January 01, 2018 - Timothy Mulvenna
I'll begin by wishing all of the members of Branch 157 and their family members a Happy New Year, and a safe and healthy 2018. Speaking of safe and healthy, I'd like to remind all of our brothers and sisters of their rights under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). As Federal civilian employees of the United States, we retain benefits under FECA for work-related injuries or occupational diseases. The administrator of these benefits is the Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP). All employees are covered under this act regardless of position held or length of service.
The first type of injury I'll talk about is a "traumatic injury". A traumatic injury is an injury that you can pinpoint exactly where and when it happened. Normally this is a slip, trip, or fall. It also could be a strain or pull of a joint or muscle. The first piece of advice I would give all letter carriers is to report an injury as soon as possible to your immediate supervisor. You may experience an incident where you sustain an injury, but you're not sure if it's a serious injury. You should, at the very least, report the incident. If you feel as though you are alright, you can state that you "are not seeking medical attention at this time". Although FECA allows you up to 3 years to file a claim from the date of injury, I can't stress enough, the importance of reporting the injury as soon as it happens. The form used to report a "notice of traumatic injury" is a CA-1. When a CA-1 is filed, you will be required to write a statement explaining in detail how the injury happened. It is important that you obtain a CA-16 from the supervisor. This is the authorization form for immediate medical treatment. This treatment should be by a physician of your choice. Also, you should obtain a "Duty Status" form CA-17. The left side of this form should be completely filled out by the supervisor. This form will give the treating physician a clear depiction of your job requirements and allows the physician to determine how much, if any, of these duties you can still perform. It is very important to get a CA-17 filled out at your initial appointment and all subsequent doctor's visits. This is the document that the Office of Workers Compensation uses to determine your work status. This can have an effect on compensation benefits.
The other type of injury I'll cover are "Occupational Disease" or a "non-traumatic injury". This is an injury, illness or condition that was sustained by the employee as the direct result of the work environment over a period of time longer than one work day or shift. In other words this condition is something that happened over time. This particular condition does not have the same reporting requirements that a traumatic injury has. If you feel as though you have this type of condition, the first thing you do is see your personal physician. When your personal physician gives you a diagnosis of your condition, you explain what you do every day and ask if the condition is related to your duties as a letter carrier. If the physician relates the condition to your duties, he needs to write a narrative giving his opinion on how the diagnosis is related to the work duties. The form used to report and occupational illness or injury is a CA-2. Along with the CA-2, you are required to submit a statement, a narrative from your physician and as always a CA-17 (Duty Status Report). Just as you would with filing a CA-1, you need to get a CA-17 filled out every time you visit your treating physician. Again, I want to express how important it is to have the physician fill out the CA-17 as it has a big effect on your compensation benefits.
I realize at times this can be a confusing process, especially if you've never been through it before. Just remember, we are always available at the local union hall to answer any questions and give you the proper direction you need. My last bit of advice would be ; after reporting the injury to your immediate supervisor, your next call should be to NALC Branch 157 (215-824-4800) to ensure you are properly handling the situation.
Happy New Year