FEDERAL WORKERS’ COMP FAQ’S
WHAT IS THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION ACT (“FECA”)?
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 USC Chapter 81, provides compensation benefits to Federal employees for work-related injuries or illnesses, and to their surviving dependents if a work-related injury or illness results in the employee’s death.
WHO ADMINISTERS THE FECA?
The FECA is administered by the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). There are twelve OWCP district offices responsible for adjudicating claims and paying benefits.
IF I AM HURT ON THE JOB DO I GET TO PICK MY OWN DOCTOR?
Absolutely! No only do you get to pick your own doctor, you should pick your own doctor. Many injured workers are directed by management to clinics or doctors who are under contract with the employing agency. Seeing one of these contract doctors is typically a mistake. Help your claim by picking your own doctor. You may want to visit an archived article on this federal worker’s compensation forum entitled a “Guide for Injured Federal Workers” to read more about selecting your own doctor and some other potential pitfalls.
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN OWCP FORMS?
Most forms can be found at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/forms.htm If the form is not on this website, then you need to obtain the form from the OWCP District Office handling your claim or from your employing agency.
HOW TO FILE AN OWCP CLAIM?
To initiate a claim you need to complete and submit either the CA-1, “Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation” or the CA-2 “Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation”. A traumatic injury is one that can be pinpointed to have occurred during one particular work shift – falling down the steps for example. If the injury or medical condition developed over two or more work shifts, it’s an occupational disease claim. Both the CA-1 and the CA-2 can be found at OWCP’s forms website: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/forms.htm
If you are submitting a CA-2, you also need to complete the appropriate CA-35 “Evidence Required in Support of a Claim for Occupational Disease” form/checklist. There are several of these detailing the different sorts of documentation to be submitted depending on the type of occupational disease. They are all included in one document at the aforementioned site. If you are still employed by the Federal agency where you worked when the injury occurred, submit the requested documentation to your employing agency. Be sure to keep a copy of everything for your records. Your agency will complete their portion of the CA-1 or CA-2 and submit the entire packet to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) District Office. OWCP will advise you of the claim number which has been established. The District Office will review the information submitted and will determine if there is sufficient information to adjudicate the claim. If there is, the District Office will issue a decision on whether they can accept the claim or not. If there is insufficient information to adjudicate the claim, they will send you a letter advising of the additional information needed. If you are no longer employed by the Federal Agency send the completed claim form along with supporting documentation directly to the OWCP district office with a copy to the District office.
District Office jurisdiction is determined by where you live. A listing of the district offices is on line. Include a cover letter advising that you are no longer employed by the agency. OWCP will contact your former agency regarding the completion of their portion of the claim form. OWCP will advise you of the claim number which has been established and will advise if additional information is needed to adjudicate your claim. For more information about the OWCP claims process, read the Injury Compensation for Federal Employees Publication CA-810 which you can find at: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/DFECfolio/CA-810.pdf
WHAT BENEFITS DOES FECA PROVIDE?
A federal employee who suffers a work related injury may be entitled to one or more of these benefits:
- Medical coverage
- Wage Loss
- Schedule award for a permanent injury to specific limbs or organs
- Death Benefit
HOW SHOULD I HAVE MY MEDICAL CARE PAID FOR?
If the OWCP accepts your claim it is important that you make sure that your medical care providers bill the OWCP for your care, as opposed to your health insurance provider. One reaason is that the OWCP does not charge a co-pay, saving you money. Additionally, to keep your claim open administratively you must make sure that the OWCP receives bills for treatment on a regular basis. With the OWCP your treatment options are typically greater than under most health insurance policies.
HOW DO I REQUEST WAGE LOSS COMPENSATION?
If you have a loss of wages and are in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status as a result of the accepted condition(s) on your claim, you need to file a CA-7 “Claim for Compensation” with your agency. If the period claimed on the CA-7 is intermittent, you need also to complete a CA-7a “Time Analysis Form”. These forms are available on the OWCP’s webiste. You need to provide medical documentation supporting any periods of disability claimed. Your agency will complete their portion of the CA-7 and submit it and the medical documentation to OWCP. OWCP will determine if there is sufficient information on file to pay compensation for the periods claimed or if further information/development is needed.
DO I NEED TO HIRE AN OWCP LAWYER?
If your claim is straight forward and your injuries are modest, you probably do not require a lawyer. However, if your injury is serious and you have problems returning to work after a few weeks, then you should probably seek legal counsel from a federal workers’ comp attorney.
Keep in mind that the FECA is highly specialized, so make sure any lawyer you consult with or retain has the necessary expertise.
Gregory A. Hall
A Federal Workers’ Comp Attorney
3570 E. 12th Avenue, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80206-3434