How to File a Federal Workers’ Comp Claim: Benefits and Timelines

Learn how to file a Federal Workers’ Compensation claim. We cover OWCP awards, how long you can draw benefits, and how the check your OWCP claim status.

The Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) 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 an injured employee can expect in the way of federal workers’ comp benefits, what it takes to receive a scheduled award from OWCP, and how to check your OWCP claim status.

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.

The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) provides that a claim for compensation must be filed within 3 years of the date of loss/injury (DOL).

Checking Your OWCP Claim Status

The U.S. Department of Labor provides basic information on new claims, including how injured workers can check the status of their workers’ compensation claim.

Check your claim status by contacting your OWCP district office. Have your 9-digit case file number and Social Security Number available when calling. Following the menu fully may provide the answer to your question, such as the current status of your case, the status of compensation claims, etc.

If you leave a message, speak clearly, and be prepared to leave the following information when asked: your name, your case file number, your telephone number (including area code), and a brief message with your specific questions.

The OWCP tries to return calls within two business days.

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.

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 statutes, the government and its agencies are almost always immune from liability. Sovereign immunity also prohibits federal employer liability in wrongful death suits.

In other words, you can’t sue the government.

Federal Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Injured federal workers are entitled to medical benefits, wage benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. Injured federal workers are free to select their initial medical provider. However, the OWCP must approve later changes.

Keep in mind that the OWCP only covers chiropractic care for subluxation of the spine, and must be verified by x-rays taken shorty after the work injury occurred.

How Long Federal Workers’ Comp Pays Benefits

For most workers, if a traumatic work injury (supported by medical records) prevents you from working, you can expect full Continuation of Regular Pay (COP) benefits directly from the employing agency for up to 45 days from the date you were injured.

After 45 days, COP benefits from your federal agency ends. If you continue to be disabled by a work injury, compensation will be paid through OWCP. To get disability pay, the worker must submit form CA-7 along with medical evidence supporting the disability.

The disabled worker must submit a new CA-7 form every two weeks while disabled, or until the OWCP says it’s no longer necessary.

The disability pay rate is 66 and 2/3 percent of your pre-injury wages, or 75 percent if the injured worker has dependents. This rate covers the worker who is unable to return to work and those who are able to return to work for less hours than before the injury.

Medical treatment expenses for a work-related injury will continue for the lifetime of the injured worker.

FECA gives injured workers the right to go back to a federal job within a year of their work-related injury. If you are never able to return to your same job, OWCP will provide vocational rehabilitation services and continue to pay wage loss benefits until you are ready to return to full federal employment.

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.

Schedule Awards for Permanent Impairment

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 called a “schedule award.” There is no set timeframe for the OWCP to pay a schedule award.

To qualify, the injured worker must have reached “maximum medical improvement,” meaning that they won’t get any better with treatment or time. The worker must submit a CA-7 Claim for Schedule Award form and an impairment rating completed by their treating doctor.

The doctor must base the impairment rating according to the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. 

The claims examiner will investigate the impairment claim, and may schedule the injured worker for a second opinion medical examination.

Generally, compensation for schedule awards is payable at 66-2/3 percent of the employee’s pay, or 75 percent of the pay when the employee has at least one dependent. The “schedule” assigns a number of “weeks” for each body part or function according to the impairment rating.

Example: Schedule Award Calculation for Arm Impairment

For this example, suppose you are federal worker who suffered a serious arm injury on the job. You are a worker with dependents who made $1,000 per week before the injury, so your disability benefit is $750 per week (75%).

With a 50 percent impairment rating for an arm, the schedule is 156 weeks.

If you have a 100 percent impairment of an arm, the schedule is 312 weeks.

For a 50 percent loss of the use of your arm, your schedule award would be $750 x 156 weeks = $117,000.

For a 100 percent loss of the use of your arm, your schedule award would be $750 x 312 weeks = $234,000.

Death Benefits for Federal Employee Family

The Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation (DFEC) pays death benefits to survivors of federal workers killed on the job. The division will investigate the status of the survivors to the deceased worker to determine eligibility.

Potential beneficiaries include:

  • Spouse
  • Dependent children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings

Burial and funeral expenses up to $800 may be covered.

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 occupational illness.

Workers’ compensation laws differ for specific groups of workers. Railroad workers, longshore workers, 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. For example, harbor workers’ compensation has different rules and claim procedures than other federal employees.

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.

Non-Gov Claims In Addition to Federal Workers’ Comp

A federal employee injured on the job must file an injury claim with the federal workers’ comp administration. While you can’t sue the government, if the circumstances of your injuries are caused by someone who is not acting on the behalf of the government, you may have the right to seek compensation from the negligent third party.

You can file a third-party claim or lawsuit in addition to your federal workers’ compensation claim. Third-party claims or lawsuits are subject to state law, even if you are a federal employee injured in the scope of your duties.

Example: Postal Worker Hit by 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. Her attorney filed a lawsuit against the driver who hit Norma, seeking compensation for Norma’s damages, including her medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and a substantial amount for pain and suffering.

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, you can probably handle your federal workers’ comp claim on your own.

Learn more about what to do after a work injury here.

On the other hand, if you’re seriously injured, or disagree with the OWCP claim decision, 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.

Federal Workers' Comp Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>