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DOL's Strategic Plan - Live Q&A Session with OWCP - Static Page

This chat about the DOL Strategic Plan was held on Thursday, March 25 at 3:30 p.m. EDT with OWCP.

3:23 Moderator: Welcome to the chat. We'll begin at 3:30 EDT. You can submit your questions at any time and they will go into the queue.

3:30 OWCP Dir. Shelby Hallmark: Thanks for taking the time to participate in today’s chat. I’m Shelby Hallmark, Director of the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs. This Web chat is part of our efforts to foster broader stakeholder involvement in the formulation of strategic plans for the OWCP programs. As an OWCP stakeholder, you have a strong interest in or may potentially be affected by this planning. This is an opportunity for us to speak directly with you about the work we are already doing and our plans for the future. During this chat you will also be able to view the comments of other OWCP stakeholders as well as for us to address your comments. Please keep in mind, however, that due to Privacy Act considerations, I will be unable to publicly discuss individual case issues in this forum. That said, I’m happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about the OWCP programs generally. I’m looking forward to this great discussion. While this is an open forum, please keep your comments and ideas focused and relevant to the topic, and please respect the views and feelings of all the other participants.

3:33 Comment From Judy Ikels from DOS: Thanks for doing the webchat. Is DOL still planning to provide the IT architecture for online claim filing for all claim forms. And if so, what is the time frame?

3:33 Rachel: Which program within OWCP are you referring to?

3:34 Moderator: In addition to Shelby Hallmark, we have other people answering questions today including: Doug Fitzgerald (DFEC), Rachel Leiton (DEEOIC), James DeMarce (DCMWC); and Mike Niss(DLHWC) Thursday March 25, 2010 2:48 Moderator

3:37 Comment From Art Traynor - UMWA Legal: Thanks for your hard work on behalf of our nation's coal miners.

3:38 Comment From Michael Arighi, NPS: Hi,

3:38 Comment From Michael Arighi, NPS: I'm concerned about the goals you're setting, per the plan: "–Percentage of non-Postal injured Federal workers reemployed by their agency." and "–Percentage of timely submission of FECA wage loss claims by non-Postal employers." Measurable? Sure, fairly easily. But dangerous. Why dangerous? Because YOU have no control over achievement of the goal. You can measure them, but you can't make them happen. Neither of these is a function of the Office; they are both outcomes of things done, well or ill, by the Agencies. Sure, you can measure them, but you have little control over them. You can't make an Agency take an employee back, for instance. Whether they even CAN or not is something that depends on things like employment status, hiring authorities, qualifications. Most of these things aren't even within the control of the Agency; they depend on OPM regulations. These are issues of which OWCP has no direct institutional awareness (and of which, I can say from my own experience both inside and outside FECA, they are largely oblivious). Even timely submission of claims is something you can only facilitate and encourage; you can't make it happen. That, again, is dependent on internal processes within the Agency.

3:38 Comment From Michael Arighi, NPS: DFEC

3:38 Shelby: Michael, welcome to the chat! Good to hear from you.

Real world results measures always include a component beyond the control of the measuring agency. Our current measures, such as lost production days, are subject to the same lack of control that you point to regarding the re-employment goal. We've succeeded in achieving the LPD goal via coordination with the federal agencies, posting outcomes on the Web so everyone can see how we're doing and implementing strategies we think will help where we can. This seems to work. There are no guarantees but these outcomes are fundamental to what our program is trying to achieve so we are committed to these challenging efforts.

3:41 Comment From Grant Full, BPD-Treasury: I have a question about the DFEC Communication Goals. You state that the goal is to maintain the percentage of calls responded to on same day at greater than or equal to 75%. Our office works with the majority of your District Offices, and we are lucky to hear from a Claims Examiner within 1-2 weeks on 40% of our cases. Therefore, we want to know how is your current measure then being calculated?

3:41 Comment From Grant Full, BPD-Treasury: DHS has the ability to submit their CA-7s through AQS. When will this be extended to other Departments?

3:41 Doug: Grant, with respect to how our percentage of calls responded are calculated, our program uses its collective performance for response, hold, and wait time by averaging an over-all score for the entire program. We do, however, track performance by individual district office and require corrective action from offices that are below our established thresholds. The district offices continually work to improve overall performance in this area.

With regard to your AQS/CA-7 question, the determining factor for allowing agencies to e-file via AQS is whether OWCP has an established MOU and ISA. If your agency would like to begin e-filing on AQS, please contact Dep. Dir. Tony Rios at 202-693-0040.

3:41 Comment From Bonnie Fairbee: Does the DEEOIC program have any plans to offer electronic submission for medical provider to submit claims/billing to ACS?

3:41 Rachel: The DEEOIC program does offer electronic submissions for medical providers to submit claims/billing to ACS directly. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/MedicalProvider/MedicalProvider.htm

3:41 Comment From Mary Beth Kowalski: What are the proper policy/procedures regarding an employee who is on OWCP Loss of Wages Compensation for more than 365 days? What are the steps involved in returning them to work or removing them from the agency rolls? It seems that injured workers who go on OWCP compensation are often left there indefinitely and forgotten.

3:41 Doug: Mary Beth: Where are you writing from? I suggest you contacat to the nearest DFEC district office, where our staff would be happy to answer your procedural questions. For a full list see our website at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/

3:42 Comment From Art Traynor - UMWA Legal: 1. Will the Division or Department track (and reduce) processing time as measured from the date the claim is received by DCMWC to the date of a final disposition, including appeals (OALJ, BRB, courts)?

3:42 Comment From Art Traynor - UMWA Legal: 2. What are the Division's plans for increasing claimants' access to legal representation during the claims process?

3:42 Jim DeMarce: Art -

Yes, we will be tracking times required for final disposition of claims, including in the hearings and appeals process. And the department already has goals at each of those levels. We will be reviewing those goals in light of our experience to determine whether they remain reasonable under the circumstances.

We believe that meaningful increased access to representation by miners and their widows will probably require changes in the legislation,and be beyond the power of the department to meaningfully achieve without a change in law.

3:43 Comment From Matthew: Thanks for the chat. This question pertains to DLHWC and Industry Notice 130. The DLHWC's online "Longshore Procedure Manual" discusses some general guidelines for district offices to follow with regard to an employer's late reports, etc. The procedure manual was published a few years ago. Is that still a good reference to use for DLHWC's procedural guidelines with regard to its response to late reporting?

3:43 Mike: Matthew, yes the procedure manual is still a good reference. The industry notice does not supplant the procedure manual.

3:44 Comment From Ralph Slighter, DoD: Although we see the outline of the FECA legislative proposal in the 2011 DOL budget, at http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/, we are interested in both the details of that proposal and timeframes. Can you give us an update on the legislative proposal in the budget?

3:44 Shelby: Ralph -- good to hear from you! The FECA reform proposal is currently in clearance in the Department, but I expect it to be heading to OMB -- and presumably to be circulated to the Federal agencies -- very shortly. Most of the provisions will be familiar, although we've added a few additional improvements since it was circulated last, including streamlining the benefit computation process. I look forward to the agencies' input on the bill.

3:44 Comment From Andrea Bentley, NAGE/IBPO: Hello everyone. Thank you for participating in the chat.

3:44 Comment From Gordon Muller: The new DFEC Strategic-level measures are only data collection and reporting functions. Do you plan on measuring results/impact of initiatives or just collect customer data/surveys?

3:44 Comment From Gordon Muller: Do "stakeholders" include current claimants and employees on the front line working with claimants and the existing/new process?

3:45 Doug: Gordon: If I understand your first question correctly, you are asking whether or not we'll be measuring outcomes. Our new "Return-to-Work" measure is designed to do just that. Regarding your second question: In what context are you asking if these individuals are stakeholders?

3:46 Comment From Grant Full, BPD-Treasury: I have used AQS to submit CA7s for our DHS clients, found it to be most useful. Would love to be able to do that for everyone.

3:46 Doug: Grant, as noted in my prior post, if your agency would like to begin e-filing via AQS please contact Dep. Dir. Rios.

3:49 Comment From Gordon Muller: You are seeking comments and feedback from "stakeholders" but I'm not sure how you define stakeholders.

3:49 Doug: Gordon: For the purposes of our perfomance measures in the strategic plan stakeholders mean employing agencies. Our customers are the injured workers. However, if you are talking about stakeholders to the program, that is a larger group and can include rehab counselors, doctors, nurses and other contractors that serve the program.

3:49 Comment From Sandy Roberts: If agencies feel that physicians are giving free passes to employees to stay at home, what recourse does the agency have to get the employee back to work?

3:49 Doug: Sandy, DFEC encourages employing agencies to communicate with our district offices if they believe case management issues need further attention, so I recommend that you contact the responsible claims examiner for any cases in question.

3:52 Comment From Michael Arighi, NPS: If you want a measurable goal that IS within your control, I'd propose something like "average days to respond to a claimant declination of a job offer with a suitability finding." Now THERE's something that IS under your control and which would actually serve to reduce LPDs. Harder to measure? Heck yeah. You'd have to do actual case reviews. But it gets at one of the hangups on YOUR side of the equation that keeps the LPD number high. Is it a problem that I see chronically? Yes. And I know to look for it and can often speed it up. But it still slows us down. Will this, or something like it, be one of the (undefined) "Disability Managment Goals?"

3:52 Shelby: Michael: Thanks for the input on this. Clearly, there are many points in the "Return to Work process where cases can hang up. You are pointing to one that may well be an area that DFEC should focus on. As you know, we measure many different work functions and I will take a look at whether we could start to track in this area.

3:53 Comment From Sandy Roberts: Why can't agencies have the email or direct number of the claims examiners?

3:53 Doug: Sandy, with respect to publishing telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for our staff, we do not do this because we have found that a central line for incoming calls is more efficient. Calls are routed differently in the various district offices but having a main number for each office allows the district director to monitor incoming calls and ensure that callers receive a timely response. Insofar as e-mail is concerned, e-mail traffic is inherently insecure in nature and due to the privacy act, we can not communicate with external stakeholders by this mode.

3:53 Comment From Matthew: This question pertains to DLHWC. I note the goal to reduce time to get compensation into the hands of injured workers. How will the DLHWC seek to improve the promptness of payment?

3:57 Mike: Matthew -

Our plan is to work closely with the claims adjusters on a case by case basis in the district offices as well as with corporate leadership to improve their timeliness in both reporting and paying claims. Our experience is that giving the adjusters shorter time frames often leads to faster decisions.

3:57 Comment From Judy Ikels from DOS: Also, as the system of record, is DOL planning to have a computer interface arrangement between OSHA and OWCP on essential information that OSHA requires for the 301 reporting requirements from agencies? Thanks.

3:57 Comment From Judy Ikels from DOS: efiling through AQS enabling agencies to file CA 1 and 2 to OWCP from our desktops.

3:57 Doug: Judy, under OWCP's system of records (DOL-GOVT1) disclosure of such information may be made to OSHA for the purpose of using FECA injury reports to fulfill reporting requirements. While OWCP already provides some of this information to OSHA, agencies may be required to disclose additional information pursuant to OSHA regulations.

We are happy to hear that your agency is taking advantage of e-filing via AQS.

4:00 Comment From Geralyn Bollong, TSA: Thank you for allowing us an opportunity to comment on your plan. I am courious on how you plan to obtain the outcmoe goals under your strategic goal of "Preparing workers for good jobs and ensure fair compensation". What is your plan or thoughs for achievieng the 5 outcome goals in this category? How do you plan to achieve them?

4:00 Rachel: Geralyn, OWCP goals align with a number of the secretary's outcome goals. Of the five you refer to, OWCP, in this case the Energy program, lines up with the "ensure fair compensation" and "help middle class families." The timely deliver of accurate benefits support these goals. The other four outcome goals under that strategic goal align to other DOL programs. As well, the other OWCP programs align with outcome goals associated with the "secure health benefits and for those not working provide income security."

4:01 Comment From Ron Watson, NALC: Some of the goals in the Strategic Plan exclude USPS data. What was the thinking behind this?

4:01 Doug: I have an answer for you. There are two primary reasons we are not including USPS at this time for our measures for the timely filing of CA1s, CA2s or CA7s, Lost Production Days or the new RTW outcome measures. With regard to the timely filing of forms, USPS has led the federal government in filing FECA forms timely. For CA1s and CA2s, the USPS's performance is 93.7% timely filed. For CA7s, its performance is 87.1% timely filed. The rest of the federal government's timely filing rates are 80.1% and 57.8% respectively. For this reason we do not think it is an effective measure for the USPS.

However, for measuring Lost Production Days and new RTW outcomes, we believe that the current circumstances surrounding the USPS's financial and structural challenges make measuring LPD and designing a RTW measure that would be consistent across the entire federal government difficult at this time. In recent Congressional testimony, USPS Postmaster General John Potter outlined these challenges and proposed a number of operational, workforce and organizational actions he believed should be undertaken in the near term that would, if pursued, significantly impact some of the fundamental assumptions behind these measures and unintentionally alter or skew USPS's performance. For example, a shift from a 6-day per week to a 5-day per week delivery would make comparing performance across these two environments problematic as any reductions in LDP could be attributed to less exposure to risk than to improved safety and effective RTW activities. Until USPS moves into a more defined and stable operational environment, we believe it is prudent to hold off on measuring USPS performance at this time.

4:01 Comment From Sandy Roberts: I have done that, but without success from the claims examiner when you can get through

4:02 Comment From Sandy Roberts: If an agency requests a SECOP shouldn't that request be honored to satisfy the agency that the employee is in fact disabled from working?

4:02 Doug: Sandy, if you are having difficulty getting through to the district office, I encourage you to ask to speak to the district director. If you can not get through, please contact our branch of technical assistance on 202-693-0040.

4:02 Comment From Mieassa Lib of Congress: Could you please explain your new "return to work" measure.

4:02 Comment From Mieassa Lib of Congress: Where do you collect your data to detemine SHARE intiatives compliance?

4:03 Doug: Hi, Miessa. Without getting too technical, the new Return to Work measure will establish goals and targets for agencies in returning their injured employees during the first two years of injury. Currently, our return to work success is 81.5% in the first year. In the second year disability, we returned an average of another 2% to work. We would like to improve to 87% overall.

On your second question, regarding SHARE, we collect information from our own database, and from the National Finance Center on COP Data. We also use agency employment data from OPM.

4:05 Comment From Grant Full BPD-Treasury: Our experience has been that in some District Offices a Nurse Case Manager is assigned to a lost time case fairly quickly (KC in particular) but in others, you are lucky if a Nurse Case Manager is ever assigned. Are there any efforts to increase the amount of nurse available or to make this more consistent?

4:05 Shelby: Grant, our procedures for all district offices call for assignment of nurses at the earliest point following the case's identification as a Quality Case Management case. We have been studying the application of nurse and rehab services to improve overall outcomes and are in the process of designing and implementing what we believe will be important improvements, which will apply to all of our district offices.

4:05 Comment From Patricia Royster: Will there be a possibility that Agencies can scan directly to your scan center in London, Ky for inclusion to the claimant's file. This process will allow for timely receipt to your office and cost savings.

4:05 Doug: Patricia, plans are currently underway to develop a secure, Web-based portal that will allow all agencies, their employees and stakeholders in general to upload and submit documents electronically, rather than having to mail them to Kentucky.

4:07 Comment From Jane Quinlan, USPHS: Regarding Michael Arighi's comments: It might be helpful if DOL requires that agencies provide the specific reason as to why an employee cannot return to work - such as employment status, qualifications, x, y or z regulation or the other variables. Understanding the reason why may lead to a remedy.

4:07 Doug: Jane, thank you for your comment. We are currently expanding and revamping our disability management processes and will certainly consider your input.

4:08 Comment From Judy Ikels from DOS: BRAVO!

4:10 Comment From Gordon Muller: Why are you waiting for the economy to further stabilize before including re-employment placement with private sector employers? It seems now, with the unemployment rate high, that the need is greatest now to develop private sector contacts and resources.

4:10 Comment From Gordon Muller: Will you add communication measure of success to include educating / communicating with federal agencies regarding workplace safety issues, particularly for high-risk industries?

4:10 Doug: Gordon: You're certainly weighing in today. Thank you. Given the current economic environment, we are focusing on re-employment in the federal sector. Making placements in the private sector at this time has been challenging. That is especially the case in certain areas of the country.

On your second question, part of the POWER iniitative that we are seeking to obtain approval for relates to improved safety outcomes. OSHA will provide the lead for those goals.

4:11 Comment From Antonetta Stevens: In the area of federal black lung, when an application is made by a miner or widow, would it help speed the processing of claims and notification to the proper potential RO to have access to the social security earnings reports prior to any notification being sent out? If the DOL could obtain cooperation from the social security administration to obtain these records more easily, it may help as the claims examiners would not have to potentially repeat sending multiple notices.

4:11 Jim DeMarce: We believe in most cases awaiting an earnings report from the Social Security Administration would delay notification rather than expedite it. We think early notification is extremely important. When we do receive information from Social Security that indicates a different employer should be put on notice, we inform that employer. However, our major objective is to inform potentially liable employers and their insurers as early as possible in the process.

4:11 Comment From Mieassa Lib of Congress: If we submit a CA-1 without the supervisor section completed to ensure timeliness, will this be counted as timely submission on your end? or Will the form be returned to the agency for completion?

4:11 Doug: Mieassa, the purpose of requiring signature certification from the employing agency is to ensure that the information provided by both the employee and the employer are correct. While we attempt to contact the employing agency to remedy deficiencies on claims forms, it is sometimes necessary to return the form to the agency.

4:13 Comment From Guest: Will employees be able to submit all docuements electronically? I am concerned that this process may take agencies out of the loop.

4:13 Doug: We are currently developing a system that will allow for the electronic transmission of documents into the FECA system. This new ability will allow employing agencies the ability to file all employer forms through this mechanism. Claimants will be able to upload certain documents, for example, but the process by which employing agencies route injury claims will be maintained.

4:14 Comment From Lisa Morgan, DON: Thank you for this opportunity to chat. When claimants in closed facilites are referred to Voc Rehab, reemployment in the agency is not likely. Most claimants are 55+ and there is great difficulty in getting a counselor to accept an aged claimant, despite the fact that today's seniors are more active and age discrimination is prohibited. As times are changing, and employees are working longer, age should not be an issue if a physician believes a claimant can be returned to the workforce. Can OWCP take a harder stance with VR counselors and reject age as a reason for closure? Thanks again!

4:14 Mike: Lisa: I appreciate your question. OWCP's policies do not allow for discriminatory treatment of older workers. Rehab counselors can reject a case for SEVERAL reasons, but age can not be the ONLY reason.

4:16 Comment From Denise Patterson, USDA: As more emphasis is being placed on alternative workplace (work at home), accomodations, and ergonomics in the workplace, will DOL work more with return to work efforts to include Agency efforts to use these avenues in acceptable job ofers?

4:16 Doug: Denise, in addition to embracing strategies that include assisted re-employment and expanded use of assistive technologies, our disability management efforts will always include the employing agencies and their offers of re-employment.

4:16 Comment From Sandy Roberts: What can the agency do to speed up the return to work process?

4:16 Doug: Sandy, we will be talking to the agencies very soon about our new safety and return to work initiative. During those meetings, which we will also webcast, we will have an opportunity to discuss some best practices and strategic approaches to returning to work in the federal sector. Thanks for your questions.

4:16 Shelby: This has been an excellent forum. I’m sorry that it’s come to a close before we got to everyone's questions. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to ask a question and to share your ideas. But I need you to do something VERY IMPORTANT. Please take time to again review the presentation slide shows about OWCP provided on http://www.dol.gov/strategicplan2010 and submit your ideas to strategic-plan@dol.gov. We really want to hear as many voices as we can while we develop our plans.

4:17 :