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Checklist For Letter Carriers Injured On Duty
There is no greater occurrence of United States Postal Service management abuse of letter carrier rights than when we are injured while performing our carrier duties. Injured letter carriers are protected by the Federal Employee's Compensation Act (FECA); provisions of which are incorporated into the National Agreement through Articles 3 and 19. I t is also found in 540 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.
The FECA is administered by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP), which is a part of the United States Department of Labor. All injury claims made by postal and federal employees are adjudicated by OWCP. The Postal Service itself has no authority to approve or disapprove employee injury claims.
As with all other aspects of our employment, knowledge and self assurance are our most effective weapons in response to USPS policies of deliberate abuse and interference with our rights under this Law.
Before an injury occurs, think about and answer the following:
1. Do I have a physician or medical facility that is always available during work hours, and that I trust to look after my interests when I am injured?
2. Am I aware of all of my rights and responsibilities under the provisions of the Federal Employees Compensation Act?
When an injury occurs, the following steps and procedures should always be followed by a letter carrier:
1. If emergency medical treatment is necessary, request to go to the physician or facility that you already have in mind should such an event occur. Even if emergency treatment is not necessary, and you wish to have treatment or a medical evaluation from your chosen physician, you should do so as soon as possible.
This is particularly true if management has already scheduled you to see its physician for an "evaluation." If your chosen physician is immediately available, then management may not delay your treatment or medical evaluation from this person by sending you to its own physician first.
2. If your chosen physician is not immediately available, the Postal Service may send you for an evaluation of your condition by its own contract physician or facility. This will not be considered your choice of physician if you have made it clear you wish to be evaluated and treated by your own physician.
Any time and travel to the physician is always on the clock at management's expense, including the payment of mileage if you use your own vehicle. Remember, at all times management's physician is paid by the Postal Service, and therefore has a stake in looking out for its interests, and not yours. You can refuse all treatment from management's physician in non-emergency situations.
3. All follow up treatment for medical emergencies should be with your own physician, even if he or she was not available to provide initial emergency treatment. This is also true for necessary follow up treatment and evaluation for non-emergency injuries. All follow up evaluation and treatment is to be on the clock, during scheduled hours and on scheduled work days.
4. OWCP form CA-1 should be completed by you, or by someone acting on your behalf (preferably not a supervisor) as soon as possible. Your supervisor must complete his or her portion of the CA-1 and provide you with the receipt that is attached to the form. This is mandatory. Insist on it!
Never report an injury by merely making a written or oral statement about what happened. The future consequences of such a mistake can be very costly to you. Management must explain the procedures, choices, and your rights under the FECA.
5. It is never necessary to use sick or annual leave to cover the fir 45 days (calendar days) off work due to an on-the-job injury if your physician determines you are totally incapacitated for work. Always check Box A (Continuation of Pay for up to 45 days) on the CA-1 form. If the period of total disability continues beyond 45 days from the occurrence of the injury, a claim for compensation, made on a form CA-7, is necessary. Compensation payment for approved claims begins after a three-day waiting period. This is waived if the period of continued disability exceeds 14 days.
6. Before obtaining any medical treatment or evaluation, first obtain forms CA-16 (authorization for treatment) and CA-17 (Duty Status Report) from the supervisor responsible for providing these forms.
7. If work is available within your physician's stated medical restrictions, and it is offered to you, then you must accept this work or use your own leave to cover any lost work hours. If you have chosen your own physician as the physician of record for your injury, your duty status and work restrictions, if any, are determined solely by your physician.
These may not be overruled or changed by management's bought and paid for doctors. You may be required to provide to your physician a listing or description of available limited duty work in your facility.
8. Management may not schedule or instruct you to do any work that violates or exceeds the medical restrictions as determined by your physician. If no work is available within these restrictions (management must make every effort to find something for you to do) then you must be paid continuation of pay (COP) for up to 45 days, as previously defined.
The guidelines and procedures cited apply to on the job traumatic injuries only. They do not apply to occupational illness or disease claims (made on form CA-2), or to any non-job related condition. If you have questions or feel that your rights have been violated by management, or if management retaliates in any way as a response to your report of an injury or because of your insistence upon enforcement of your rights, you should request to see your steward or contact your local National Association of Letter Carriers branch officials.
Joe Golonka is Vice President of Western Wayne County, Michigan Branch 2184 of the NALC. He has been a letter carrier for nearly 27 years (June 5, 1971) and an NALC member from day one. He has served as a Union official for 25 years, both as a Steward and also as Branch 2184 Vice Preseident for more than 16 years. Joe has also served as a Detroit District NALC DPS Coordinator for the past five years, and previous to this he was a member of the Detroit District TE joint task force. He also functions as a NALC legislative liaison for Michigan's 13th District. Joe received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1989, and is a volunteer severe local storm spotter (Skywarn program) for the National Weather Service.