Full Disclosure Required
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Postal employees are hardworking and giving. Many hold down two jobs. Some run a side business or help with a family business, while others volunteer for their favorite charities.
These activities are not something we would typically need to divulge, but the law requires individuals who are injured on the job and collecting wage-loss compensation (WLC) to disclose all sources of income, paid and unpaid work activities, business interests and volunteer services to the Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP).
Failure to report or attempts to conceal income and activities can result in forfeiture of benefits and criminal prosecution under the False Claims Act or other applicable laws.
The mandates and potential consequences are stated on both the CA-7 form, Claim for Compensation, and Form EN-1032, which serves as an earnings report and helps OWCP manage disability claims. The EN-1032 is quite a bit more specific than the CA-7, making it all the more intimidating. It requires claimants to report all employment within the 15-month period covered by the form for which a salary, wages, income, sales commissions, piecework, or payment of any kind was received. This includes military service, and even applies to employment that was held prior to the injury.
In addition to all salaried employment, work that was performed without enumeration, self-employment and any involvement in a business enterprise, except passive investments in publicly-traded businesses, must be disclosed. This is required even if the duties were executed on a part-time or intermittent basis, or were done for a friend or a family member’s business – with or without pay.
Any work or ownership interest in any business enterprise, even if the business lost money, or if profits or income were reinvested or paid to others, must also be told. If the claimant performed any duties for any company without pay, s/he is instructed to advise what it would have cost to hire someone to perform the duties s/he performed. The value of things such as housing, meals, clothing and reimbursed expenses must also be described if they were received as part of the employment.
All unpaid volunteer services, including volunteer work that provided any form of monetary or in-kind compensation for services, and any federal benefits or payments received must also be listed. This includes benefits received from the Office of Personnel Management, the Foreign Service, or any other federal disability or retirement system, except for benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits that were issued as part of an annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) must also be reported.
This portion of the form is particularly problematic because many retirees fail to recognize that SSA benefits are part of their annuity. Veterans are required to disclose any benefits they received from the Veterans’ Administration on account of their service in the U.S. Armed Forces, and must report any increase to their disability rating that resulted from their approved FECA condition. Claimants must also disclose if they have been incarcerated for a felony or were convicted of FECA fraud, and must advise if they received any third-party settlement in connection with the OWCP claim.
Completion of the form should not be taken lightly. Any misunderstanding, omission or mistake will require the injured worker to pay back all of the WLC they received during the entire 15-month period covered by the form. These acts are considered fraud. If the claimant is found guilty or pleads guilty to a felony or misdemeanor FECA fraud, all benefits that were paid in connection with the claim must be repaid. In addition, imprisonment and fines may be imposed. Therefore, it is paramount that the form be completed thoroughly and accurately.