Workers’ compensation is a state-run program. However, federal employees are excluded because they are insured through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). This act provides workers’ comp for federal employees who are injured while on the job so that they may receive the benefits of workers’ compensation insurance.
The Federal Workers’ Compensation Act
In the history of workers’ compensation, it was the individual states that took up the task of providing workers’ comp benefits to injured employees. The first was Wisconsin in 1911, with other states quickly falling into line and adopting their own sets of laws. However, state laws generally excluded federal employees from coverage. The majority of these workers were left unprotected until Congress passed the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) in 1916.
According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, FECA provides workers’ comp for federal employees who were injured or killed in the line of duty. (Coverage for work-related diseases was added in 1924.) These benefits included:
- Full medical coverage provided by government physicians and hospitals or private medical facilities selected by the federal government
- Disability benefits of up to two-thirds of the injured employee’s wages
- Cash benefits based on the employee’s wage to survivors of an employee killed on the job
The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs administers the provisions of the act, plus a few other federal workers’ compensation programs, including:
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation
- Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation
- Federal Black Lung Program
Who Is Eligible for Federal Workers’ Compensation?
FECA provides benefits for federal employees, such as:
- Officers or employees in any branch of the US government
- Officers or employees of any agency owned by the US government
- Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA [Volunteers in Service to America] members
- Federal petit or grand jurors
- Civil Air Patrol volunteer members
- Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets
- Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, and Youth Conservation Corps enrollees
- Nonfederal law enforcement officers under certain circumstances
An employee who does not fall under any of the above employment or volunteer statuses should contact their local state workers’ compensation board to determine state eligibility.
Federal Workers’ Compensation Coverage Details
FECA covers employees who experience an injury or illness as a result of performing job duties. Coverage is extended to employees injured while on break but still on work premises. In other words, the injury or illness must happen during the work shift.
Federal employees may see their workers’ comp claims denied if their injuries are:
- Caused by their own willful misconduct
- The result of an attempt to hurt another person
- Proximately caused by their own intoxication
For example, an employee who was injured during the sale or distribution of illegal drugs would most likely be denied benefits. Making fraudulent statements in relation to a claim can also result in a denied claim.
Benefits Under the Federal Workers’ Compensation Act
FECA ensures that workers are not put in a financial bind when it comes to work-related injuries or illnesses. When an employee is hurt on the job, the medical bills plus the loss of income can be disabling financially. Workers’ compensation is designed to prevent that from happening.
Like most state workers’ compensation benefits, the FECA pays:
- Medical bills: Covers physician bills, emergency rooms, diagnostics, surgery, hospital services and supplies, and transportation to and from appointments; the injured employee may select their physician, but any subsequent change in doctor must be approved by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP)
- Temporary disability payments: Replaces lost wages when an injured employee is unable to work at a rate of two-thirds salary for employees without dependents and three-fourths salary for employees who claim dependents
- Permanent disability payments: Compensates employees for permanent impairments to their organs, limbs, or body functions as well as the loss of earning capacity if they are unable to return to their previous position; employees with conditions that require a constant attendant may receive up to an additional $1,500 per month
- Death benefits: Provides a percentage of the deceased employee’s salary to his or her surviving spouses and dependents depending on their relationship; also covers up to $800 in burial expenses and the cost of transporting the body if the death occurs away from the employee’s home station
- Vocational rehabilitation services: Covers the cost of learning a new skill or trade when the injured worker is unable to return to his normal job duties; injured workers taking part in vocational rehabilitation may receive an additional maintenance allowance of up to $200 per month
A worker who has suffered a total disability receives payments that equal 66 2/3% of their monthly wage. If the worker suffers a partial disability, meaning the employee can work to some extent, they receive monthly payments that equal 66 2/3% of the difference between the original monthly wage and the monthly wage at the start of the disability.
How to File a Claim for Federal Workers’ Compensation
Injured federal employees must give their employers written notice of workplace injuries and illnesses using one of two forms:
- CA-1 Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation: Use this form for traumatic injuries like a broken leg after a fall
- CA-2 Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation: Use this form for work-related diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome or occupational asthma
Employees have 30 days to complete the appropriate form to retain their rights to a workers’ compensation claim. These forms must be submitted to the OWCP by the employer within 10 workdays of receipt. Any federal workers’ comp claim not filed within three years exceeds the statute of limitations unless the employee’s immediate supervisor knew of the injury within 30 days of the incident.
Additionally, employees who cannot return to work and who lose or expect to lose income for more than three days need to file form CA-7 Claim for Compensation on Account of Traumatic Injury or Occupational Disease with their supervisor.
Can Federal Employees Appeal if Their Claim Is Denied?
Final decisions on claims are processed by the OWCP board. Once the final decision is made, an affected worker can file an appeal with the board. Workers have 30 days to file Form AB-1, Employees’ Compensation Board Application for Review. Otherwise, the board’s decision is final. It is possible to reopen a claim after 30 days, but this is difficult.
The Federal Employees Compensation Act of 1916 was created to protect federal workers who may get injured or ill on the job. It provides many of the same provisions that state workers’ compensation laws provide for private-sector employees. It pays for the medical expenses and lost wages of those hurt at work and is administered by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program.