In 2016, 2.39% of VA employees had OWCP injury claims that were accepted. This accepted OWCP claims rate is lower than the average of all federal agencies (3.19%), and this is due to a number of factors that we will discuss here.
VA employees have a wide range of duties that potentially could lead to work injuries. Nurses have to lift patients. Maintenance staff climb ladders and lift heavy equipment. Janitorial staff could slip on wet floors. Administration staff lift heavy boxes of paper along with a variety of other heavy items. Of course, these are just examples. Lots of other situations could lead to injuries.
So, when VA workers suffer work-related injuries, they have some obstacles that other federal employees rarely have to deal with. First, the VA is a medical agency: hospitals and outpatient facilities. There is a false belief that injured VA employees are required to go to VA doctors when they're hurt at work. This is simply not true. An excerpt of the law from OWCP says the following:
Agency personnel may not interfere with the employee's right to choose a physician, nor may they require an employee who claims an injury to go to a physician who is employed by or under contract to the agency before going to the physician of the employee's choice.
In other words, VA employees can not be forced to go to VA doctors when they suffer OWCP work injuries. Don't get me wrong - VA doctors are world-class physicians. They are some of the very best doctors in the world. They just aren't specifically trained in OWCP. Without this specific training, OWCP injury claims get denied.
Another problem VA employees deal with is simply not knowing what to do when they are hurt on the job. DOL has a great document called a CA-10: What a Federal Employee Should Do When Injured at Work. VA employees need to be familiar with this document. It's so important. To summarize, here's what it says:
- Report your injury immediately to your supervisor.
- Tell your supervisor to give you a CA-16 to authorize medical care. This step also says you can choose your own doctor.
- File a CA-1 or CA-2 when reporting your injury. This must be filled out by the injured employee and the supervisor.
- Obtain a receipt from your supervisor for the filing or your CA-1 or CA-2.
- Elect to use sick or annual time or elect Continuation of Pay (COP) in case you have to be off work when you're unable to work full duty.
The next problem is one that all federal employees deal with, and that is not being able to find a willing and trained doctor who understands and accepts OWCP. The nation's biggest problem with respect to OWCP federal workers compensation is a massive shortage of willing, trained OWCP doctors. When you can't find doctors who understand OWCP, injury claims are denied - period. When OWCP injury claims are denied, they're not counted in the annual injury statistics.
The final problem we'll discuss here is that many federal employees fear being fired if they report an OWCP work injury. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE FIRED FOR REPORTING AN INJURY. Look back at step 1 from the CA-10 above. Federal employees are REQUIRED to report work injuries. Those 5 steps above ARE THE LAW. Supervisors can't fire you for following the law. Some supervisors aren't well trained in OWCP and may not understand your rights or their responsibilities. The CA-10 helps with that. We actually had a supervisor who threatened a federal employee that he was going to be fired. Of course that never happened. We showed him the LAW. That employee still has their job. We've talked with lots of federal employees who have had careers of 20 years, 30 years and more. We asked them how many people they ever saw get fired for filing an OWCP federal work injury. Every single person answered "nobody". In all of their years on the job, these career federal employees couldn't think of a single person who was fired for filing a work injury. If just doesn't happen.
2.39% is the percentage of VA employees who have ACCEPTED OWCP INJURY CASES. Denied cases are not counted. The real shame of it all is that VA employees have such an important job helping our nation's veterans. While they're helping veterans, who's helping them? If we don't take care of our VA personnel, who's going to help veterans? Federal employees make this country go. When they break we have to fix them. We have to get their OWCP injury claims accepted so they can get better without paying money from their own pocket and without using their own sick and vacation time. When we can get their OWCP claims accepted, they can get all of the treatment needed so they can get back to work without re-injury.
Federal Injury Centers and the doctors around the country that are associated with FIC know how to get OWCP injury claims accepted. While VA employees have a 2.39% accepted claims rate nationwide, Federal Injury Centers patients have a 100% OWCP claims acceptance rate. We're committed to helping our injured VA employees so they can get back to work helping our nation's sick and injured veterans.