The Federal Employees' Compensation Act's Basic Principle
The basic principle of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act is that a Federal Employee is entitled to certain benefits whenever he or she sustains a traumatic injury or occupational illness that arises out of and in the course of the employment.
The injured worker begins the process by filing a Form CA 1 if he or she is claiming a traumatic injury or a Form CA 2 if he or she is claiming an occupational illness. The forms can be found on the internet at the Department of Labor's website. http://www.dol/gov/owcp/dfec.
The injured worker in entitled to his or her initial choice of physicians.
An injured worker who is dissatisfied with a decision from the OWCP can appeal. After an intial denial there are three appeal rights. There is a right to an oral hearing or written review of the record, a right to reconsideration and a right to review by the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board. Oral Hearings include video hearings, in person hearings and telephone hearings.
Fault vs. No fault
Negligence, carelessness and fault are not relevant. The employee's contributory negligence does not lessen or negate an award. The employing agency's complete freedom from fault does not lessen its chargeback. The only exceptions to the no-fault rule can be found at 5 USC 8102 and include wilful misconduct, intoxication, and an intention to bring about the injury or death of himself or another.
Coverage is limited to persons having the status of a Civil Officer or employee of a Federal Agency. Independent contractors do not have coverage under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
Benefits to injured employees include Continuation of Pay in traumatic injury cases, wage loss benefits at 2/3 or 3/4 of the average weekly wage, schedule awards for permanent partial impairment for covered body parts and organs, and medical, surgical and hospital services, appliances and supplies which will cure or give relief or lessen the degree or the period of disability. The average weekly wage is the wage at the date of the injury or the date the disability began or the date of recurrence whichever is greater.
Exclusiveness of Remedy
The Federal Employees' Compensation Act is the sole remedy against the United States for a work injury or death. The injured worker gives up his or her right to sue the Federal Government in exchange for the FECA's modest but assured benefits. 5 USC 8128 provides that decisions by the OWCP are not subject to review by a court. The law is intended to be remedial in nature and interpreted liberally in favor of the injured worker.
The Administration of the Federal Employees Compensation Act
The Federal Employees' Compensation Act is administered by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to 12 District Offices, there is a National Office in Washington DC which includes the Branch of Hearings and Review. The Employees' Compensation Appeals Board is not a part of the OWCP, but is a separate branch in the Department of Labor. It determines appeals from injured workers on questions of law and fact after the District Office or the Branch of Hearings and Review has issued a final decision.
Using a Representative
Although the FECA was intended to be non-adversarial, the law is complicated. 5 USC 8127 allows an injured worker to appoint a representative to act for him or her in any proceeding under the Act. A representative such as a union steward or attorney experienced in the ins and outs of this program can help an injured worker.
Additional resources provided by the author
5 USC 8101 et seq.
20 CFR 10.1 et seq
Questions and Answers About the FECA (CA-550)
The Federal Employees Compensation Act Procedure Manual which can be found on the internet at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec.