Federal agencies Workers' compensation Return to work

House hearing debates federal workers’ comp system

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Reeforming Workers hearing

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Washington – How can the federal workers’ compensation system balance the needs of injured workers with the wise use of taxpayer funds? The question was debated during a May 20 hearing convened by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

The Department of Labor is seeking statutory amendments to revise the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act in three areas:

  1. Enhance return-to-work and rehabilitation by addressing disincentives that adversely affect injured workers returning to the job.
  2. Update benefit structures by creating a single rate for all new claims. Current recipients with dependents receive a higher rate than those with no dependents.
  3. Modernize and improve FECA by allowing easier data sharing between government agencies, and increase incentives for agencies lowering their injury and lost time rates.

During the hearing, several witnesses and subcommittee members stressed the importance of a fundamental principle regarding FECA: No worker should be worse or better off as a result of suffering an on-the-job injury.

Democrats asserted that the proposed revisions would cut survivor benefits to families and put permanently disabled workers at a disadvantage upon retirement. However, some witnesses and subcommittee members said the changes are necessary to create a more efficient compensation system and more effectively use taxpayer money.

A bipartisan FECA reform bill passed out of the House in 2011, but stalled in the Senate.