Tags: Afghanistan, average weekly wage, compensation rate, Defense Base Act, DOL, informal conference, Iraq, OWCP, workers comp benefits
I had an Informal Conference today. For those of you who have not gotten to this stage yet, an Informal Conference is your opportunity to discuss a problem you are having with your claim with the District Office of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The conference is normally held by telephone and involves the claimant (you) or your attorney, the insurance carrier (or its attorney) and a claims examiner from the OWCP. There is no special method required to request the conference. A letter from one of the parties identifying an issue to the District Office where you claim is pending is all that is required. Even though the conference sounds, like its name, informal, it is a very important part of the process.
Getting back to my conference, one of the issues was average weekly wage (AWW). Generally, AWW is calculated by first determining if the claimant worked substantially the whole year prior to the injury. If so, was this work with the same employer or, at least, similar employment? If so, the wages are simply calculated, divided by 52 and an AWW is determined. There are several problems which rear their ugly heads, such as: what constitutes “substantially the whole year” and what type of job qualifies as “similar employment”. According to cases decided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA), 37 weeks is the benchmark for the term “substantially the whole year”. Therefore, if you have worked 37 out of the last 52 weeks, you may qualify.