More On Disability Vs. OWCP Part 1

Sep 20, 2013

A federal worker learning about OWCP.

We thought it would be worthwhile to go into even more detail about the confusion over choosing to file for Federal Disability Retirement instead of staying on federal workers compensation benefits. The most important thing to remember is that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STOP OWCP PAYMENTS TO FILE FOR DISABILITY!

This is something that many people do not understand. If you were injured at work, federal comp payments are usually the highest paying option. Go for it! If you can get and stay on OWCP benefits, they will also cover all medical expenses related to your at-work injury. The problem for OWCP claimants is if they neglect to file a timely application for federal disability retirement, they may lose that option permanently.

Temporary Nature of OWCP Payments

OWCP lost wage compensation is not meant to be permanent. The technical title for these payments is “Total Temporary Disability” (TTD). That is a confusing and somewhat misleading name. The key is that they consider them temporary.

All of the money that they pay to you eventually goes back and is charged to your employing agency. Your agency is motivated to get you off of those benefits to reduce their financial exposure to injured employees that aren’t at work. This means that they may offer some sort of modified duty, create an LWEC (Loss of Wage Earning Capacity), or apply pressure to the OWCP to get you to see a “second opinion” doctor.

Let’s dive into each of these issues one at a time, and then we will talk about the danger in ignoring federal disability retirement:

First, if you employing agency offers modified duty, the OWCP can suspend or potentially take away your compensation on a permanent basis if you do not accept the position. The job is supposed to be within your work restrictions, but those lines can become unclear if your doctor is not extremely clear as to what you can and can not do. Believe us when we say that the agency can take what seems like even the best medical reports and use them against you. If decline the job, that gives them grounds to deny payments to you.

In addition, once you accept the modified job, you are now in a position that is not graded or classified as a real position in the agency. They can remove that job without having to justify the termination in the normal procedure.

The Danger of Ignoring Federal Disability Retirement

A few years ago, the USPS rolled out what they called the National Reassessment Program. They sent home almost every modified employee with no notice or pay, saying that they did not perform essential functions at the office and told them to take it up with the OWCP if they wanted to get paid. The problem was that the OWCP’s position was that most of these people were capable of some kind of work, as evidenced by the fact that they were working in modified duty. Since they were not totally disabled, they were not eligible to be paid on TTD because they were not “totally” disabled.

Thousands of postal employees were out of work with no compensation. This is the danger of riding the OWCP payment wave and not planning for a future issue.

Federal Disability Retirement can provide a safety net in case your OWCP benefits are discontinued. It’s crucial to remember that you don’t have to stop receiving OWCP payments to file for disability. If you’re feeling uncertain about which route to take, reach out to experienced professionals who can guide you through the process and help you make the best decision for your situation. Schedule a free consultation today!

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