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 is designed to enhance efficiency, improve program integrity and modernize benefits for today’s federal workers. The bill was introduced in the House Education and Workforce Committee.
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.
The problem the Congressmen outlined as defining the need for the legislation is that the federal employees’ workers compensation program has not been updated in nearly 40 years which has led to a number of inefficiencies.
A couple of examples: 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 Additionally, compensation is often determined by outdated information that does not reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace.
“Leaving government programs on auto-pilot for decades is simply unacceptable,” said Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “Congress has a responsibility to ensure the agencies and programs under our jurisdiction serve the best interests of taxpayers and the individuals they were created to serve. I want to thank my colleagues for working together on bipartisan solutions that will help bring this program into the 21st century.”
The goals outlined by the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act include the following:
Enhance 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.
Improve 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.
Modernize 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).
Committee leaders also sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for a comprehensive review of additional reforms that may be needed to strengthen the program and the impact of these potential reforms on beneficiaries.