What Should a Federal Employee Do When Injured at Work?
The federal government is a Gordian knot of bureaucracy. So, if you are a federal employee injured in a workplace accident, be prepared for the last thing anyone suffering an injury wants to have to worry about… a whole lot of paperwork. As with any workplace injury suffered while working for any other employer, the first thing you are going to want to do after getting hurt is to report your injury to your supervisor.
Unlike employees in most other fields, U.S. government employees are not covered under workers’ compensation law. This does not mean, however, that you are left out in the cold if you’re hurt in a workplace accident. You are merely covered through a different type of workers’ compensation program, which is run through the federal government.
What Is FECA?
FECA is the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, and it exists to take care of federal employees injured on the job. FECA works in much the same way as regular workers’ comp, but it is more structured and doesn’t revolve around negotiating a settlement with an insurance company.
FECA pays all of your medical bills and for any vocational rehabilitation. If you are forced to miss work due to your injury, you will receive your full wages for up to 45 days after the date of injury. After that, you’ll continue to receive your wages but at a reduced rate. You will receive two-thirds of your pre-injury income if you are without dependents and three-quarters if you do have dependents.
If your injury makes it impossible for you to ever return to work, then you can apply for “loss of earning capacity” benefits. These benefits will make up the difference in your pre-injury and post-injury income.
You are also entitled to other funds in a few circumstances, including receiving up to $1,500 a month to pay for home care if you require assistance and a cash settlement for a permanent disability. FECA will also pay death benefits to your family if you die on the job.
Steps to Follow
If you are injured while working as an employee of the federal government, then several things need to be handled. Here are the four main steps, which we will break down.
Report the Injury
As mentioned earlier, the first thing you need to do in case of an injury is to report it to your supervisor. Be sure to promptly notify your employer or the circumstances of the accident are going to be harder to prove, which could possibly result in the denial of your claim.
Receive Medical Treatment
Unless the injury is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention, you are going to want to obtain authorization for your treatment from your supervisor using form CA-16. You may select your own physician for your initial medical treatment, but this is when the weight of bureaucracy really starts to take its toll.
In addition to form CA-16 you also need to bring your medical provider form OWCP-1500/HCFA-1500. This is the billing form for your doctor’s office so they can bill the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).
File Written Notice
Depending on whether you have a workplace injury or illness, you may need to file either form CA-1 or CA-2 with your supervisor within 30 days of the incident. The sooner, the better. The forms come with a “receipt of notice,” which your supervisor needs to complete and return to you so that you have it for your records.
Depending on the severity of your claim, you may have a lot more paperwork ahead of you as bureaucracy marches on. Form CA-1 is making a claim for continuation of pay (COP) and is to be used if you suffer an injury that makes you unable to work. Along with form CA-1, you need to submit medical evidence from your doctor that supports your claim.
After the 45-day period covered under form CA-1, if you are still unable to return to work, then you need to file form CA-7 to extend your COP claim.
Bring in An Attorney
If you find the bureaucracy to be more than you can handle in this challenging time, hiring a competent attorney to help you sort through everything can help. For minor claims, it is best to deal with things yourself, but for major claims, or if your initial claim is denied, bringing in an attorney can be just what you need.
A qualified attorney can help get the OWCP to review their decision and possibly file an appeal to the Employees’ Compensation Appeal Board that could make all the difference. An attorney cannot help you to sue the federal government. That is not an option that is on the table for you. However, if your accident occurred while on the job, but was the fault of a third-party unrelated to the government, then a lawyer could help you to file a lawsuit against the third-party to help get you the money you deserve.