The Union Steward’s Role in an OWCP Claim
A union steward can play a vital role in supporting a fellow union member’s On-the-Job Injury (OTJI) claim filed under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) through the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). Here’s how:
Information and Guidance:
- Clarify FECA and OWCP processes: Stewards can explain the complex FECA and OWCP regulations to injured workers, including deadlines, forms needed, and benefits available.
- Connect with union resources: Stewards can guide members to union-specific resources and legal assistance for their OTJI claim.
- Provide emotional support: Navigating OTJI can be stressful, and stewards can offer encouragement and support throughout the process.
Advocacy and Representation:
- Liaison with OWCP: Stewards can communicate with OWCP on the member’s behalf, clarify information, and advocate for fair and timely claim processing.
- Gather evidence: Stewards can help the member gather evidence to support their claim, such as medical records, witness statements, and documentation of the workplace injury.
- Attend doctor appointments: Stewards can offer accompaniment to doctor’s appointments, taking notes and ensuring the OWCP doctor understands the nature of the work injury.
- Prepare for hearings: If the claim is denied, the steward can assist the member in preparing for appeals with the Federal Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB).
Collaboration and Negotiation:
- Bridge between member and management: Stewards can facilitate communication between the injured federal worker and management regarding light duty options, return-to-work plans, and accommodation needs.
- Bargaining for additional benefits: Depending on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the steward may negotiate with management for additional benefits beyond OWCP, such as supplement pay or continuation of health insurance.
Overall, a union steward can be a valuable advocate and support system for an injured worker navigating the OWCP claim process. Their knowledge of union resources, expertise in labor laws, and ability to navigate bureaucracy can significantly benefit the member and ensure fair and successful claim outcomes.
Remember: These are general guidelines, and the specific role a steward can play may vary depending on the union’s structure, the CBA, and individual circumstances. Consult the union representative or local chapter for detailed guidance and support regarding OWCP claims.