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James R. Linehan PC an "AV Preeminent" Highest Rated Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell

James R. Linehan P.C.

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2013 TOP LAWYER SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY Distinctly Oklahoma Magazine 2013 TOP LAWYER SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY Distinctly Oklahoma Magazine "AV PREEMINENT" Highest Attorney Rating Martindale-Hubble Registry Specialties: Federal workers' compensation (OWCP) Federal medical disability retirement (OPM) Social Security disability (SSA) Accomplished legal professional with more 20 years of experience in preparation of complex cases. Expertly represent individuals on claims and appeals before the United States Department of Labor Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, before the United States Office of Personnel Management and Merit Systems Protection Board, and before the United States Social Security Administration. Invited by United States Congress to appear before the United States Congressional Committee of Government Reform 2000 to present summary testimony of oversight findings and recommendations for the reform of the United States Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation programs.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

FEDERAL WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIMS ARE EXEMPT FROM COLLECTORS

I am a federal employee.  
I was injured on my federal job.  
I filed a federal workers' compensation claim.  
The US Department of Labor fully accepted my claim.

Now I am receiving threatening phone calls and letters from the hospital and doctor's office about their medical bills.  They have turned me over to a collection agency.  

Can they do that?

NO!!!!!

Your doctor and the hospital are likely violating federal law.  

You have a fully accepted federal workers' compensation claim.  As such the US Government -- not you --- will review and process of the medical bills for your accepted injury conditions.  Under the law your medical providers must submit their bills to the USDOL for review and payment.  If there is any problem with billing and payment, it is the medical provider's problem -- not yours -- to take up and deal with the USDOL.

And under federal law on your accepted federal workers' compensation claim, you are exempt from collections!  Here is the law:

5 U.S.C. §8130. Assignment of claim
An assignment of a claim for compensation under this subchapter is void. Compensation and claims for compensation are exempt from claims of creditors.
(Pub. L. 89–554, Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 546.)

If your medical provider has submitted your accepted federal workers' compensation claim and billing over to collectors for payment you should quickly inform those medical providers of their violations of law and demand that they immediately remove their collections attempts.  If they refuse to do so, you should discuss your medical providers' wrongful actions with local federal authorities.

FEDERAL COURT APPEALS OF SSA CLAIMS; FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON FEDERAL COURT APPEALS 
If you have been denied social security disability benefits your next appeal will likely be to a US Federal Court.  

When do you file that appeal?  
Where do you file?  
How much will it cost you?  
Look here for these frequently asked questions.

When do I file my federal court appeal?  Generally you must file the appeal within 65 days ( that includes 5 days for mail processing) from the date of the SSA decision.

How much are the attorney fees?  Most often...zero.  If the appeal is successful the attorney will charge the government, not you, for fees.  If not successful, then there are no fees.

How much are the court costs?  The Court will charge an average $400 filing cost.  But you can ask the Court to waive their filing cost if you can show you do not have the money to pay.

Where is the appeal filed?  Your residence will determine that.  Some state only have one Court, others have multiple Courts that cover specific counties.  You file in the Court that covers the county where you live.

Do I appear in Court?  No.  Federal Court appeals of social security claims rarely require your presence or even your participation as they are invariably handled entirely by written briefs submitted via the internet.

What is the appeal based on?  Your appeal must show and argue error in fact or law by the SSA.  The Court looks only at the SSA record and decision. Rarely, if ever, is any new evidence permitted.

How long will the appeal take?  The average federal court appeal time is 12 to 18 months.

What happens If I do not file an appeal?  More than likely your SSA claim will be permanently dismissed and you may or may not be able to file for SSA benefits again.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Murder, Suicide and "Corruption of Blood"; Government Decides a Mystery


MURDER, SUICIDE AND "CORRUPTION OF BLOOD"

Michael Cross was a federal employee married to Susan Orndoff. He named Susan as his beneficiary for his federal retirement benefits.  

They had no children together.  However Michael had adult children from a prior marriage as did Susan from her prior marriage.

Michael then killed Susan and then killed himself.

Murder, suicide…who receives Michael’s federal retirement benefits? 

Michael’s children or Susan’s?

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as the provider of those benefits said that Michael’s children as his survivors, were the proper recipients and awarded them Michael’s federal retirement annuity.

Susan’s children quickly cried foul and said no.  Susan’s children said that state law prohibited Michael, his estate and children from benefiting from his criminal act in murdering Susan.  Thus, per state law, Susan’s children were the proper recipients.  

On appeal, the Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Judge agreed, overruled the OPM and awarded benefits to Susan’s children.

Interestingly, the OPM itself appealed that MSPB decision back to the MSPB. 

And then the MSPB reversed itself and agreed with the OPM.

The MSPB found that federal law did not address this murder/suicide scenario and thus the federal government can look to state law.  Thus the Administrative Judge properly looked to state law for his decision.  But the MSPB said he decided wrongly.

The MSPB actually went back to look at old common law.  In old common law dating from hundreds of years ago, there was a theory called “corruption of blood”.    Corruption of blood was old common law that said that the heirs of the person who committed the crime could not inherit his property.  That common law would indeed apply to Susan’s heirs and would award them benefits. 

However, the state in question, Virginia, had almost 100 years ago, abolished the “corruption of blood” common law.   The state held that the new “Slayer Statute” did not prevent a murderer and his heirs of any property rights but only prevented the slayer and heirs from acquiring “additional rights as a result of his wrongdoing.”

Here the MSPB said that Michael did not acquire any “additional” property in his retirement benefits by killing Susan.  The benefits were already his because Susan died before he did.    Since Susan was already dead when Michael died, she could not be a beneficiary and so the federal benefits rightfully stayed with Michael and passed to his heirs, not Susan’s.


HOW TO FILE AN OWCP REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION



If a federal workers' compensation claim is denied by the US Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) then a request for reconsideration may be filed.

An application for reconsideration must be received by OWCP within one year of the date of the OWCP decision for which review is sought.

An employee (or representative) seeking reconsideration should send the application for reconsideration to the address as instructed by OWCP in the final decision.

The application for reconsideration, including all supporting documents, must:
  1. Be submitted in writing;
  2. Be signed and dated by the claimant or the authorized representative; and
  3. Set forth arguments and contain evidence that either:

  • Shows that OWCP erroneously applied or interpreted a specific point of law;
  • Advances a relevant legal argument not previously considered by OWCP; or
  • Constitutes relevant and pertinent new evidence not previously considered by OWCP.


A timely request for reconsideration may be granted if OWCP determines that the employee has presented evidence and/or argument that meets at least one of the required standards. If reconsideration is granted, the case is reopened and the case is reviewed on its merits.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SSA IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS ILL-ADVISED OVERPAYMENT COLLECTION PROGRAM



The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers’ debts to the government that are more than 10 years old.

The Washington Post recently reported that the US Government through the SSA was seizing money from people who likely did not even owe money to the government.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. 

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. 

A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy. 

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Since the drive to collect on very old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were more than 10 years old.

Those debts were owed to many federal agencies, but the one that has many Americans howling this tax season is the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials have admitted they had no records explaining the debts.  

Taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records.

After much public outcry the SSA Commissioner announced on April 14, 2014:  

I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law,” the acting Social Security commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, said in a statement.

Colvin said anyone who has received Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits and “believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment” should contact the agency and “seek options to resolve the overpayment.”





Monday, April 14, 2014

THREATS AT SSA OFFICES DOUBLE; MORE SECURITY DEMANDED



The Government Accountability Office, in a separate report in September, questioned the training of contract security guards hired by the Federal Protective Service for multiple agencies, noting that 23 percent of those surveyed lacked required training documentation.

The number of threats made at Social Security offices nationwide more than doubled between 2007 and 2010, the inspector general for the Woodlawn-based agency found.

"We're 13 years after Sept. 11, and we still have somewhat of an inconsistent approach across the federal agencies," said George W. Foresman, a former Homeland Security undersecretary who is now a private security consultant. "The further we get from post-9/11 the greater the level of apathy seems to be about ensuring a constant and consistent and appropriate level of security," he said.

The union that represents field office workers at Social Security credited the agency with taking steps to improve safety — such as remodeling offices to restrict access and requiring that guards carry weapons — but said more work remains.

Only about 100 of the agency's 1,100 field offices have dedicated metal detectors, said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees.

By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun