I’ve had federal employees get serious injuries to their extremities and if the claims examiner at OWCP finally decides to accept a claim, they accept it for a ‘sprain’ or something along those lines. I often joke with clients that an injured employee could lose an entire arm and OWCP would call it a sprained arm.
One reason that these injuries are often accepted as a sprain or strain rather than the doctor’s actual diagnosis is because OWCP then would only has to pay for medical care rather than pay a schedule award for the injury. Remember that a schedule award is paid for permanent damage to certain parts of an employee’s body. This isn’t fair to the injured employee as they have to do a lot more work to get all of their benefits. Additionally, it sets up the claim so that it appears to be a temporary rather than a permanent injury and eventually OWCP will stop paying any benefits after the injury gets ‘better’.
After a claim gets approved as a sprain or strain, I often have to file for an expansion of the claim to get the claim accepted for the more serious diagnosis. Unfortunately this takes time and often more medical evidence. However, this is an important step in ensuring that the federal employee obtains all of their compensatory benefits.