Federal Workers Compensation and Attorney Fees

Are you a federal employee who has suffered an injury while on the job?  Whether you work for US Postal Service, Homeland Security, the VA, or other federal agencies, you are entitled to benefits under the FECA.  The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) manages all Federal Workers Compensation claims.  So what if my claim is denied?  What if OWCP is trying to terminate my benefits?  Where can I get help?

Mooney & Associates offers a Federal Workers Compensation practice in Central Pennsylvania.  Although we can represent injured federal employees nationwide, most of our clients come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

So how do attorney fees work with Federal Workers Compensation.  Is it a contingency fee like regular workers compensation?  The answer is NO.

Contingency fees are illegal under OWCP.  The Employees Compensation Appeal Board (ECAB), the highest appellate authority in Federal Workers compensation, has ruled that only fees based on an hourly rate agreement will be approved in accordance with 5 U.S.C. §8127, and OWCP has stated that it will conform its fee approval standards to that of the ECAB.  So, if an attorney offers you a contingency or percentage retainer agreement, that attorney is not complying with the law regarding fees and fee approvals and is not familiar with Federal Workers Compensation.

So how do the attorney fees work then?

Attorney fees for Federal Workers’ Compensation must be paid on an hourly basis.  In Federal Workers Compensation, the attorney is paid at the end of the case, after OWCP has reviewed the fee statement and agrees that the charges were reasonable given the nature of the injury and the work performed.  At Mooney & Associates, I take an initial retainer for services, which is placed into a trust account and held there until we receive the go-ahead from OWCP to pay the fee at the end of the case.  I keep track of my work on the case and keep you informed regularly as to the status and amount of my billing.  Additionally, there are times I may charge a flat fee, rather than a retainer and ongoing hourly expense.  Again, it depends on the issue.  This arrangement is similar to other types of cases where an attorney accepts a retainer, such as family or criminal law.  The difference is,  I am not permitted to remove the retainer from the trust account until the case is done and OWCP agrees with the fee.  You also will be asked to agree or disagree with the fee.  The client is also responsible for cases expenses.

I would be happy to meet with you and discuss our fees work and the retainers we require, dependent on your issues within your Federal Workers Compensation case. You can contact Mooney & Associates toll-free at 1-877-632-4656 or 717-200-HELP.

Federal Workers Compensation Appeal Rights

Federal Workers Compensation is an entirely different system than your traditional state workers compensation.  Federal Workers Compensation is for employees of the Federal Government and claims are handled by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) within the US Department of Labor and Industry.

So, what happens in you are an injured Federal Government employee, you get injured at work, and OWCP subsequently denies your claim?  Does a Federal Government employee have any appeal rights?  The answer is — YES, they do.   Essentially, there are three appeal avenues.   All three carry different ramifications and timelines.

  1.  Request for an Oral Hearing or Written Record Review.  An injured Federal employee can request an oral hearing or a written record review with the Branch of Hearings and Review.   This avenue has a deadline of 30 days from the date of the final decision by OWCP.  Testimony at oral hearings can be done in person or by telephone, teleconference, or video conference.   Hearings are often useful because a Hearing Representative from outside the District Office that denied the claim will evaluate the Decision. The in injured worker CAN submit new evidence at the hearing, either through testimony or documents. The Hearing Representative will usually ask questions.  If the injured worker chooses to, he/she can opt to waive the right to appear and instead request a  Review of the Written Record. Unless a decision is reversed, a claimant will only have one chance at a hearing.  It could take 8 or more months to get an oral hearing scheduled.  Finally, a Hearing must be requested BEFORE any Reconsideration on the matter.  If a Reconsideration has already been filed on the same matter, the there is no right to an Oral Hearing.
  2. Request for Reconsideration.  An injured worker can also file a Request for Reconsideration.  You can certainly submit additional evidence or legal arguments to establish your claim, within a reconsideration.  A reconsideration request must be made within one year of the date of the OWCP decision.  Reconsideration will be handled by supervisory claims examiners located in the same District Office that issued Decision denying the claim.
  3. Appeal to the Employees Compensation Appeal Board (ECAB).   The ECAB is an appellate body in the Department of Labor separate and apart from OWCP.  This should be the LAST appeal resort, because the ECAB decision is FINAL.  The ECAB WILL NOT consider new evidence.   Thus, this level of appeal should not be completed until such time that there is no new evidence that would support the claim.  Request for review by the ECAB must be made within 180 days from the date of this decision.   You can appeal tot he ECAB a decision of an OWCP hearing representative, an OWCP decision from an Oral Hearing or review of the written record, or following a decision on a Motion for Reconsideration.  Time frame wise, the ECAB usually takes 10 to 12 months to issue its decision.  It is important to note that once ECAB makes a final ruling on your case, you cannot appeal it and you cannot seek recourse from another federal agency.  It is final.
     

Those are the three avenues to appeal a Federal Workers Compensation denial.

Each level of appeal has its own complexity.  If you are an injured Federal employee and your claim has been denied, and you are a Pennsylvania or Maryland resident, call Mooney & Associates today for a consultation on how we can help you.  You can contact Mooney & Associates at 717-200-HELP or 1-877-632-4656.

 

 

New Opioid policy for Injured Federal Employees

The US Department of Labor’s Division of Federal Employee Compensation has issued new guidelines for the use of opioids to treat injured federal employees.  There has been significant nationwide concern over the growing opioid addiction epidemic across America and we should expect more changes to come, at the state levels as well.

Here is the gist of the new opioid guidelines.

  • Implementation is set for August 2017
  • Opioids can be prescribed for an initial 60 days.  However, the prescription must be broken down to  two 30 prescriptions each.
  • After the initial 60 day prescription, then to extend opioids, the treating physician must complete a Letter of Medical Neccessity (LMN). A LMN must be completed for any subsequent prescriptions.
  • Compound medications containing opioids must alway be prescribed with a LMN.  This guidelines goes into effect as of June 26, 2017.

The use of narcotic painkillers has been steadily increasing, and with that rise in use has come addiction, abuse and resulting deaths.  Many estimates put opioid use three times  higher this decade than previous decades.  Unfortunately, patients with long-term injuries are readily prescribed narcotic pain medications and that use has created significant dependency issues for many users, especially those suffering from arthritis and back injury. In many instances, insurance companies simply find it much cheaper to pay for opioid prescriptions than other treatments, including surgical procedures, that could provide much more effective long-term relief.

I suspect we will start to see similar measures rolled out in state Workers’ Compensation programs.

If you are an injured Federal Government employee, or you have suffered any work injury in the private sector and live in Pennsylvania or Maryland, contact Mooney & Associates today for a FREE consultation.  Don’t risk it going alone.  You have too much to lose.  You can call us at 717-200-HURT.

 

 

Common Postal Worker Injuries in Federal Workers Comp

U.S. Postal Workers are frequent victims of work-related injuries, mostly due to the nature of their jobs.  Of all Federal Government employees, US Postal Workers we see the most with on the job work injuries.

As you can read here, Federal Government employees can not file workers compensation claims through the regular state workers compensation systems, like all other non-Federal employees.  The Federal Government has its own unique Workers Compensation system.

Here are the common injuries we see among Postal Workers.

  1. Mail carriers deliver mail right to individual homes.  Those homes have dogs.  You know the deal.  Dog bites can be down right serious.   It can be frequent as well.  In fact, the United States Postal Service released a report on March 11, 2016 that indicated there were 6,549 dog attacks on mail carriers.   You can see in this release dog bites by cities.  Philadelphia had the 7th highest rate in the United States.  These type of injuries can likely also lead to Third Party claims for the injured worker.  Our office can help with the third party lawsuit as well.
  2. Slip and Falls are another significant mechanism of injury among postal workers.  This include mail carriers and sorting center employees.  Mail carriers are out delivering the mail in all elements.  That includes in snow and ice and after snow and ice storms.  Slip and falls generally increase during winter months as a generality.  The postal service is no different.  Individual property landscape and issues such as tall grass, barriers, limbs, and other obstructions can contribute to work accidents among mail carriers.  Included in this also is slip and falls on stairs and steps.  These type of injuries may also lead to a Third Part claim for injured workers against a homeowner or property owner.  Our office can help with the third party lawsuit as well.
  3. Lifting, Pushing, Pulling, and Carrying injuries are also frequent among postal workers.  Obviously, postal workers are handling pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying packages of all different weights.  That sometimes leads to back, neck, shoulder, knee, or other type of injuries.
  4. Auto Accidents can be another frequent mechanism of injury among postal workers.  Postal workers do not just deliver mail by ground, but also by care.  That can lead to motor vehicle accidents, which can be devastating.  These type of claims also lead to third party motor vehicle accident claims for injured workers.  Our office can help with the third party lawsuit as well.
  5. Overexertion/Aggravation injuries can be frequent among post workers.  Day in and day out, postal workers are handling various weights and performing duties that are highly repetitive in nature.  Doing the same task over and over can harm muscles, nerves and tendons.  These type of repetitive tasks often times cause awkward body postures and positions which can further damage and aggravated, otherwise, dormant physical conditions.

This certainly is not an exhaustive list of injuries that occur to Postal Workers, but it is a list of common type injuries.  Our office represents ALL injured Federal Government employees, including US Postal Workers.  If you are an injured Federal Government employee and you have been hurt on the job and OWCP has denied your claim or is attempting to end your claim, call Mooney & Associates today to speak to our Workers Compensation attorney.  Call  us today at 717-200-HURT or 1-877-632-4656.  You can also email us directly at the email address listed on the right sidebar under Business Contacts.

Now representing Federal Employees in Federal Workers Compensation

Attorney Mark A. Buterbaugh, who currently manages and handles all of the firm’s Workers’ Compensation cases, has begun representing injured Federal Government employees, in Federal Workers Compensation. Attorney Buterbaugh will work aggressively to fight for and protect benefits that Federal employees are entitled to under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).

Currently, there are only limited amount of attorneys who handle Federal Workers Compensation claims nationally, let alone in Pennsylvania.  Most civilian federal employees in all three branches of the Federal government are covered under the Act, unless covered by Special Legislation or non-appropriated funds. In our area, that may include employees of the US Postal Service, Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, civilian employees at the Letterkenny Army Depot, Carlisle War Barracks, New Cumberland Depot, Mechanicsburg Navy Base, and more. Continue reading

Proving Federal Workers Compensation claim

Federal government employees have a unique workers compensation system, rather than the typical state workers compensation system that covers all other injured workers.   The Federal Workers Compensation systems cover most civilian employees of the Federal Government.  The program is administered by the Office of Workers Compensation programs (OWCP) in the US Department of Labor & Industry.  It’s rules and procedures are unique and at times substantially differ from Pennsylvania’s workers compensation system.

If you are an injured federal employee, such as a US Postal employee, an employee of a VA Medical facility, a civilian employee at one of our several military installations in Central Pennsylvania (Letterkenny, Carlisle War College, Mechanicsburg Naval Yard, etc…), a TSA employee at Harrisburg airport, an employee of the Social Security offices in the Central Pennsylvania area, etc… then you are likely covered under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) and therefore fall under Federal Workers Compensation. Continue reading