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What A Federal Employee Should Do When Injured At Work?
Introduction: The Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) (5 U.S.C. 8101 et seq.) is administered by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) of the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides compensation benefits to civilian employees of the United States for disability due to personal injury sustained while in the performance of duty or to employment-related disease. The FECA also provides for the payment of benefits to dependents if the injury or disease causes the employee's death. Benefits cannot be paid if the injury or death is caused by the willful misconduct of the employee or by the employee's intention to bring about his or her injury or death or that of another, or if intoxication (by alcohol or drugs) is the proximate cause of the injury or death.
Medical Benefits: An employee is entitled to medical, surgical and hospital services and supplies needed for treatment of an injury as well as transportation for obtaining care. The injured employee has initial choice of physician and may select any qualified local physician or hospital to provide necessary treatment or may use agency medical facilities if available. Except for referral by the attending physician, any change in treating physician after the initial choice must be authorized by OWCP. Otherwise, OWCP will not be liable for the expenses of treatment.
The term "physician" includes surgeons, osteopathic practitioners, podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists and chiropractors within the scope of their practice as defined by State law. Payment for chiropractic services is limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by x-ray to exist. If the physician selected has been excluded from participating in the Compensation Program the OWCP District Office will advise the employee of the exclusion and the need to select another physician.
Compensation for Temporary Total Disability: An employee who sustains a disabling, job-related traumatic injury may request continuation of regular pay for the period of disability not to exceed 45 calendar days or sick or annual leave. If disability continues beyond 45 days or the employee is not entitled to continuation of pay, the employee may use sick or annual leave or enter a leave without pay status and claim compensation from OWCP.
When disability results from an occupational disease, the employing agency is not authorized to continue the employee's pay. The employee may use sick or annual leave or enter a leave without pay status and claim compensation.
Compensation for loss of wages may not be paid until after a three-day waiting period, except when permanent effects result from the injury or where the disability causing wage loss exceeds 14 calendar days. Compensation is generally paid at the rate of 2/3 of the salary if the employee has no dependents and 3/4 of the salary if one or more dependents are claimed.
The term "dependent" includes a husband, wife, unmarried child under 18 years of age, and a wholly dependent parent. An unmarried child may qualify as a dependent after reaching the age of 18 if incapable of self-support by reason of mental or physical disability, or as long as the child continues to be a full-time student at an accredited institution, until he or she reaches the age of 23 or has completed four years of education beyond the high school level.
Compensation for Permanent Effects of Injury: The Act provides a schedule of benefits for permanent impairment of certain members, functions and organs of the body such as the eye, arm, or kidney and for serious disfigurement of the head, face or neck. For example, an award of 160 weeks of compensation is payable for total loss of vision in one eye.
In addition, compensation for loss of earning capacity may be paid if the employee is unable to resume regular work because of injury-related disability. This compensation is paid on the basis of the difference between the employee's capacity to earn wages after an injury and the wages of the job he or she held when injured.
OWCP may arrange for vocational rehabilitation and provide a maintenance allowance not to exceed $200 per month. A disabled employee participating in an OWCP-approved training or vocational rehabilitation program is paid at the compensation rate for total disability.
If the employee's condition requires a constant attendant, an additional amount not to exceed $1500 per month may be allowed.
Compensation for Death: If no child is eligible for benefits, the widow or widower's compensation is 50 percent of the employee's pay at the time of death, if death was due to the employment-related injury or disease. If a child or children are eligible for benefits, the widow or widower is entitled to 45 percent of the pay and each child is entitled to 15 percent. If children are the sole survivors, 40 percent is paid for the first child and 15 percent for each additional child, to be shared equally. Other persons such as dependent parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and grandchildren may also be entitled to benefits. The total compensation may not exceed 75 percent of the employee's pay or the pay of the highest step for GS-15 of the General Schedule, except when such excess is created by authorized cost-of-living increases.
Compensation to an employee's surviving spouse terminates upon his or her death or remarriage. A widow or widower's benefits continue, however, if the remarriage takes place after the age of 55. Awards to children, brothers, sisters and grandchildren terminate at the age of 18, unless the dependent is incapable of self-support, or continues to be a full-time student at an accredited institution, until he or she reaches the age of 23, or has completed four years of education beyond the high school level.
Burial expenses not to exceed $800 are payable. Transportation of the body to the employee's former residence in the United States is provided where death occurs away from the employee's home station. In addition to any burial expenses or transportation costs, a $200 allowance is paid for the administrative costs of terminating an employee's status with the Federal Government.
Cost-of-Living Increases: Compensation payments on account of a disability or death which occurred more than one year before March 1 of each year are increased on that date by any percentage change in the Consumer Price Index published for December of the preceding year.
Settlements With Third Parties: Where an employee's injury or death in the performance of duty occurs under circumstances placing a legal liability on a party other than the United States, a portion of the cost of compensation and other benefits paid by OWCP must be refunded from any settlement obtained. OWCP will assist in obtaining the settlement and the Act guarantees that the employee may retain a certain proportion of the settlement (after any attorney fees and costs are deducted) even when the cost of compensation and other benefits exceeds the amount of the settlement.
Appeal Rights: An employee or survivor who disagrees with a final determination of OWCP may request an oral hearing or a review of the written record from the Branch of Hearings and Review. Oral and/or written evidence in further support of the claim may be presented. The employee may also request a reconsideration of a decision by submitting a written request to the Compensation District Office which issued the decision. The request must be accompanied by evidence not previously submitted. If reconsideration has been requested, a hearing on the same issue may not be granted. The employee or survivor may also request review by the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB). Because the ECAB rules solely on the evidence of record at the time the decision was issued, no additional evidence may be presented.
More Detailed Information: More detailed information about the requirements for coverage and benefits under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act may be obtained from Federal Personnel Manual Chapter 810, Injury Compensation OWCP Publication CA-810, and booklet CA-550, Questions and Answers About the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, which answers questions commonly asked about compensation benefits.