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When Federal Employees Need Legal Representation- Part 3

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MSPB – Prohibited Personnel Practices –  https://www.mspb.gov/

The Merit Systems Protection Board protects federal employees from “Prohibited Personnel Practices.” This includes protecting employees from wrongful termination, nepotism, whistleblowing, misclassification, political activity, etc.. The MSPB also administers the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA https://www.mspb.gov/mspbsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=367903&version=368536&application=HTML) which protects non-career uniformed service members by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of military service and ensures that federal agencies comply with their obligation to reemploy the service member after he or she has completed a period of military service.

Our firm represents employees who are fighting adverse actions at every stage of the MSPB process. We have a proven track record of helping employees keep their jobs, getting those jobs back after wrongful termination, and getting discipline rescinded.

EEOC – Discrimination/Harassmenthttps://www.eeoc.gov/

The EEOC protects employees from discrimination and harassment based on the employee’s status as a member of a protected class. Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Employees are also protected from any action taken in retaliation for an employee filing an EEO complaint. This includes everything from a hostile work environment to non-selection for a position. For our clients who are veterans, this often includes discrimination based on disabilities acquired during active duty.

Contact with the Agency’s EEO office to begin the complaint process must occur within 45 days of the discriminatory event. Claims are initiated through each Agency’s internal EEO office. The Agency then connects the employee with a counselor to discuss the claim and try and reach an early resolution. If no resolution is reached, the employee then may file a formal complaint of discrimination. If the complaint meets various requirements, including timeliness, the Agency is then obligated to undertake an investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, or once 180 days have passed since the complaint was filed, the employee may then request that the Agency make a Final Agency Decision (FAD) or request a hearing with an EEOC administrative law judge. The employee may also elect to leave the administrative process and file a complaint in federal court.

Our firm Brown & Goodkin can assist with these complaints at any stage of the process.

These systems are designed to protect federal employees from bad things that happen to them while employed. Unfortunately, the administrative law procedures are complex and nuanced. While retaining an attorney is not required, we recommend that anyone who is looking to start one of these processes call to discuss their case with our office. We offer a free initial discussion with an attorney who will discuss your situation and see what system will best address your and your family’s needs.

When Federal Employees Need Legal Representation- Part 2

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By Dan Goodkin

FECA – Workplace Injuries – https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/

Government employees who are injured on the job are covered by FECA. This is a process akin to filing to an insurance claim and is administered entirely by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The program provides benefits to employees who suffer from a traumatic injury, occupational disease or if they are killed while working or because of an injury suffered or disease acquired because of work. There are multiple deadlines for filing FECA claims depending on the type of claim. Typically, an injured worker has 3 years from the date of injury or the date of last exposure to whatever factor of employment caused his or her injury to file a claim. There are exceptions, such as when the injured worker does not know that a condition is related to work or the condition does not manifest until after the three years. This happens frequently with claims of asbestosis which does not typically show up until many years after exposure.

Under FECA, there is no apportionment. This means that if work duties cause a worsening of a pre-existing injury, the entire resulting condition is covered under FECA. That means that if a Veteran leaves the military with an injury, and it is worsened by subsequent federal civilian service, the injury will likely be covered under FECA. There may be an off-set between FECA benefits and VA disability benefits, but it is typically worth getting the injury covered under FECA as not all benefits are offset.

Benefits under FECA include 100% covered medical care with the injured workers’ physician of choice, wage loss benefits if the employee is unable to work because of the work-related medical condition (66 2/3% or 75% of lost wages, tax free), and a possible cash award for permanent impairment to the extremities and various organs should the injury result in permanent damage. It also includes vocational rehabilitation services. In the event the employee dies from his or her work related injury, FECA provides a survivor benefit to any surviving spouse or dependents.

Our firm has been handling FECA claims for decades. Attorney Steven Brown founded the FECA section of the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and Attorney Daniel Goodkin is now the Co-Chair of the FECA section of that organization.

 

MSPB – Prohibited Personnel Practices –  https://www.mspb.gov/

The Merit Systems Protection Board protects federal employees from “Prohibited Personnel Practices.” This includes protecting employees from wrongful termination, nepotism, whistleblowing, misclassification, political activity, etc.. The MSPB also administers the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA https://www.mspb.gov/mspbsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=367903&version=368536&application=HTML) which protects non-career uniformed service members by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of military service and ensures that federal agencies comply with their obligation to reemploy the service member after he or she has completed a period of military service.

Our firm represents employees who are fighting adverse actions at every stage of the MSPB process. We have a proven track record of helping employees keep their jobs, getting those jobs back after wrongful termination, and getting discipline rescinded.

In Part 3, the final installment will cover the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When Federal Employees Need Legal Representation- Part 1

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By Dan Goodkin

According to the Office of Personnel Management, veterans make up approximately thirty percent of the federal workforce. In 2015, approximately one third of new hires by the federal government were veterans. Most federal employees who become disabled, are injured on the job, wrongfully disciplined, or are the victims of discrimination or harassment have options to secure their financial future that they may not be aware of. With more than 50 years of combined experience representing federal employees in all of these administrative matters, Brown & Goodkin limits its practice to representing federal employees in these matters.

The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) program covers employees who become disabled; workplace injuries are covered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA); adverse actions, such as wrongful termination or suspension, are covered by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB); and discrimination/harassment based on a protected status is covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.)

FERS Disability Retirement https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/fers-information/types-of-retirement/#url=Disability

Under FERS, most federal employees, who began employment after 1984, and who have 18 months or more of federal service who become disabled are eligible to retire early. Eligibility under disability retirement does not require a showing that the employee is totally disabled. The employee need only show that he or she is disabled from his or her official position. The annuity benefit is paid at 60% of the employee’s high 3 average for the first year of disability and 40% each year after until the employee turns 62. While receiving this annuity, the annuitant will still receive the group rate for health insurance.

At 62, the annuity is re-calculated as if the employee did not have to retire early, and years of service for the time the employee received a disability annuity are added to the total years of service. Veterans who buy back their military time prior to retirement can also add the number of years of military service to the total years of service computation at age 62. Disability retirement applications can be filed while employed, even if still working, and up to one year after employment has ended, regardless of whether the employment ended because of termination. Our firm offers 100% money back guarantee with regard to our representation for disability retirement applications.

The next installment will cover Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB.)

Trump Budget Bad News for Vets, Government Retirees

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By Debbie Gregory.

While President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 aims to improve veteran care, it includes a plan to round down cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and boot some disabled, unemployed veterans from a program that allows them to receive higher disability payments.

The budget proposes to stop the higher payments once a veteran who is eligible for Social Security payments reaches the minimum age to receive them. Veterans who have already reached that age and receive Social Security would be removed immediately.

If a 60 percent disabled veteran living alone is removed from the Individual Unemployability program, their payments could decrease from the highest rate of $2,915 monthly to $1,062.

Changes would be even more dramatic for the estimated 70,000 civilian federal employees who retire yearly, along with the hundreds of thousands who are already collecting their pensions.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating annual cost-of-living increases for Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) enrollees completely, and lowering the adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) enrollees by 0.5 percent.  CSRS beneficiaries are not eligible for Social Security payments. FERS employees are, but those government pensions still make up a significant portion of their retirement income.

The total VA budget exceeds $186 billion for fiscal 2018, which begins October 1st. It’s a nearly 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017.

Congress would have to approve the budget proposal, but both Republican and Democratic lawmakers rejected the budget blueprint, even before it was formally released.

“Almost every president’s budget proposal is basically dead on arrival, including President Obama’s,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, making the point that such proposals are more statements of priorities than legislation. He added that Trump’s budget “may find a similar fate.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.