WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 8, 2011 -
Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have introduced the Federal Workers' Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act (H.R. 2456) which will enhance efficiency, improve program integrity and modernize benefits for today's federal workers.
Since 1916, a workers’ compensation program has provided benefits to federal employees who suffer injuries or illnesses as the result of their work. The program, established by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), is operated by the Department of Labor and covers an estimated three million federal employees. During the last fiscal year, beneficiaries received nearly $3 billion in compensation.
However, the program has not been significantly updated in almost 40 years, resulting in a number of weaknesses and inefficiencies. For example, workers in rural areas often have limited access to medical care and only certain medical professionals can certify a worker’s disability. Additionally, compensation is often determined by outdated information that does not reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace.
Reform is long overdue. Federal employees need a program that reflects today’s economy and the latest in medical care, and taxpayers deserve a program that operates efficiently and effectively. Bipartisan solutions are necessary to ensure the federal workers’ compensation program serves the needs of workers and taxpayers. The Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act is an important first step toward achieving that goal. The legislation was approved unanimously by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on July 13, 2011.
THE FEDERAL WORKERS’ COMPENSATION MODERNIZATION AND IMPROVEMENT ACT:
Enhances Program Efficiency
- Ensures that Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Nurses are reimbursed for their services and that these medical professionals can certify disability for traumatic injuries during an initial time period.
- Streamlines the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.
Improves Program Integrity
- Allows the Department of Labor to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration.
- Authorizes the department to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker, promoting greater accountability in the program.
Modernizes Benefits for Today’s Economy
- Ensures injuries or illnesses sustained as the result of terrorism are covered as a war-risk hazard. This will help guarantee federal workers injured abroad or in the line of duty are appropriately compensated.
- Provides additional support for funeral expenses (up to $6,000) and for workers who sustain an injury that leads to facial disfigurement (up to $50,000).