In 1998, the OWCP injury claim acceptance rate in the Department of Veteran’s Affairs was 4.42%. That was the first year that OSHA started keeping these stats. That data can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/dep/fap/statistics/fedprgms_stats98.html.
The acceptance rate is the percentage of employees that had an OWCP injury claim that was accepted / approved by the Department of Labor. Denied claims are not counted and claims that were never attempted are not counted. They only count claims that were attempted by injured employees and then approved by DOL. That’s the claims acceptance rate.
20 years ago, that rate was 4.42% (for the employees of the VA). By the end of 2017, it was all the way down to 2.2%. It was cut in half.
5 Factors Leading to Denied OWCP Injury Claims
It’s always been bad. 4.42% is a terrible percentage. 2.2% is also terrible. This terrible OWCP claims acceptance rate is due to 5 factors that I’ve learned about after talking to hundreds of VA employees over the years and from hearing the stories of injured VA employees who reported their situations to their doctors.
- VA employees don’t know what to do when they’re hurt at work. Confusion leads to them not even attempting to file their claims.
- Some supervisors threaten injured employees with the possibility of being fired for filing claims. The threat of job loss is often too powerful to overcome.
- Some supervisors refuse to assist injured VA employees with filing their OWCP injury claims. Supervisors are actually charged with helping in this process.
- Many VA employees have been told they are required to go to the VA doctors when they’re hurt on the job. This is false. Everyone has the right of choice and VA doctors, although they are typically world-class doctors, generally don’t write reports that get OWCP claims approved.
- Most VA employees report having a very hard time finding a qualified OWCP injury doctor who is willing to help them. A lack of doctors is a leading cause of denied OWCP claims, and when they do find a doctor who will take on their case, those doctors are very often untrained and unable to write great reports. The result is denied OWCP claims.
But the problem is getting worse. The current 2.2% OWCP claims acceptance rate is the worst in 20 years and our VA employees are suffering. They’re working with injuries. They’re fearing for their jobs. Anxiety, depression, financial loss – all very real problems that far too many VA employees suffer. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS. How can we know this problem exists and continue to ignore it? A huge percentage of VA employees (and employees in many other agencies) are working hurt. Denied claims have become such a common theme that many people think OWCP benefits are not a real thing.
No Legitimate OWCP Claim Should Ever Be Denied
Denied claims are unacceptable. No legitimate claim should ever be denied. Employees need to educate themselves on what to do when they’re hurt on the job. Supervisors need to follow the LAW and provide the assistance required to file OWCP claims. Unions need to be involved. Assistance with OWCP claims should be a tremendous benefit to AFGE members.
Stop forcing VA employees to go to VA doctors who don’t have the time to write great causation reports. And the law specifically states that no federal employee can be forced to go to a doctor under employment or under contract with a federal agency. That means VA doctors. And finally, federal employees need competent doctors who know how to get OWCP injury claims approved. That is exactly the mission of Federal Injury Centers.
No more denied OWCP claims. We can stop this, but we all have to be in this thing together.