For most of its history, the Employee Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) has, in about 60% of instances, rubber stamped what OWCP has asked for. Even in the 40% of cases where it remanded or changed the decision, it granted OWCP complete latitude as to how to correct deficiencies in its own decisions. This has recently begun to change.
In two decisions, one obtained by this firm on March 24, 2015, and in another issued by the Board on May 20, 2015, the Board has begun to stake out a new approach, one much more favorable to injured federal workers. In the decision we obtained, ECAB, for the first time in recent memory, re-established judicially that claimant statements about an injury, regardless of what they say, are to stand unless overturned by other facts or evidence.
This should come as a great relief for federal employees, especially the many over the last few years, who have had their claims second-guessed and denied by claims examiners based on the examiners’ own biases or those of their employing agencies. It also means, that any injured worker who has had his/her claim denied on this basis can now challenge the decision.
The May decision is similarly significant as it may be the only time ever that the Board affirmed evidence offered by the claimant’s physician alone as sufficient to establish that an employee was disabled from work.
These decisions alone do not guarantee winning appeals. An injured worker still needs a skilled advocate, to gather their evidence and argument, and put them before OWCP or ECAB. What these decisions do mean, is that the likelihood of victory has increased, and the many very bad decisions issued by OWCP and the previous Board, may now be successfully challenged