So I learned some "Wish I would have known *That* before..." information this week.
I've been working on a Schedule Award for... Oh about 3 years I guess. Ever since one of the Redding guys clued me into it. Pretty much what I knew when I started was this:
An individual becomes injured in such a way that he looses the function of a body part. He takes a CA-7, fills it out being sure to check the box in Section 2D "Schedule Award", sends it off & waits for his "X weeks of pay" to start.
Now an eagle-eyed reader may find "Schedule awards start to run at the time you reach maximum medical improvement and stop at the end of the schedule." when looking up information about a schedule award, specificly the "weeks of pay" schedule as found here.
So I got a CA-7. Filled it out. Got a letter of Maximum Medical Improvement from my Doc- Wrapped 'em up all nice, firmly attached a bow & send the whole thing in to OWCP.
That was about.... 2 years ago. (as of Spring 2007)
Things became hectic, I was dealing with a rather ineffective Vocational Rehabilitation Councelor as well as rather useless Claims Examiners in the San Francisco OWCP office (a whole 'nother story) and pretty much forgot about it until recently. Now I asked about it a few times while I still lived in California, and got the "I'll check & get back to you" (standard pass the buck) answer from my voc. rehab. guy. I'd think about it, ask, get that answer & trusting him to find something out (kinda) would wait then forget about it. Again.
Now I didn't know (still don't, actually) how the whole "Award" process would work as while I've lost the function of several limbs & organs I still have 'em. So it's not as easy as looking at me & saying "Well obviously this individual is missing both legs thus the award is X."
I expected to get a call informing me I had to go see Their Doctor who would examine me, then have to go see My Doctor for the same examination & the two would come to some conclusion as to exactly what "function" I had lost.
As I see it, here's the list:
2 Legs lost, 288 weeks' compensation. (each)
(19) Compensation for permanent partial loss of use of a member may be for proportionate loss of use of the member.
~ My left arm is screwed up. Can't tell from looking at me, but the Brachiel Plexus got smacked pretty hard, thus I have "reduced" function in the left pectoralis major & minor, deltoid, biceps brachii & the radial nerve serving the "top" of my forearm (there's a "dead spot" where feeling is "different") No idea what that "partial loss" will add to..
Here's where it gets Sticky~
(22) For permanent loss or loss of use of any other important external or internal organ of the body as determined by the Secretary, proper and equitable compensation not to exceed 312 weeks' compensation for each organ so determined shall be paid in addition to any other compensation payable under this schedule.
~My bladder still functions. (Thank God) However, I cannot tell when I need to "Go." (have to keep track of how many Big Gulps I've had & how many hours since and manually go before I inadvertantly go..) So is that worth 312 weeks?
~Bowells still function. (Thank again) However, same story as with the bladder. Again, 312 weeks?
~While I still have *external* sexual function (Thank again) I am unsure of *internal* sexual function. I've been told a few times "Something Happened" but I have no physical evidence supporting that statement. Thus can I claim 312 weeks each for testicles? I don't know.
Now note there is no provision for the loss of function of lower back or abdominal muscles- But pretty much let it be known that everything below this line does not move on command nor can it be felt. (that's why the line is there- I don't want to play the "could I feel this before?" game) So I don't know if I can work that loss into the Award somewhere.
So what's it all worth? Well... As you can see by the above list it could be anything from 576 weeks of pay (leg X2, that's it) on up. But here's where we get into another part that frankly Pisses Me Off a little. According to the SALARY TABLE 2007-GS, a GS-1 Step-1 makes $16,630/yr, which is $319.81 a week. A Gs-15 Step-10 makes $120,981/yr which is $2326.56 a week.
So if these two individuals loose a thumb in exactly the same way, same accident, same everything, it's worth 75 weeks' compensation right? The GS-1 gets $23,985.75 for his thumb. The GS-15? He gets $174,492.00. That's $150,506.25 MORE than the GS-1. For the Exact Same Loss.
Now who do you think has the better chance of "having a decent life" with this loss? The just turned 18 & was hired yesterday GS-1 or the about to retire GS-15? Think about it.
But I digress.
I have all this information & am pretty much sitting on it waiting for something to happen. Well, then I moved to Oregon. When I crossed the border my case switched from the San Francisco OWCP office to the one up in Seattle. Didn't know it at the time, but that was a godsend. I lost that useless vocational rehab councelor, and gained a new claims examiner. Once I was able to get ahold of her the new one is Wonderful. (another whole different story) In talking to her this week I found a few pertinent gems of information:
A Schedule Award pays (just like it sounds) in weeks of pay, NOT a lump sum. Want it all at once? You'll have to sell it to J.G. Wentworth to get your Cash Now!
Also, "Disibility" and "Schedule Award" Do Not pay at the same time. What? Yes that's right. Here's the timeline: Injury happens. You get 66.6% of your base pay (No, hazard, OT, night differential, holiday pay & any other "time and a ___" type additions are counted unless you're a LEO, which is another whole 'nother story) no matter your injury. Lopped off toe pays the same disibility as loosing both arms & legs. Eventually (if possible) you return to work at whatever capacity you can manage. THEN you can apply for the schedule award & collect whatever weeks of pay you're due for your injury.
Here's the rub: That guy who lost both arms & legs? He'll never return to work. Guess What? He'll also NEVER qualify for that schedule award.
Now here's another gem of information: I am on disibility right now. I get $1,950.45 a month right? If I were to get a job wherever & make $500 this month, OWCP would take $500 from this month's disiblility payment, effectively causing me to work for free. So in my situation the only way to legally get more money than $1,950.45 a month is to become employed & put in for that schedule award. Then I get to keep that $500 (or whatever) I made this month AND still get that $1,950.45. But Guess What? That schedule award is going to run out someday.... I'll still be disabled (except I'll be working so I'm "just" physicly disabled, not "employment disabled" or whatever) but can't Ever go back on "disability" to get my $1,950.45 / month "disibility pay".
Until I found out the Whole Story I had intended to use that schedule award money as a "seed" in an investment account minus a little I'd use to go buy a car.. (If you've ever heard me talk about the injury you know how much I *Hate* the FBI Van, but again, 'nother story) But now that I know some about schedule awards & know I cannot put in for the thing for ... Who knows how many years- Eventually i'll go for it. When I'm done with school (so far "retraining" through OWCP remains unpaid, another whole 'nother story) and have a "real job".. Which hopefully will pay more a month than the disibility I'm on at the moment.
So... Just thought I'd write everything down & publish it so those of you out there who remain un-injured (so far) know what you're in for when that injury happens, and those of you who have sustained an injury but returned to work know there might be a small pot-o-gold behind that missing or not working so well anymore limb.