For almost fourteen years I have suffered with a work related injury to my cervical spine. Ruptured disks, bone spurs, and narrowing of vertebra that constricted my spinal cord. In the first three years after the symptoms began I had many doctors treat my condition without success. Finally I located a neurosurgeon that identified the problem and fused two of the vertebra in my neck. He also judged my condition as having resulted from carrying photographic equipment using neck and shoulder straps in my work. With the restrictions on my activities after surgery I was left no choice but file for worker compensation to protect my job and physical well being.
Because I was an employee of a Federal Agency the claim for compensation was filed with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation. With virtually no knowledge of the process I filled out the forms, collected the requested information and submitted it for processing. This was the beginning of a twelve-year nightmare. As I soon learned there were painful residuals from surgery, problems at other disk spaces, and the most difficult aspect off all to deal with the adversarial system that administers Federal Workers Compensation. Add to those problems the inevitable conflict with your employing agency that is ultimately responsible for paying all cost incurred with your treatment, rehabilitation, and accommodation if you are unable to perform duties of your job.
Initially I attempted to educate myself about the process and deal with it the best I could. This produced nothing more than having the powers that be sending me into a never ending effort to provide more and more answers to more and more pointless questions. I recognized much of this as a strategy to frustrate me into withdrawing my claim. Very often you are required to sit silently and accept verbal abuse or humiliation in front of coworkers about your condition. Any response to this on your part can be viewed as insubordination thereby creating more problems to deal with. In the end I was lucky enough to receive help from my congressman and the claim was accepted. After contacting my congressman I was branded an organizational pariah.
During this struggle I made countless attempts to find an attorney to represent me but as I found out, there are dozens of worker’s comp attorneys but they only handle state claims. I did manage to locate two, but was not comfortable with the negative attitude about my situation. In both instances they were reluctant to even review my case and offer advice because of the length of time since the beginning of my claim. The bright spot in this story is that after years of searching I made one last attempt at finding an attorney. Fortunately I located Mr. Paul H. Felser he has been able to turn chaos into reason and strip away much of my confusion about issues that I now understand as meaningless. His extensive experience with GECA claims enables him to set a productive course through the legal, medical, and procedural obstacles to perfecting a claim for compensation. In my case I have also realized that having Mr. Felser as an ally has reduced my level of anxiety. If you are new to the process be aware, you will be forced into making many decisions that can jeopardize your compensation and possibly your retention rights to your job. Making these decisions can be agonizing without full knowledge of all the ramifications of the actions you take. Do not expect Workers Comp. or your Agency to explain the consequences of the choices you make.
Thank you, Mr. Felser, for your help. I recommend you to anyone seeking relief in a Federal Workers Compensation Claim.