Category Archives: Federal Workers Compensation

How Does FECA Help Injured Federal Workers?

feca

The Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) provides compensation benefits for federal workers in the case of an injury, disease, disability, or death from an employment related cause. It covers both full and part-time workers regardless of what branch they work in. The following employees are covered under this act:

  • Federal jurors
  • State and local law enforcement acting in a federal capacity
  • Peace Corps volunteers
  • Coast Guard auxiliary members
  • Civil Air Patrol members
  • Volunteers

FECA covers all injuries and illnesses resulting from or aggravated by work activities. Exceptions to this rule include situations where misconduct by the employee is involved. Benefits are also suspended if the employee is imprisoned due to a felony conviction, and not restored upon release.

You should also file for Continuation of Pay (COP), which will provide you with 100 percent if your pay for the first 45 calendar days. This form is the CA-7. Compensation past the first 45 days is determined based on various factors, including the extent of the injury and whether you have dependents. With Temporary Total Disability, compensation is 67 percent of your salary without dependents and 75 percent with dependents.

FECA compensation and medical benefits continue throughout the disability with no maximum age. The number of weeks of compensation is limited but age is not. However, there are interactions of benefits with CSRS and FERS disability retirement so make sure to check that out.

Your claim for FECA must occur within three years of the injury, although if written notice was given within 30 days, that claim period can be extended. You also don’t need to use your accumulated sick or leave time before getting FECA compensation, but you can. What you can’t do is use that time to satisfy any waiting periods.

We do some work with FECA cases and would be glad to set up a consultation with you to see if we can help you. Give us a call at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form.

To learn more about some of the benefits of FECA, click below.

How Does FECA Help Federal Workers Who are Injured on the Job?

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Workers’ Compensation Attorney Fees

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When most workers file a workers’ compensation claim, their state law usually dictates that his employer’s workers compensation insurance company pay for his attorney fees.  The state law typically limits the fees for the claimant’s attorney which, of course, has some effect on limiting the time the attorney will work on the file.

This is NOT the case if a federal employee has a workers’ compensation claim, although the fee must be approved by the federal government, the federal employee must pay his own attorney’s fees –and those fees must be based upon contemporaneous time billing (as opposed to a contingency fee based upon the amount collected on behalf of the employee).

So that is a BIG difference between the rights of “state law” workers compensation claimants and the rights of federal employees.

In a major ruling, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday said that their state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers compensation insurance cases is unconstitutional.

The 5-2 ruling in the closely watched case was a victory for attorneys who represent injured workers — and a blow to business groups that have long argued legal fees drive up the costs of workers compensation insurance. The fee issue will bounce back to the Legislature, where it could spark a fierce debate.

Justice Barbara Pariente, writing for the court’s majority, said the 2009 law is a violation of due-process rights under the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution because it prevents challenges to the “reasonableness” of attorney’s fees awarded in workers-compensation cases. The ruling stemmed from a case in which an attorney was awarded the equivalent of $1.53 an hour in successfully pursuing a claim for benefits for a worker injured in Miami.

Pariente wrote that the goal of the workers-compensation system is to quickly provide benefits to get injured people back on the job at a reasonable cost to employers.

“This case, and many others like it, demonstrate that despite the stated goal, oftentimes the worker experiences delay and resistance either by the employer or the [insurance] carrier,” wrote Pariente, who was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry. “Without the likelihood of an adequate attorney’s fee award, there is little disincentive for a carrier to deny benefits or to raise multiple defenses, as was done here.”

The case, known as Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company, was one of three major challenges to the workers-compensation system that have been pending at the Supreme Court.

Attorney’s fees have long been one of the most contentious issues in the workers’ compensation system, which handles disputes through a legal process outside of more-typical civil courts. Under the formula included in the 2009 law, for example, attorneys who successfully represent workers can receive fees equal to 20 percent of the first $5,000 in benefits obtained and 15 percent of the next $5,000 in benefits.

In a concurring opinion, Lewis described the attorney’s fees part of the workers’ compensation system as “emasculated” and pointed to the example of the $1.53 an hour in fees in the Castellanos case, which he wrote is “clearly unreasonable and insufficient to afford workers the ability to secure competent counsel.”

Read more here: https://goo.gl/J2jxHc

This article was written by senior attorney Brad Harris of Harris Federal Law Firm. You can contact him at Harris Federal law Firm (877) 226-2723 or mail@harrisfederal.com.

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Is a Situational Disability Enough?

situationalWhat is a ‘situational’ disability? Can I be approved for Federal Disability Retirement if I have one?

In order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement, you must meet certain criteria. One of those being your disability must be keeping you from being efficient at your current essential job duties. So having a disability that is ‘situational’ sounds good then, right? In short, the answer is not necessarily. Let’s look at this in more depth.

First, let’s define what a situational disability is.

  • It is location-specific. This means the condition is attributed to a supervisor, co-worker, or work environment at that specific location.
  • Your medical or psychological condition only shows up in that specific work context.

**The condition is NOT a situational disability if it extends beyond your specific work situation.

Find out more by clicking on the post below.

The team at Harris Federal Law Firm is here to help guide you through the process. We have been in helping federal workers for over a decade with their Federal Disability Retirement cases. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a condition that is causing you to not perform your job duties, give us a call at 877-226-2723, or fill out this inquiry form. The consultation is always FREE.

Situational Disability–Can it Approve Me for Federal Disability Retirement?

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Benefit Interaction Part 2-FERS vs. OWCP

fers interactionIn a previous post, we looked at the interaction between FERS disability benefits and Social Security benefits. Now we’re going to focus on FERS benefits and OWCP (Office of Workers Compensation Program) payments.

  • Workers Comp
  1. Lost wages-66% Single and 75% with dependents (either is tax-free)
  2. Medical-pays medical bills, not premiums, for the life of the injury
  3. Schedule Award (SA)-can’t receive this and lost wages at the same time but can get disability and SA concurrently.
  4. Continuation of Pay (COP)-your pay will continue at same rate for 45 days after injury occurred
  • Workers Comp is designed to be temporary whereas disability is ongoing. If you want to receive OWCP benefit, payments from OPM (disability) will be suspended. However, if OWCP benefits stop, you can get disability benefits back.

There are a couple of instances where you can receive a FERS annuity and OWCP benefits concurrently.

To learn more about how these two work together, and don’t work together, read the post (below) on our website.

Benefit Interaction Part 2–FERS Disability Vs OWCP Payments

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Harris Federal Law Firm Announces New Training Webinars For Federal Workers

As a firm that works with injured and disabled federal employees across the country and abroad, Harris Federal is providing FREE training webinars for federal workers to learn more about their rights and benefits.

Federal employees now have new resources to learn more about their rights and benefits. Harris Federal Law Firm, a national employment law firm representing federal workers, will host four free webinars within the coming months. The webinar topics will pertain to federal employee benefits, such as OWCP federal workers’ compensation and OPM federal disability retirement.

“We realize that not many federal employees know about their rights to collect benefits when a medical condition hinders them from doing their job, and we believe these webinars will serve as an invaluable resource,” said Senior Attorney Brad Harris.

The webinars are free and open to the public, and will occur monthly. For the webinar presented in May, “Money Talk: Financial Considerations to Address Before Regular or Federal Disability Retirement,” the firm will feature guest panelist Matt Whitten, a financial consultant with United Benefits.

“Filing for federal disability retirement requires federal workers to make critical financial decisions, and they often don’t know who to turn to for advice. We know the team at United Benefits, and they do a phenomenal job guiding federal workers throughout the process. We are excited to include Matt in our upcoming webinar,” said Brad Harris, “It’s a webinar you really won’t want to miss.”

 

Federal employees can learn more about each webinar by going to the Resources page on the Harris Federal website.

April 19, Noon EST – OWCP Federal Workers’ Compensation vs OPM Disability Retirement

Click Here to Register for the Webinar. *After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

May 19, Noon EST – Money Talk: Financial Considerations to Address Before Regular or Federal Disability Retirement with Guest Panelist Matt Whitten

Click Here to Register for the Webinar. *After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

June 15, Noon EST – Watch out! How the OWCP Can Terminate Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Click Here to Register for the Webinar. *After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

July 15, Noon EST – Myth-Busting: Federal Disability Retirement

Click Here to Register *After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Harris Federal Law Firm serves federal employees in all 50 states in the U.S. and abroad. The firm is dedicated to assisting workers and others with obtaining federal disability retirement benefits, federal workers’ compensation benefits and Veterans’ Affairs disability benefits. The firm also represents clients in third-party liability and employment discrimination cases. The firm features offices in Washington, D.C., Lexington, KY, and Austin, TX. To learn more, call (877) 226-2723 or connect with the firm online.

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OWCP and Federal Disability… Working together for you!

A lot of federal employees ask us why they should apply for federal disability retirement when they are currently drawing lost wages from the Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP). The truth is that full workers comp disability payments are usually higher than those that come from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for disability retirement. Why should they switch?

The problem is that the framing of the question infers that the employee must give up the workers comp to get the federal disability. That is not the case. A career federal employee can be approved for both benefits simultaneously, and choose to draw from the benefit that helps them the most.

While the OWCP payments are often higher on a monthly basis, they are also much more tumultuous and can be terminated at a moment’s notice. Even if you are successful at getting them restored, it may take months while the OWCP wouldn’t be paying you. If you already had the OPM disability retirement approved, you could immediately begin drawing benefits from the OPM.

OWCP and Disability RetirementImagine OWCP wage loss like walking a tight rope. Everything is hanging in the balance and the slightest hiccup can cause a major fall and disaster. Having a disability retirement approved and waiting is like adding a safety net to catch you and prevent you from hitting the hard ground. It may not be as good as being on the tight rope, but it sure is a lot better than falling to rock bottom.

On the other hand, there are times and positions where the employee would rather have the freedom to begin a new life and move past their federal employment. The disability retirement can afford them the option to step away from federal service. But if they had a work related injury claim, they are still entitled to medical care for that injury for their lifetime. Also, if permanent impairment exists, they can collect schedule awards from the OWCP while drawing disability from the OPM.

Call Harris Federal now to get a free case consultation and let us help you understand which options are best for you.

 

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Harris Federal Video Blog – Episode 5.1

Bo Harris and Ms. Kate Richardson help explain the common questions about the Federal Disability Retirement Advantage.

This episode explores the idea of why a federal disability retirement can be a good thing, even if you are currently drawing OWCP federal workers compensation wage loss benefits. Many federal employees are confused with what OWCP wage loss really is and it can sometimes be assumed to be a long term disability option when in fact it’s not long term at all. The proper terminology for OWCP wage loss is Total Temporary Disability (TTD).

A unique and often overlooked part of federal disability retirement is that you can get approved for it while still electing to draw the OWCP benefits (which are usually higher) and switch over to the disability if something goes wrong with your federal workers comp claim.

Be on the lookout for episode 2 and 3 of this series. Also, be sure to send your questions to Mail@HarrisFederal.com and put Video Blog in the subject line. Harris Federal will try to answer your questions in future episodes on the video blog!

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Do I qualify for federal disability retirement benefits?

More often than not, injured federal employees think that they are only eligible for compensation if they are unable to work as a result of an injury suffered on the job. While this is the case for individuals seeking federal workers compensation benefits, federal disability retirement benefits do not require a federal employee to have suffered their disabling condition, injury or illness while on the clock.

To qualify, the federal worker must be employed with their federal agency for 18 months or longer, in a full-time position and be under the age of 62. Furthermore, applicants have up to one calendar year from their date of separation from federal service to apply if they are no longer employed in their position that they are seeking to be declared disabled from.

The Office of Personnel Management, the entity that determines who qualifies for federal disability retirement benefits, uses seven criteria to determine that eligibility. Applicants must show that they became disabled as a result of a medical condition that creates a deficiency in performance, conduct or attendance; causing the federal employee to be less than fully successful in their permanent, full-time position. Those wishing to qualify for federal disability retirement must also prove that their medical condition is defined as a disease or injury.

Harris Federal Law Firm

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Federal Disability Retirement news

On April 26, the US Senate approved a provision that should it become a law, lessens the income of those on federal workers compensation when they become eligible for standard retirement. As of now, federal workers compensation is a better financial option to employees injured on the job than federal disability retirement.

While federal workers compensation is headed by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP), under the Department of Labor, federal disability retirement is controlled by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

FECA, the Federal Employees Compensation Act, controls federal workers compensation by providing compensation in the form of a lump sum payment due to disabilities caused in the workplace.

A non-schedule award is payment for the loss of earning capability, or income, during a set time period where the employee is unable to perform job duties as a direct result of the sustained on the job injury. A payment for the permanent impairment caused on the job is known as a schedule award.

Federal disability retirement exists to provide a retirement payment that can replace part of the salary lost due to the employee’s inability to perform their job duties. Federal disability retirement differs from OWCP workers compensation as those applying for federal disability retirement do not have to suffer from a medical condition that occurred on the job.

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Success Story: DHS Investigator in Arizona

Y.E., age 44, had worked 20 years as an investigator in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security in Arizona. Unfortunately, she broke her right ankle and elbow. Her ankle required surgery, with plates inserted on both sides and screws in the back of the ankle. The broken elbow continued to cause Y.E. severe pain all the way down to her fingertips. She also suffered from a dislocation of her left knee, for which she had undergone 3 different surgeries throughout the years.

Combined, her injuries prevented her from running, climbing, carrying a firearm, or conducting surveillance. She was unable to safely make arrests, execute search warrants, or conduct interviews of suspected criminals. Y.E. was approved for FERS disability retirement with the help from Harris Federal Law Firm.

Y.E. also had two accepted OWCP Federal Workers Compensation cases for the injuries described above.  Harris Federal Law Firm was able to win her Schedule Award benefits for both OWCP claims totaling $276,179.60. 

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