WASHINGTON, D.C. | November 29, 2011
For more than 90 years, a workers’ compensation program has provided assistance to federal employees who become injured or ill through a work-related activity. The program reflects our commitment to the men and women who serve our country in the federal government.
Established by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, the program is administered by the Department of Labor. In recent years, it has grown significantly in size and cost. An estimated three million employees are covered by the program; during Fiscal Year 2010, beneficiaries received nearly $3 billion in workers’ compensation.
Unfortunately, this federal program has not been significantly reformed or updated in almost 40 years. And as is too often the case with government programs left unchecked for decades, waste and inefficiencies have crept into the system, leading to poor use of taxpayer resources and diminished support for the individuals the program is intended to serve.
Through the oversight efforts of the Education and the Workforce Committee, we’ve learned about a number of challenges confronting the program. For example, workers in rural areas may have limited access to medical care. Additionally, some compensation levels remain set to formulas that made sense during the days of the Second World War, but are inappropriate today.
Clearly, reform is long overdue. Federal employees should have access to a program that reflects the realities of today’s economy and takes into account the best practices in medical care. Taxpayers deserve a program that operates efficiently and effectively.
That is why I, along with other leaders on the Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act, an initial step in our effort to strengthen the program and bring it into the twenty-first century. The bill before us today advances this goal in three important ways.
First, H.R. 2465 enhances the efficiency of the federal workers’ compensation program. The legislation allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses – highly trained individuals in the medical profession – to certify a workers’ disability and ensures these professionals are reimbursed for their services. The bill also streamlines the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in an area of armed conflict. These individuals can work in hostile and even deadly environments, and they should not have to wait months for benefits they are entitled to.
Secondly, the legislation improves the integrity of the workers’ compensation program. The Labor Department would be allowed to crosscheck an employee’s earnings with information held at the Social Security Administration, helping to provide workers the benefits they deserve – no more and no less. The department would also be empowered to collect administrative costs and other expenses from the agencies employing the workers, promoting greater accountability within the program for all federal agencies.
Finally, the legislation modernizes benefits to better meet the needs of today’s workers, providing the level of support employees need and guaranteeing that injuries or illnesses resulting from an act of terrorism are treated like other war-risk hazards.
The Federal Workers’ Compensations Modernization and Improvement Act represents commonsense reform federal workers and taxpayers deserve. I encourage my colleagues to support the legislation and reserve the balance of my time.
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