Q & A with Attorney Leah Bachmeyer Kille on OWCP Stress Claims
Recently, Harris Federal hosted a webinar about OWCP stress claims, which are federal workers’ compensation claims attributed to a mental or emotional condition. The webinar was a great success, and we were pleased to receive so many follow up questions pertaining to the presentation. Associate Attorney Leah Bachmeyer-Kille hosted the webinar, and answered the submitted questions. In case you are interested in learning more about OWCP stress claims, here are a few of her answers:
IMPORTANT NOTE: None of the following is intended to be legal advice. This is a very intricate area of law, and answers vary significantly on a case-by-case basis. If you believe you may qualify for an OWCP stress claim, we highly recommend consulting with an experienced legal professional about your particular case.
Q.) Can you have a compensable claim regarding an assault at work?
A.) As with most answers in this arena, it really depends upon the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Generally speaking, the reason for the assault is more important than the actual location of the incident. If the assault occurred because of personal reasons between the assailant and the victim, the claim will be denied (example: a case where a co-worker physically attacked the claimant at work after accusing her of having a relationship with her boyfriend was denied because the injury did not arise “in the performance of duty” and there was no indication that the federal work contributed to the dispute).
Q.) Is it possible to have an accepted claim, but be denied compensation for time loss due to injury for accepted claim?
A.) Yes. It is possible for your claim to be accepted for a condition, but for OWCP to deny wage-loss compensation. Even with a compensable injury, you must still be able to prove that you were unable to work because of your conditions for the time/dates requested in your CA7 for wage loss compensation.
Q.) Can a stress claim arising out of co-worker harassment/discrimination be compensable?
A.) I would have to say that it depends. For example, the OWCP has held that an emotional claim arising from a physical altercation between a claimant and a co-worker may be compensable, so long as the dispute arises out of work-related reasons and not for some personal reason or strife between the employees.
Generally speaking, like a claim of stress arising from harassment from a supervisor, you can claim an emotional condition arising from harassment of a co-worker, but youl must present credible corroborating evidence, such as witness statements from co-workers and evidence that management took corrective evidence against the harassing co-worker. Keep in mind that not everything a co-worker says or does may constitute enough to reflect harassment or a hostile work environment. And as always, even if you can prove compensable harassment in the workplace, you must then prove (through a doctor’s opinion) that the claimed emotional condition is causally related to the harassment through your medical evidence.
Q.) Can you add a stress component to your currently existing and accepted injury claim?
A.) It depends on your particular facts and circumstances. Generally, stress and depression caused by ongoing and chronic pain from an existing and accepted injury claim can be accepted. Stress related to the OWCP processing of claims, including going through vocational rehab, however, are generally not covered by FECA unless the claimant can show that there was some real error or abuse in the processing of the claim.
Q.) Can a stress claim also include a claim for a heart condition, which stems from the stress?
A.) It depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. If you already have an accepted emotional condition, you can certainly try to expand the claim to include a consequential injury, such as a heart condition. However, as with all claims for consequential injuries, the claimant is the one that must prove that the heart condition was a natural consequence that flowed from the injury which was deemed to arise out of the employment (again, with a written medical opinion). But if there is an intervening cause, the subsequent injury/condition will not be compensable.
If you are interested in pursuing a federal workers’ compensation claim, please feel free to call Harris Federal at (877) 226-2723 or fill out an ONLINE FORM to inquire about a consultation for an OWCP stress claim.