:
- what are my rights/owed benefits/timeline?
- what are their obligations/timeline?
- what are some pitfalls I should be aware of before the meeting?

Here is my situation summary:
Got sick in Afghanistan in 2014 while deployed. Been on OWCP since then, first on hourly compensation whenever I got too sick to work, and then my doc moved me to fully disabled (temporarily) and onto the periodic rolls. I have regular medical appointments, I am on 24/7 oxygen support, CPAP, and extremely light duty. I have NOT received a diagnosis... none of the cardiac, pulm, endocrine, gastro, etc. specialists I've sought out can diagnose what is wrong. We just have a list of symptoms that remains pretty stable.

My agency has kept me on the roster since early 2016 when I went onto the periodic rolls. I have slowly lost contact with my organization due to PCS and hirings/leavings. My security badges expired 2 years ago and the organization isn't concerned about renewing them. Without access to my office, I lost access to government computer systems. Just 2 months ago I lost access to my NIPR OWA and have to communicate entirely by personal email. I cannot access my eOPM, myBiz, or any other site that requires access from a government computer.

Please give me your thoughts and ask any pertinent questions!
Thank you!
Jareni
edalder  
#2 Posted : Monday, January 13, 2020 3:56:41 PM(UTC)

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Your agency is looking to formally separate you because you have not been at work since early 2016. Your agency/supervisor wants to replace you with someone who can do the work. As long as you are on the agency's rolls, even in an LWOP status, most agencies cannot replace you. Frankly, I am surprised this email request has not come up sooner. It's been nearly four years.

Judging from your post, you really are not going to be returning to work any time soon. You can fight the proposed separation, but I think the agency would win absent a miraculous recovery on your part.

My recommendations:

Seecure your retirement with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), even though you likely will continue receiving OWCP benefits. You can choose to continue receiving OWCP benefits, even if retired. The OPM disability (or retirement benefit) will be suspended while you are receiving OWCP.But you have to apply within one year of separation. It would be probably easier if you applied while still an employee. If you are in FERS, you also must apply for Social Security disability income (SSDI) unless you are otherwise old enough or qualified to receive a regular OPM retirement/SSA retirement. It is good to have your OPM retirement in your back pocket in case OWCP goes south on you. Don't let the agency tell you that you have to accept your retirement, But you should file for it, even if you intend to suspend it while on OWCP.

The implications for OWCP is that if you ever do recover enough to return to some kind of work, the chances are good that it will not be with the Federal government. But, cross that bridge, if and when you ever get to it. You may not.
Kivi
thanks 1 user thanked for this useful post.
Jareni on 1/14/2020(UTC)
Sofedup  
#3 Posted : Monday, January 13, 2020 7:44:46 PM(UTC)
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Whatever you do, do NOT resign. Resigning will almost certainly make it much harder to qualify for disability retirement. I would hire a good federal disability retirement attorney, and file for DR now, and keep it in your back pocket in case OWCP goes south, (and it almost always does). It is to your benefit, for the separation for medical inability to perform the core functions of your job when it comes to being approved for DR. Best of luck to you.
Jareni  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, January 14, 2020 9:11:26 AM(UTC)
Jareni

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Thank you, Kivi and FedUp!

I am grateful that my agency has kept me on the rolls for so long. I'm just over 40 years old and don't want to 'retire' yet... I still have 3 kids in middle and high school and I provide our family's insurance.


I really thought and hoped I would be getting better. My parent organization, USARMY INSCOM, has a holding pen for folks on OWCP that I'm hoping they move my billet to.

2 years ago, my unit put me into a billet they were never going to hire against (we have never been funded over 60% strength in our history) so everyone was comfortable.

I'm also in a non-union organization so we don't have anyone to provide education on this process or advocate for us in a meeting like this one.

I will definitely learn more at the meeting and seek an attorney to help me file for Med Retirement...

Any suggestions for maximizing med retirement? I'm a GG13 with 10 years service. Not exactly a solid retirement plan.

Thanks again!
Jareni
OBE17  
#5 Posted : Wednesday, January 15, 2020 7:06:14 AM(UTC)
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I'm new to this too, I mean the attack on my entitlement. I approached it with "hat-in-hand" like "Oliver" in my most sheepish persona..."Please Sir...may I have some more?" and I got knocked on the head with a ladle just like he did.

I read advice from experts who said I should go in there and record the whole meeting. I thought to myself..."Oh no! They may get mad at me and try harder to hurt me." That's a typical defeatest, down-trodden approach. Find out if your state requires both parties to agree on recording and if it's a one-party state, start the recorder in your iPhone! Don't even tell them you're recording it.

Those posters, here, who say don't assume ANYONE of them is your "friend" are 100% right! If they knock you off their rolls they get a pat-on-the-head and an "atta boy" from their boss!

The jury is still out on my case. They may get me yet (because they don't play fair) but not without a fight. I got a stack of papers on my desk a foot high; I'm writing to everybody! This is a travesty and an injustice!
VW1  
#6 Posted : Thursday, January 16, 2020 7:04:27 AM(UTC)
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Edalder has given you really good advice that you should really look into. Since you have been in an LWOP status for more than 12 months, your employer has every right to separate you and I am actually surprised it has taken them this long. You don't need to hire a lawyer to file your disability retirement application. I know one popular law firm that will charge you $5000 to do the application that consists of 13 pages. Whether your application is approved or not is solely determined on your medical evidence. The evidence has to show that you cannot perform the duties of your current position and that your disability is going to last more than 12 months. You must also show that your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions from the disability in your current position. You only have to show your are disabled from performing your job duties for your current position. For SSDI you are going to have to show that you are disabled from any type of work. You are required to apply for SSDI but do not have to be approved for it to get your OPM DR approved. There really isn't much of a financial benefit to get SSDI approved because of the offsets.

Once your DR is approved, like edalder stated, you will have to make an election of benefits between OPM DR or benefits under FECA (OWCP). As long as your doctors state your are TTD, stay with OWCP. OWCP pays you better benefits than DR.
edalder  
#7 Posted : Thursday, January 16, 2020 1:55:59 PM(UTC)

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While receiving a disability retirement (DR) income from OPM, you can have earnings as long as they do not exceed 80% of your current Federal salary. If you wanted to go back to work somewhere (assuming you are able to work), you could get DR which is 40% of your high three after the first year and 79% of your previous Fed grade (with that inflation adjustment). You would, of course, go off OWCP, if you made this much money as it would probably be to your advantage to collect your DR retirement over OWCP in this scenario.

The earning limits for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and OWCP are much lower. Almost any earnings would affect your OWCP payments and the earnings limits with SSDI are pretty low. Even a full time job paying only minimum wage probably would disqualify you for SSDI. But, OPM requires you to file for SSDI. You don't have to pursue the application. You just have to provide proof that you filed.

As another poster noted, if you get approved for SSDI, there will be an offset for workers' compensation (OWCP). Most OWCP folks, however, still get some money from SSDI, even after the offset, if they otherwise qualify. It may only be a few hundred a month, but, especially since you have minor children, I am pretty sure you would get something until they are 18/out of high school. There are no college benefits for kids with SSA.

Finally, getting your OPM retirement approved would also protect your spouse (if you have one). You could provide for a survivor annuity, which may also allow her to maintain FEHB . It's a form of insurance that you might want to think about. The rules are a little complicated as there are offsets here as well for SSA survivor benefits that generally knock off any survivor benefits for minor children. Best to sit down with someone who knows the ropes.
Kivi
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