Mark A. Moshay
For Navy News 7/17/98

The horrible truth about federal workmen's comp

Health is something most of us take for granted. Until a few years ago, I believed I had some extra protection as a federal employee. The truth is, many federal employees who have been injured on the job face a nightmare, known as the Office of Workmen's Compensation Program (OWCP). OWCP is a scary organization.

My first brush with OWCP was through my friend Richard. Several years ago, Richard was injured on the job. He filled out the paperwork like he was supposed to do. He went to his doctor and provided the documentation necessary. But, after that, this man's life became a living hell. For the next few years he played cat and mouse with OWCP, trying to get them to honor his claim. In the meantime, his sick and annual leave ran out.

Richard tried everything. He sought a hearing, he wrote his congressman, he got his story publicized in the newspapers. And still nothing. It seems that he had offended OWCP in his quest to secure compensation for his family. Eventually, Richard lost his home, his savings, and just last month, he lost his job. He was fired for not showing up to work! He provided documentation from his doctor which explained that he was unable to work, but to no avail. The situation has left this man devastated.

I've spoken with a number of people who have similar stories to tell. OWCP is often erratic in its handling of claims. At times, they seem to ignore the requests of federal employees, often waiting weeks, even months to respond. When they do react promptly, it's usually to give bad news.

From what I've learned OWCP is an evasive, abusive, rogue-like entity. I'm sure there are many people who have filed a claim and had it handled without any problem. But there is no excuse for what happened to Richard, not even if it his case were one out of a thousand. However, it's doubtful that the ratio is that low.

I found similar stories on the Internet. Here are a few excerpts:

"OWCP has launched an anti-personnel campaign. All OWCP case workers are withholding mailings for days, by design, forcing exhaustion of reply time limits so as to force disabled beneficiaries off their roles."

One attorney wrote, "My clients tell similar horror stories. The problem is there is no accountability for the actions of the employing agencies, the claims examiners, the medical directors, or the OWCP in general."

"OWCP cut me off within a month and a half of my car accident and then I waited over a year for an appeals hearing. The whole process is criminal they are wrecking lives."

This is a prime example of why so many Americans distrust the government. In this case, it is government workers themselves who are being subjected to abuses by a federal agency. Last year congress initiated a comprehensive investigation of the IRS for similar reasoning. Now, it's time to do some housecleaning at OWCP.

Every federal employee is just one illness or one injury away from having their fate being placed in the hands of OWCP. This is an issue that we should pursue collectively. Contact your legislator and urge them to call for an investigation of OWCP. Tell them you are seeking assurance on your insurance.