What You Need to Know About Federal Workers’ Compensation Benefits

If you’ve been injured working as a federal employee, you can maximize your compensation by filing a Federal Workers’ Comp Claim and a third-party lawsuit.

The Federal Employees Compensation Act was created to provide workers’ compensation insurance for injured federal workers.¹

There are twelve federal workers’ comp regional offices throughout the country responsible for investigating and processing claims.

The United States Department of Labor manages the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).²

Here we tell you what to expect in the way of federal workers’ comp benefits, and how you can pursue additional compensation.

What Does Federal Workers’ Comp Cover?

Injured federal workers are entitled to payment of all medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, bandages, etc.), and vocational rehabilitation. Injured federal workers are free to select their initial medical provider. However, the OWCP must approve later changes.

If your injury prevents you from working, you’ll continue to receive full wages directly from the agency you work for up to 45 days from the date you were injured.

TIP: If you’ve returned to work in any capacity while still under medical care for your work-related injury or illness, be sure to schedule all medical and therapy appointments during working hours.

You won’t be paid for time spent attending appointments after work or on scheduled days off.

After 45 days, federal workers’ comp begins paying your lost wages at a reduced rate. You’ll receive two-thirds of your pre-injury wages if you have no dependents, and three-fourths of your pre-injury wages if you have one or more dependents.

If you are never able to return to your same job, you may qualify for “loss of earning capacity” benefits. This benefit pays the difference between what you earned before the injury, and what you can earn after the injury.

OWCP will calculate your disability payments based on loss of earning capacity, type of permanent loss, and the loss or damage to specific body parts, organs, and functions.

If your on-the-job injury results in a permanent loss of use of a body part or function, you’ll receive a cash settlement in addition to lost wage benefits. The settlement is often called a “schedule award.”

If your injury requires you to have help at home, you may qualify for an “attendant allowance” up to $1,500 per month to help defray the cost of hired assistance.

Death benefits are payable to survivors of federal workers killed on the job. The deceased worker’s family can also receive up to $800 for burial expenses.

Eligibility for Federal Workers’ Compensation

Federal workers’ comp benefits are available for more than 2.6 million federal and postal workers throughout the world if they suffer work-related injury or occupation illness.

Railroad workers, longshoremen, black lung coal workers, harbor workers, and members of the Armed Forces have coverage through separate insurance policies unique to the type of work they do.

Workers may be denied federal worker’s comp if their injury was caused by:

  • Any willful misconduct
  • The intent to harm self or others
  • Intoxication

Dependent survivors of federal workers killed on the job are eligible for financial benefits. Dependents can include the worker’s widow or widower, fully dependent parent or grandparent, and children under the age of 18.

Dependent children over the age of 18 may qualify for survivor benefits if the child is mentally or physically disabled. Dependent children over the age of 18 who are full-time students may qualify for survivor benefits until they are 23 years old.

How to File a Federal Workers’ Comp Claim

If you’re a federal worker injured on the job, there are several steps you must take to ensure you receive full benefits:

  1. Notify your supervisor or go directly to your onsite health office. If your injuries are life-threatening, call 911.
  2. Complete a “Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation” form (CA-1). For a work-induced disease, you need to complete a “Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation” form (CA-2). You can download the forms here.
  3. Submit your CA-1 or CA-2 form and keep a copy for your records. Your department head will send their portion of the form to the appropriate office. Use this map to find the OWCP District Office for your location.
  4. One or more representatives from the regional office will investigate your claim. They will inform you by letter if the office believes there’s enough evidence to proceed with your claim. If necessary, they may ask you to submit additional information. If they deny your claim, you have the right to file an appeal.
  5. Choose a physician and get treatment. You may go to the medical provider of your choice. When deciding on a physician, be sure to select one who is familiar with federal workers’ comp procedures and forms, and who is willing to assist you during the process.

You have only 30 days from the date of injury to initiate your claim. Contact a federal workers’ compensation attorney if you need help filing your claim. 

Federal Workers Can’t Sue Their Employer

The federal government and its agencies are immune from public employer liability, including personal injury claims by federal workers alleging government negligence. This immunity includes cases where one employee injures another on the job.

Under federal statutes, the government and its agencies are almost always immune from liability. In other words, you can’t sue the government.

In the private sector, there are instances when an injured worker may apply for workers’ compensation benefits and also file a lawsuit against the employer.

Under federal law, negligence of any type or severity does not sidestep federal workers’ compensation restrictions. Sovereign immunity also prohibits federal employer liability in wrongful death suits.

Suing a Negligent Third-party

As stated above, a federal employee injured on the job must file an injury claim with the federal workers’ comp administration. Even though you can’t sue the government, you may have the right to seek compensation from an at-fault third-party.

When it comes to injured federal workers, a third-party is any non-government person or business who contributed to the circumstances that caused your injury.

If your on-the-job injury resulted from the negligence of a third-party who was not acting on behalf of the federal government, then you may be able to seek damages from that party in a separate lawsuit.

Example: Hit by a drunk driver

Norma was a federal postal employee. She spent most of her working hours walking her assigned route, delivering mail to private residences.

One day, as she walked down a sidewalk, a car swerved off the road and ran her over. Norma suffered a fractured hip, deep cuts to her face, and a severe concussion.

When the police arrived, they administered a field sobriety test to the driver. He failed the test, and the police arrested him for driving while intoxicated.

Norma filed a federal workers’ compensation claim. She also hired a personal injury attorney to help her pursue the drunk driver who caused her terrible injuries.

Her attorney filed a lawsuit against the driver who hit Norma as she walked her postal route. The lawsuit demanded financial compensation for Norma’s damages, including her medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and a substantial amount for pain and suffering.

The jury awarded Norma all the damages demanded in her lawsuit. The award exceeded the driver’s insurance policy limits, so Norma’s attorney pursued the driver’s personal assets to recover the difference between his policy limits and the jury verdict.

Reimbursing Federal Workers’ Compensation

Third-party lawsuits can take years before they finally settle or go to trial. In the meantime, federal workers’ compensation will pay for your medical bills and other expenses.

If you recover money from a third-party for those same injuries, federal law states that you must reimburse the federal workers’ comp system for its payments.

Talk it over with your attorney. In many cases, the amount you recover from a third-party settlement or lawsuit will be large enough to pay back worker’s comp, pay your attorney’s fees, and walk away with a substantial amount for your pain and suffering.

When an Attorney Can Help

When you’ve suffered a relatively minor injury and expect to be fully recovered and back to work within a few weeks or months, you can probably handle your federal workers’ comp claim on your own.

On the other hand, if you’re seriously injured, or you disagree with the OWCP claims decisions, you’ll need the help of an attorney experienced in federal workers’ comp cases. Your attorney can help get a review of the OWCP decision, and if that fails, can help you make a final appeal to the Employees’ Compensation Appeal Board.

Of course, you’ll need the expertise of a good personal injury attorney to help you get the maximum compensation for your injuries from any third-party claims or lawsuits.

When it comes to serious injuries or disability, especially in federal workers’ comp claims, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by contacting an experienced attorney.

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Federal Workers' Comp Questions & Answers