CBP medical staff continues to violate federal OWCP regulations

If you are injured at work and your doctor tells you to stay home for several days or more, you will eventually be contacted by someone who refers to herself as a “CBP nurse,” “agency nurse,” or “DOL nurse.” In reality, this woman works for a company called Managed Care Advisors (MCA), contracted by CBP, whose job is to get injured employees back to work as quickly as possible.

Although she can be helpful in finding a doctor for employees to see, employees are under no obligation to work with her, nor are they required to go to a doctor recommended by her. The only people an injured employee has to respond to are their supervisor, Sector staff, and DOL nurses; DOL nurses actually work for DOL, nurses from MCA do not.

The more time you spend away from work on either COP, LWOP, or sick leave, the harder the MCA nurse will try to push you and your doctor to get you back to work.

From 20 CFR § 10.506:

To aid in returning an injured employee to suitable employment, the employer may also contact the employee’s physician in writing concerning the work limitations imposed by the effects of the injury and possible job assignments. (However, the employer shall not contact the physician by telephone or through personal visit.) When such contact is made, the employer shall send a copy of any such correspondence to OWCP and the employee, as well as a copy of the physician’s response when received.

In other words, the MCA nurse and the agency may not call your doctor, or show up in person. They are allowed to communicate in writing, but when they do, the injured employee is supposed to get a copy of the letter and the doctor’s response. Del Rio Sector has generally done this properly in the past couple of years, but MCA is still not following the regulation.

While we address MCA’s continued violations, injured employees who do not want their doctor to communicate with MCA need to ensure their doctor’s office identifies anyone who calls about the employee and tells them they are not authorized to disclose information to MCA. Your doctor is, however, required to disclose information to DOL, and injured employees are required to ensure CA-17s are provided to the agency.

If you hear of MCA personnel improperly contacting your doctor, notify a union rep or report the issue directly to DHS OIG.

Puerto Rico Detail Class Action Lawsuit

In late 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol announced to currently employed Border Patrol agents that it was seeking agents for details and/or assignments to travel to Ramey Sector in Puerto Rico to assist with Hurricane Maria efforts.

The agency explicitly excluded any agents with “family ties” to Puerto Rico, thus discouraging agents from applying and/or denying them an opportunity to participate based on their own Hispanic/Puerto Rican race and/or national origin and/or association with others of Hispanic/Puerto Rican race and/or national origin.

The National Border Patrol Council then initiated informal EEO counseling and filed individual and class action complaints.

If you received or heard about the Class Action Notice or think you may be a class member, please complete the Puerto Rico Class Action Screening Questionnaire on nbpcprclassaction.com. We will then let you know whether or not you meet the criteria to be a member of the class and, if so, what the next steps are.

More information can be found on the official website, nbpcprclassaction.com

Hard Plate Carriers and Performance Patrol Shirts

The agency has finally agreed to allow agents to wear hard plate carriers (HPC) over the performance patrol shirts (PPS). Previously, agents were only permitted to wear the soft body armor over the PPS, but now agents can wear the HPC and have a lower risk of experiencing a heat-related emergency.

As always, the union highly encourages agents to wear body armor, and this change makes it a little easier to do so.

The agency will soon be publishing a memo, so keep an eye out for it at work.

Many supervisors not working overtime

When Del Rio Sector began mandating overtime, management told Local 2366 that all GS-13s would do their part to help in processing. Despite this assurance, there are many GS-13s who haven’t had to process, including SBPAs, SOSes, BPA-Ps, and WCs.

There are certainly some GS-13s and above who have helped, but they are usually the ones who we see willing to go above and beyond to help in the field on a regular basis.

While the agency has no obligation to negotiate with the union regarding what non-bargaining employees do, this is certainly not a good look for management.