Schedule awards are cash settlements intended to compensate the injured worker for permanent loss or more usually loss of use, of body organs or extremities. They have been authorized under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, since 1949, and may be collected at the same time while working or under OPM retirement. For this reason, many injured workers see them as the ultimate goal in the claims process.
However, it is very important to know what schedule awards will or won’t compensate. No awards are possible for injuries to the neck, back, spine or brain. However, there are schedule awards to compensate workers for just about everything else: fingers, the hand, elbow, shoulder, legs or any part there off, the stomach, lungs, kidneys, and so on. Payable benefits are based on the worker’s salary, and offer the equivalent of a few weeks to seven full years of salary, collectable as noted above.
Given these facts, OWCP has built in a number of layers of adjudication before a schedule award is usually available. In the first case, a worker has to be at least a year out from the date of injury or surgery, termed the date of maximum medical improvement, before a schedule award is payable. The workers’ physician must attest to this, and capably explain how. The next thing required, is actual permanent total or partial loss of bodily function. That is to say, that if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it must show up on EMG studies, and result in loss of grip strength or hand function. After this, the report must be reviewed by an OWCP appointed District Medical Advisor.
However, nationwide many, many physicians are unfamiliar with the specific methodology involved in providing the evaluations, which means they make mistakes to their patients disadvantage. In addition, the current system is so complex many OWCP physicians make similar mistakes, also to the claimant’s disadvantage. The only party to OWCP that has the information and ability to fight and help claimants receive the maximum benefits, are OWCP attorneys like The Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC.
Schedule awards are still relatively generous under OWCP compared to the states, but there is some effort and investment required. The major point here is that schedule award adjudication can be a complicated process, one which almost always requires an attorney to obtain a good result. We will show the variety of reasons in particular that this is the case, in our next blog post.