The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) is the federal agency responsible for handling work-related injury and illness claims for federal employees. Its mission is “to protect the interests of workers who are injured or become ill on the job, their families and their employers by making timely, appropriate, and accurate decisions on claims, providing prompt payment of benefits and helping injured workers return to gainful work as early as is feasible.”
What workers’ compensation benefits can injured federal workers claim?
A federal employee who is injured on a job or who contracts an occupational disease is entitled to benefits that fairly compensate them. Some of the benefits that injured federal workers may recover include lost earnings, medical expenses for treatment, and the costs of therapy and rehabilitation, depending on the nature of their disease and which program makes them eligible for federal workers’ compensation benefits.
What are the four federal workers’ compensation programs?
The OWCP oversees four disability compensation programs designed to help federal employees and their dependents (in the event of a federal employee’s death). Let’s take a closer look at each one.
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Program
This program administers benefits under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). It covers 3 million federal civilian employees, including postal workers, Peace Corps members, and Americorps Vista volunteers. It also covers Civil Air Patrol volunteers, ROTC cadets, Job Corps and Neighborhood Youth Corps enrollees, and non-federal law enforcement officers under certain circumstances involving crimes against the United States.
Any injury or disease that occurs during the performance of work, including during meal and rest breaks on the worksite, is covered by the FECA. To be covered, the injury cannot be intentional or caused by the employee’s intoxication.
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program administers compensation and medical benefits for employees who became ill while working in the nuclear weapons industry. There are two groups covered by this program.
The first group, which is covered under Part B of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), includes current and former workers who were exposed to radiation, beryllium, or silica on their jobs with the Department of Energy or an atomic weapons employer or beryllium vendor. Workers diagnosed with radiologic cancer, chronic beryllium disease, beryllium sensitivity, and silicosis are covered.
The second group, which is covered under Part E of the EEOICPA, includes workers injured after they were exposed to toxic substances while working for a Department of Energy facility.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program
This program administers benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). It is designed to reduce the impact of injuries and deaths that occur to employees working at sea or on adjacent lands where they load, unload, repair, or build ships and other vessels. Adjacent lands include piers, docks, terminals, and wharves. Covered employees include longshore workers, ship repairers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers.
Three additional laws extend the protections of the LHWCA:
- The Defense Base Act extends the coverage under the LHWCA to employees who work for private employers on U.S. military bases and lands, work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act (including the sale of military equipment and services), and work for U.S. employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the armed services.
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act covers employees working on oil rigs and for other businesses exploring natural resources off the shore of the U.S.
- The Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act covers civilian employees who work on military bases.
The LHWCA does not cover seamen, U.S. government employees, employees whose injuries were caused solely by their intoxication, and employees whose injuries resulted from their own intentional conduct.
The Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation Program
This program, also called the Federal Black Lung Program, compensates coal miners who are disabled completely as a result of pneumoconiosis and other lung diseases related to their work. The program provides financial compensation for treatment expenses, including doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, inpatient and outpatient services, home nursing services, home oxygen and other medical equipment, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Where to get help with federal workers’ comp claims
As you can see, the federal workers’ compensation scheme is complex — and this blog barely scratches the surface of these complexities. Before you file an injury- or illness-related claim, it’s a wise move to consult an expert who has experience handling these claims.
If you have questions about the best way to proceed with your federal workers’ comp claim, reach out to the experienced workers’ comp lawyers at Hunter & Everage today.