Sunday, January 18, 2009

I've been thinking

Yes, I know it's a surprise, but my brain has been very taxed this last dramatic week.

I've been wondering why the TSA suddenly came up with a light-duty position for me, a permanent light-duty position, when their official stance is that they do not offer such a position. I've been wondering why such a position was offered to me one week to the day that I notified the DOL would be my cut-off date for being able to work for awhile due to my having the babies. I wondered why the DOL pretty much forced me to sign acceptance of that job, and go in and work while so far along with twins (thanks to Ms. G. for letting me sign the paperwork and go home, or I may have had the babies right there). Is it a coincidence that my boys were born just one day after my return to work date?

On the conference call a few days ago, my claims examiner accused me of never intending to go back to work ever, at the TSA or otherwise. She really laid into me and made me shatter emotionally. As a result of that phone call, I have requested a new claims examiner be assigned to my claim because it was obvious that she has personal feelings against me that I believe make it impossible for her to work on my claim in the way she should. Many of the things she said got me thinking even more.

She didn't want to accept that I was going to actually return to work at the TSA. She told me I had to work 60 working days and after that she'd review my case and sign off if everything was satisfactory. Again, that got me thinking.

She told me many lies in that conversation, as well. I can't get into it because she may be reading this blog. I need to keep many of my cards to myself for now.

Dave has been great, devoting a lot of time helping me research this issue. He found the OWCP manual that my claims examiner has to follow. That's how I know she lied, not only in that conversation but also in many other conversations we've had. She makes me think of a line from one of Morrissey's songs, "...because you're evil and you lie."

From now on, I refuse to speak to her without consulting counsel. It's for the best.

The other day I talked to one of my neighbors whom I know also has been through a nightmare of a workers' compensation case. I didn't know this before, but his is also federal. He truly knows my pain. It got me to thinking about someday when I'm at the lighter end of this dark tunnel, trying to put together some sort of support network for others trying to get through this awful ordeal.

So I've learned a lot from the OWCP manual and it has given me some hope. Further, Dave has agreed that we can now hire a lawyer. I just hope I can get a good one who will take on my case, and soon.

Now I wanted to clarify something. I'm not in this for the schedule award. It would be nice to get it, and I know I'm entitled to it, but I think that the DOL will fight it tooth and nail. I had a claims examiner lie to me once and tell me that the only way they give them is if the claimant lost the entire limb. Okay, maybe those are the only cases they actually close with a schedule award, but their manual has a formula for granting a schedule award to anyone who is left impaired from an injury, the amount of the award is determined through a formula based on the disability rating given by the attending physician and is based on full loss of limb, partial injury being a percentage of what they would give for a lost limb, the lost limb being 100%. One can even get a schedule award for carpal tunnel syndrome. You cannot get a schedule award until you get through the OWCP part of the claim. The DOL sure drags the OWCP portion out, I think forever perhaps.

They are supposed to review the OWCP case for closure after the claimant makes it through 60 days of suitable employment. Their manual mentioned a case that was denied for the claimant being "uncooperative and unwilling to work" because he retired after 2 and a half years after returning to work. It made me realize that this job at the TSA is not truly a 60-day sentence, it's a life sentence.

Their manual says they can apply "sanctions" to any claimant declared "uncooperative and unwilling to work." I can't find what those sanctions are but they are not good, I know that. Further, being declared uncooperative and unwilling to work renders the claimant forever unable to claim SSI or a schedule award. It also may hurt the claimant's chances of obtaining employment in the future. Let's say I wanted to be a teacher at a private school. They do a background check and this turns up. Do you think they'd hire me? Probably not.

Let's face it, this economy is BAD and it has been difficult to find a job not just lately, but since the dot-com crash in 2000. Jobs are getting more and more scarce. As they become more scarce, employers require more in skills and in work history. They run more background checks. If an employer had 2 applicants that were equal in skill and work history, but one had a workers' compensation claim that was closed due to the claimant being "uncooperative and unwilling to work," you can bet that person wouldn't get the job. They can't fall back on SSI, that's cut off, too. Also, they are permanently disabled, cannot get a job, and cannot get disability, where to now?

They are supposed to pay for my injury related medical treatment forever. They haven't approved any pain treatments in 2 years. I have no faith that they will pay for anything other than my regular doctor visits with Dr. R. and this is probably for their benefit to monitor my case closely.

They are pure evil, these people.

So, in all my thinking it dawned on me that the offer was not in good faith. Perhaps Ms. G. is not complicit in this; perhaps she's a pawn. This is what I think happened:

  1. My claim was in the process of being closed due to my being "uncooperative and unwilling to work" because I couldn't find a job in a bad job market.
  2. I appealed this decision.
  3. I won the appeal.
  4. I requested that my benefits continue retroactively from the date of termination.
  5. My request was accepted, not long after I got a new vocational rehabilitation counselor (she's very nice, btw.).
  6. One week after the last day I was allowed to work, I was offered a job that officially never existed before and was against policy. I think that my claims examiner or someone else involved in this case strongly urged and convinced Ms. G. to create a position.
  7. They didn't expect me to accept it or show up to work. I don't think Ms. G. was knowingly complicit because she did. If I hadn't, it would have been a slam-dunk for them.
  8. They didn't expect me to agree to going back, but I did. Again, they missed another slam-dunk.

Do I really think they'll review my claim after just 60 days? Not at this time. I think they will delay that review as long as possible. What will I do about it? I really don't know. Do I think this job will be easy? No. I think I am on very thin ice right now. What am I going to do about it? I'm going to go there and be the model employee for as long as I can. Maybe it won't be so bad.

There is the budget issue to consider. Dave and I canceled our housekeeper that was coming a few times a month. It's going to be hard going without her. She was the only help we got since we don't have family very close by. When my mom comes up she is a HUGE help, but she lives about 90 miles away and doesn't make it up here very often; she's very busy herself. I'm going to miss the housekeeper.

We are also going to cancel our water delivery. We've been meaning to, anyway, since the water comes in BPA bottles and I don't agree with the politics of bottled water, anyway, now that I've learned more about it. We are investigating filtration alternatives and will make the switch in a matter of weeks.

We may have to cancel our satellite television. It bums me out, but with working full time and caring for twins the rest of the time, and without a housekeeper, when will I have time for tv? I don't really have time for it now and our Tivo is constantly running out of space.

We're also reviewing other "luxuries" we can trim. By trimming a few hundred dollars a month we may break even with my job. The daycare is a nice place and we'll write to their corporate offices begging for a break, especially since they don't offer a discount for the 2nd child. If they give us a discount I may actually make a little money at this job after we deduct child care expenses from our taxes.

So tomorrow I go to work. It sucks and I'm torn up about it. I'll miss my babies. I hope they'll be nice to me there. They were pretty terrible to me last time I worked light-duty for them; and when it was clear my light-duty was permanent, I was told there no longer was a place for me. They wanted to fill my spot with a full-bodied employee. That's why this whole thing is very fishy.

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