Surf the web to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and you learn that the agency’s declared mission is “to protect the interests of workers who are injured or become ill on the job, their families and their employers.” It says it looks to accomplish that mission through “timely, appropriate and accurate decisions on claims.” There’s also an affirmation for providing prompt benefit payments.
It doesn’t always work that way. As anyone in Texas or any other state with experience in dealing with the OWCP is likely to attest, denial of a claim is not uncommon. Appeals are available. But with each step taken, it can seem like you are treading deeper and deeper into a sea of rejection from which there is no rescue.
That seems to be the saga faced by a married couple in Alabama that recently came to our attention. According to their story, the husband has been fighting to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for his wife since she reported being injured in May 2011.
The woman worked as a Veterans Administration hospital nurse in Tuskegee for more than 20 years. She was on shift one day when she reached into a room to turn on a light. What she touched were wires that had been left exposed after the switch broke.
The shock left her feeling dazed and confused. But the couple says it also aggravated her multiple sclerosis. She eventually was forced to give up her job. Today, the woman wears leg braces and uses a walker.
Her initial claim for workers’ compensation benefits was denied. The OWCP said there was insufficient evidence to support that the injury occurred as it had. Six appeals followed and OWCP says each required new review and investigation.
After four years of wrangling and a second doctor’s opinion, the claim was finally accepted in July of last year. But the woman’s husband says now the fight centers on recovering the money that he says the government owes.
What this shows is that giving up after an initial denial is not the right thing to do. But it also shows that the fight for benefits due can be protracted. Getting help from experienced attorneys can be critical.