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Federal employees, like workers in the private industry, are entitled to certain benefits if they are injured in the performance of their job or suffer an occupational disease. These benefits vest pursuant to the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act of 1971 (5 USC 8101), et seq. and are administered by the Department of Labor via the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).
The benefits that workers receive are largely dependent on the nature and extent of their injuries and/or illnesses. A federal worker’s family is also entitled to death benefits if the death resulted from a work-related injury or illness.
For traumatic (i.e. accidental) injuries, you may be entitled to your regular pay as well as workers’ compensation medical benefits during the period of your disability. Occupational disease (i.e. injuries that develop over the course of multiple work shifts) may also entitle you to these same payments. An occupational illness includes repetitive injuries, like carpal tunnel, toxic exposure or noise exposure leading to loss of hearing, etc.
As an injured federal worker, you may be entitled to the following benefits:
Medical expenses include:
You are entitled to choose your own medical provider, which may be a ophthalmologist, neurologist, osteopath, dentist or clinical psychologist. You can be reimbursed for mileage to and from your medical appointments, including trips to your pharmacist. You may also receive payment for hiring an attendant or someone to handle your daily chores or duties that you can no longer perform.
Vocational rehabilitation benefits are available for permanently disabled individuals as well. A maintenance allowance of no more than $200 monthly may be paid. If you are in an OWCP-approved vocational rehabilitation program, you may be paid at the same rate as for total disability.
If your injury is not permanent but prevents you from working, you may continue to receive your full pay for the period of your disability for up to 45 days under a claim for Continuation of Pay (COP); however, COP is not considered a benefit of workers’ compensation and is therefore subject to taxation and deductions. Should your temporary disability extend beyond 45 days, you can use sick or annual leave and claim workers’ compensation.
For partial disability claims, you are paid two-thirds of your pay after the disability period begins. You get 75% of your pay if you are married or one or more dependents are claimed. Should your disability be from an occupational illness, you are only entitled to medical benefits and not your regular pay during the period of disability. However, once your occupational illness is approved you may go back and retroactively obtain your compensation and medical benefits.
There are scheduled rates of compensation for those individuals who sustain permanent impairment of limbs, organs, and/or bodily functions or even for partial loss. Serious disfigurement is also compensable in this fashion. You are paid a certain sum for a prescribed number of weeks (e.g., for a lost arm, you are entitled to 312 weeks of compensation).
Loss of both legs or arms or one’s sight is considered evidence of permanent impairment; however, individuals who sustain such injuries may not necessarily be declared permanently and totally disabled. Many are entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits if they are able to perform work in another industry or vocation.
If you are fatally injured while in the performance of your job or from a work-related disease, your family is entitled to certain benefits. Your surviving spouse may receive 50 percent of your pay at the time of your death if there are no minor children or 45 percent if there are minor children who will each receive 15 percent. If minor children are the sole dependents, the oldest child receives 40 percent and each additional child receives 15 percent to be shared equally. But benefits to the family are up to a maximum 75 percent of your monthly pay. Compensation to your spouse continues until his/her death or remarriage unless the remarriage occurs after the age of 55. Burial expenses are available but only up to $800.
Not all claims are approved and there is considerable complexity in this area of the law. Issues that are regularly litigated include: whether you were injured; whether that injury occurred in the performance of your work; whether the medical evidence sufficiently supports your workplace injury; what benefits may be paid and how much; and whether you are able to return to work in the same capacity. Other issues may arise concerning your disability status, and you may even be better suited to apply for benefits other than or instead of workers compensation. Pines Federal attorneys focus exclusively on federal worker’s rights including your right to workers’ compensation. Call us today for an in-depth assessment of your injury claim.