Understanding Impairment Ratings and OWCP Schedule Awards
If you’ve sustained a disabling injury or other medical condition in your work as a federal employee, you’re probably deeply relieved to have the aid of our experienced doctors for injured federal workers in your workers’ compensation care. But just as arranging for your Federal Continuation of Payment (COP) called for medical documentation and the completion of a Form CA-1 or Form CA-2, receiving ongoing compensation for permanent disability after the initial 45 days can involve some complex steps, calculations and paperwork. Let’s take a look at how your permanent impairment rating is determined and how that rating affects your OWCP (Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs) schedule award.
Impairment Rating Evaluations
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) allows federal employees in any kind of government job to receive compensation for partial or total disability due to work-related diseases or injuries. It even makes provisions for your surviving spouse to keep receiving your compensation payments if you die of causes associated with your illness or injury. You can’t know for certain what kind of compensation you’ll receive until your level of your disability determined – this is done through a process called Impairment Rating Evaluation, or IRE.
Unlike the initial Independent Medical Exam (IME), in which DOL doctors establish your immediate need for workers’ compensation coverage, the IRE gauges the degree of permanent impairment you may have. This evaluation is scheduled once you have received 104 weeks of benefits. A medical practitioner, who may examine the affected area personally, studies your treatment history and views X-rays or other diagnostic findings. You may even be asked to perform certain motions, exercises and other actions to establish your muscle strength, neurological function and/or range of motion.
Impairment vs. Disability
The degree of impairment noted in your IRE is notated as a percentage. If you’ve irrevocably lost 20 percent of the function in your arm, for instance, your permanent impairment rating for that arm would be 20 percent. Your employer may offer assistive devices or even a whole different job if it means that you’re able to keep working. In this case, you’d be eligible for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD), with payment representing the difference between the wage you earned before your disability and the wage you can earn in your new capacity. Permanent Total Disability (PTD) is generally reserved for individuals who are so incapacitated that they cannot do any kind of work.
OWCP Schedule Awards Based on Impairment
Once the degree of impairment has been determined, it’s time to submit the necessary information to OWCP. The OWCP issues Schedule Awards only to people whose specific affected body part is included on the organization’s list of eligible limbs, members and organs. If, however, the part in question has lost function due to another, non-eligible part that is damaged at work, you may still be eligible for an OWCP Schedule Award.
OWCP uses a formula for figuring your Schedule Award, relying on a table that gives specific award amounts and numbers of compensated weeks for different body parts. If you injured your leg, for example, the OWCP will look up the award amount for a leg and multiply it by the specified number of compensated weeks. This number is then multiplied by the percentage of your impairment to find your Schedule Award sum.
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep up with and figure out in your federal workers’ compensation journey. Fortunately, Elite Healthcare Center’s team of OWCP doctors and federal injury experts can help you navigate these choppy waters more easily!