What is a Schedule Award?
If you are a current or past federal employee and were permanently injured while on the job, then you could be entitled to receive compensation for your injury. This type of compensation is what is known as a schedule award. Applying for this type of award is a time consuming and meticulous process. We don’t recommend going through the approval process by yourself. Embarking on a claim without the right expertise could cause unnecessary frustration through the process.
The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) has strict criteria and guidelines for eligibility. Your claim must be established in a very specific manner. Our firm has 50 years of experience gathering the evidence needed to make a successful claim. And we know what does not make a successful claim. Going through the process is not worth your time if you have one of the following 6 barriers to receiving an award.
What if you get denied but believe you still have a case? Let us know. We’re here to help.
1. Having a Non-Qualifying Injury
The OWCP lists specific body parts that qualify for receiving a schedule award. It is worth taking the time to check if your injury meets the basic qualifications before you go through the award process. There must be permanent damage to the body part that results in loss of functionality. These are the body parts that qualify:
Unfortunately, if you have an injured body part, not on the list, you do not qualify for an award. Heads, necks and backs are not part of the schedule list. There is, however, some opportunity to obtain an award for the effect of a spinal injury on a covered extremity – if the medical proof is substantial. Psychiatric injuries are also not covered on the schedule list.
Certain injuries can be evaluated without reference to the Sixth Edition of the AMA Guides. Vision loss and hearing loss are two such conditions. Despite the clear statement of the law, the OWCP often gets it wrong. For example, the OWCP says if you lose total vision in one eye, you are entitled to a 50% impairment award because you have the sight in your other eye, however ECAB does not agree.
Our firm has convinced the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) that total loss of vision is not a 50% loss of vision. We won a case that set this standard several years ago. For more information, go to the ECAB case on the loss of vision: A.G. v. Dept. of the Army, Docket No. 11-1512 issued October 4, 2019.
2. Previously Paid an Award
If you received a prior award, already have federal workers compensation schedule award and you want to apply for a new award, it may not be beneficial to you. This is because if the new award you are applying for is less than your previous award, the OWCP will classify it as an overpayment. Prior percentages are subtracted from present awards.
If you have an existing award consult with a legal professional to make sure you will not be charged with an overpayment.
3. Receiving a Federal Workers’ Compensation Award of Temporary Total Disability or Loss of Wage Earning Capacity
You cannot receive two types of federal workers’ compensation at the same time. It’s not in your best interest to apply for a schedule award while receiving either temporary total or loss of wage earning capacity in most instances. However these are exceptions and you should check this out.
There are several different types of federal workers’ compensation benefits such as medical services, partial and total disability, vocational rehabilitation, and aggravation of a pre-existing medical condition. To see a full list and get more information, go to the Division of Federal Employees Compensation Act.
4. Receiving Loss of Wage Earning Compensation
Loss of wage earning compensation is another type of benefit an injured federal worker may receive. Loss of wage earning compensation is a benefit that takes into account a permanent injury that would prevent the federal worker from being able to earn a living. Loss of wage earning compensation is a very complex issue.
If you are receiving a loss of wage earning capacity compensation, this will stop while you are receiving the schedule award. For instance, it would be like using your own money to pay the schedule award.
5. Having a Pension or Disability Coverage
Certain types of pensions or disability insurance policies may offset a schedule award. Social Security Disability will offset up to 80% of any schedule award.
So if you already have a form of disability coverage or a pension, you might be best off waiting until you receive social security retirement. A pension or disability benefit is most likely a greater benefit to you then what you would receive from a schedule award. Also VA service connected benefits may be impacted by an award.
6. Physician Input
Obtaining a competent, fully rationalized medical report is key.
Getting the process and paperwork done right the first time is critical. Make sure the physician is experienced in the medical evaluation for a schedule award and all the necessary paperwork is filled out accurately.
7. Interaction of Body Parts and Previous Awards
ECAB issued a very important and interesting decision on November 19, 2018, G.B. and Department of Navy, Docket No. 18-0545
I quote the ECAB decision as follows:
“The Board also notes that appellant was granted a prior schedule award for permanent impairment of the right wrist and shoulder. The current schedule award claim is for permanent impairment of his right elbow. OWCP regulations provide that benefits payable under section 8107(c) shall be reduced by the period of compensation paid under the schedule for an earlier injury if: (1) compensation in both cases is for impairment of the same member or function or different parts of the same member or function; and (2) OWCP finds that the later impairment in whole or in part would duplicate the compensation payable for the preexisting impairment. As OWCP did not adequately explain why appellant’s current claim would duplicate his previous compensation, upon remand if OWCP determines that appellant has a permanent impairment of his right elbow, it shall obtain clarification from an OWCP medical advisor regarding whether the latest rating would in whole or in part duplicate of the prior schedule award.”
If you do not have any of the above restrictions to receiving a schedule award, then you can move forward with the claim process. Applying for a schedule award and gaining approval can take awhile.