The Workers Compensation Attorney Group is a highly rated workers’ compensation law firm devoted to helping injured employees in Orange County, seek compensation under FECA. Public or federal employees are subject to a different set of workers’ comp rules. For the federal employees who want to file a compensation claim, an attorney who understands the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act is your best choice to receive substantial compensation benefits.

What Is the Office of The Federal Workers’ Compensation?

Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (5 U.S.C. Sections 8101 et seq) is enacted by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP) and the Office of Personnel Management of the United States Department of Labor (D.O.L.). The responsibility of these offices is to enact FECA laws and ensure that all federal employees who sustain job-related injuries or illnesses are compensated accordingly. Federal employees who receive compensation benefits from the OWCP are those who have suffered work-related injuries or illnesses.

Do All Federal Employees Receive Workers’ Compensation?

Federal or public employees do not receive workers’ compensation benefits like local or state employees. Instead, they receive their compensation through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Separate workers' compensation laws cover railroad workers, harbor workers, black lung coal miners, and longshoremen. There are programs set aside for these employees that are not under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act but are under the four plans of the federal government.

Overview of Railroad Worker Injuries

Workplace risk varies from one place to another. Railroad employees are at higher risk of sustaining injuries than those working in other areas. Due to this, Congress enacted the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA) in 1908 to protect railroad workers. The FELA rules and regulations continue being adapted to the current day. Railroad workers and their loved ones keep receiving benefits for injuries or illnesses acquired at the workplace or due to work-related issues. The employer or railroad company should accept the claims from those people that are injured. A lawsuit can also be filed against these liable parties. If you are a railroad worker and have suffered an injury due to work, it is essential to know that you are eligible for compensation.

How Do I Prove Liability?

Federal Employer’s Liability Act is different from the worker’s compensation laws. For workers’ compensation laws, you don’t need to prove that the injury was due to the negligence of the employer. As long as the damage is compensable, you will receive compensation benefits. However, for rail workers, it is different. Before filing a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, you must show proof that your injury or illness was caused by the negligence of the railroad company, other employees, or the employer. If the damage was caused by equipment, you must provide substantial evidence to prove it was the equipment manufacturers fault.

It is the responsibility of railroad employers to create a hazard-free working environment. This includes ensuring that the equipment and tools used for work are safe. The employer is supposed to inspect the workplace to safeguard the environment, provide training and guidance to the employees, and ensure workplace rules and regulations are followed to the letter.

The burden of proof can be lesser than the degree of negligence or fault by the employer. However, this doesn't matter to FELA because what is needed is to show that no matter the amount of error, negligence led to the injury. If a claim is successful under FELA, one receives compensation for past and future partial wage loss, medical treatment, pain, suffering, and mental stress.

However, before receiving compensation, the involved parties, i.e., the respondent and the plaintiff must prove that the liability doesn’t rest on either of their sides. For the respondent, the best case is comparative negligence. Here, the respondent, who is the employer or railroad company tries to prove that it was the worker's negligence or fault that led to the injury. The jury hearing the case will evaluate the arguments of the two sides and then rate them in terms of percentage. If they conclude that the plaintiff was responsible for 25% of the injury and the employer 75%, the total amount of compensation will be reduced. You will receive 75% of the original amount because that is the percentage of the injury that could be blamed to the respondent who is the employer. The common injuries for railroad workers include electrocution, being hit by a moving train or object during maintenance or construction, and being involved in an accident with a railway car.

What Is the Difference Between State and Public Workers’ Compensation?

The state of California has its own worker's compensation laws. On the other hand, the federal government has regulations that are enforced by the office of workers’ compensation programs under the Department of Labor (D.O.L.). So, if you have suffered a work-related injury in Orange County, CA, it is vital to contact an attorney from the Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group to help differentiate between state and federal workers’ compensation.

For federal workers’ compensation, the benefits are received from the OWCP. The person receiving the benefits must be a civilian employee of the United States government, and the injury or sickness must have stemmed from work-related conditions. State workers’ compensation, on the other hand, is for those who aren’t civilian workers of the public government.

On the issue of compensation and benefits, both state and federal laws allow one to choose a physician. However, once the treatment and compensation processes have commenced for civilian employees, only the office of the worker's compensation program can approve a new doctor or physician.

Unlike state laws, federal workers’ compensation laws prohibit employees from filing lawsuits against the employer. The public employer is therefore immune to lawsuits even if the employee can prove that the injury or illness was as a result of the negligence of the employer. However, civilian employees are allowed to file lawsuits against third parties like colleagues or equipment manufacturers. 

Which Employees Are Covered By FECA?

FECA covers any civilian employee of the federal government working in the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Whether you are back on your original duties or not, you qualify for federal workers’ compensation. People working in public juries whether volunteers or not are also eligible for FECA benefits. State and local law enforcers like Peace Corps volunteers, civil air patrol and federal jurors are also under FECA.

What Conditions Are Covered By FECA?

When an employee suffers a temporary or permanent disability while working for the federal government, they qualify for federal employee compensation. Employees who succumb to injuries or illnesses sustained while doing something for the interest of the federal government receive payment through their relatives and families. There are no specific injuries or diseases that are covered by FECA. However, an injury or illness will not be compensable under FECA if it was brought about by the intoxication of the worker, willful misconduct, and intention to cause death or harm to themselves.

If a worker has been convicted of a felony that relates to falsifying evidence or documents to receive FECA benefits, they cannot qualify for compensation benefits for any injuries that occurred during or before the day they were convicted. The person will receive the benefits only after incarceration or might never receive them at all.

If You Are Injured at Work, How Do You File a FECA Claim?

The office of the worker's compensation program (OWCP) is in charge of all FECA claims. The OWCP staff evaluate the claim based on the evidence presented to them by the injured employee or claimant. Your physician or treating doctor can also offer evidence in terms of medical reports and records.

Before presenting the evidence, you must complete the CA-1 or CA-2 forms. The CA-1 form is a notice of claim for the continuation of compensation and traumatic injury by public workers. Traumatic injuries are those that can be tied to a specific event in the workplace like slipping on the floor or falling off a ladder. The CA-2, on the other hand, is a notice of occupation illness and claim for compensation. Occupational diseases cannot be tied to one specific event. Instead, the health conditions develop over a long time due to work environment or repeated motion.

Remember, for occupational diseases; ample evidence is required to prove that the condition is work-related. Therefore, before submitting the CA-2 form, go through CA-35 to understand all the necessary evidence for the claim to be accepted. After completing the forms, please forward them to your employer. The employer will complete their section in these forms and then submit them to the OWCP. You will receive a claim number from the OWCP, who will then proceed to review your claim to determine if there is enough evidence to accept the complaint. In the event the information in the forms is insufficient, they will notify you through a letter on what is required.

For those people no longer working for the federal government, you can file a claim through the federal agency where you were last employed when you sustained the injuries or the disease. If the employing agency no longer exists, visit the nearest OWCP.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of a FECA claim, you can request a hearing with OWCP or appeal the decision. The appeal is heard by the Employees Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB). The decision this board comes up with is final.

Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Claim?

FECA provides that a death or disability claim must be filed within a duration of three (3) years after the injury or demise. For federal employees with underlying conditions that are due to exposure to hazardous work environments like toxic chemicals over time, the three-year period begins when an employee is disabled or has knowledge of the disability caused by their work environment. However, for injuries, the timeline starts on the time and date of the damage.

For those with underlying conditions, after learning about the factors that are contributing to your health and you continue working, the time starts to run after the date you were last exposed to these factors without your knowledge. Written notice should be sent to your employer before the end of thirty (30) days. In case the employer was aware of the injury or underlying condition within thirty (30) days, the trauma remains compensable even if you don’t file a claim within three (3) years. The timeline of applying is determined by the office of the worker's compensation program according to 5 U.S.C. § 8122; 20 C.F.R. §§ 10.100-10.101.

What Are Some of The FECA Compensation Benefits?

  1. Continuation of Pay (C.O.P.)

A federal employee who suffers from traumatic injuries is eligible for this type of benefit. The employing agency or the employer pays the employee the same rate of pay they were receiving during the time of injury for the duration the said worker will be out of work. When you are away from work, you receive a continuation of pay not as compensation but as a salary. All deductions that are made on your payroll are also made on the extension of payment. If you spend more than forty-five (45) days away from work, then this is considered as partial or permanent disability.

  1.     Partial Disability

Some employees might go back to work after forty-five (45) days but cannot perform the type of duties similar to those they played before. They are, therefore assigned part-time tasks or perform more straightforward functions that come with lower pay. Partially disabled employees receive two-thirds of the difference between the monthly wage before disability and after disability if they are single. 75% of the difference between the period before the injury and after an injury is received if they have a dependent. The benefits are paid for the period you are disabled or till death.

  1. Scheduled Benefits

Workers who suffer permanent partial disabilities receive scheduled benefits. For instance, if you lose a limb but return to work after some time, no matter the kind of work you do, you will receive scheduled benefits in addition to temporary or permanent disability benefits. Appendix A indicates the FECA benefits an employee should receive for a certain number of weeks. If you disfigure your neck or head, and it impairs your ability to work or keep the job, you are eligible for three thousand five hundred ($3,500) dollars scheduled benefits.

  1. Total or Permanent Disability

If after an injury or illness, an employee is unable to work ultimately, they are then entitled to full disability compensation benefits. You will get a monthly benefit equal to two-thirds of your monthly wage payment if you are single or 75% of your pre-disability monthly wage if you have a spouse or dependents.

  1. Death

In the event an employee dies due to a work-related underlying condition or injury, the dependents or those left behind by the employee should receive compensation benefits. If you die and you had a spouse but no kids, your spouse receives monthly gains of 50% of the monthly salary you were receiving at the time of death. However, if you have children, your family or dependents will receive 45% of your monthly salary. Also, each child will be entitled to a monthly benefit of 15% of your monthly wage, but the maximum benefits should not exceed 75% of your monthly salary at the time of death.

  1. Additional Death Benefits

The person who will be representing the deceased employee during the period of the claim is eligible for reimbursement of a maximum of two hundred ($200) dollars for expenses used in ending the relationship between the federal government and the deceased employee. Other rebates include eight hundred ($800) dollars to cover funeral expenses and the cost of ferrying the dead person’s body to their home. Those working in the military and are killed in action are entitled to one hundred thousand ($100,000) dollars gratuity payment that goes to their designated survivors.

  1. FECA Medical Benefits

Under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, every federal employee is entitled to indemnification or reimbursement for medical devices, therapies, and medications that come with treatment for injuries and illnesses suffered. For federal workers, you should not spend anything to cover your medical costs. The federal government should take care of everything. The OWCP uses the fee schedule to determine the rates the federal government will pay. You can pick your physician to provide medical services, but the OWCP must approve them. In the event, you become blind or paralyzed due to the injury or sickness; you are entitled to an additional benefit of one thousand five hundred ($1,500) monthly to help with constant personal care.

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation

If you are a FECA beneficiary, the secretary of Labor expects you to take part in vocational rehabilitation for you to be paid by the government. Those employees who actively participate in vocational rehabilitation get two hundred ($200) dollars per month. The amount can, however, be withdrawn or reduced if you fail to adhere to the direction of the Secretary of Labor.

How Do I Claim Compensation for Wages Lost Due to Injury?

An employee should file a (claim for compensation) CA-7 form in case of loss of wages due to traumatic injuries. The benefits enjoyed at this period are called the continuation of pay and to be entitled to these benefits, you need to provide medical reports and records supporting the duration of disability you are claiming. The forms and medical reports should be submitted to the employing agency who will then complete their portion and send it to the OWCP who will determine if the claim is compensable or not.

How Do I Know About the Status of the CA-7 Filed for Wage Loss Compensation?

OWCP has an IVR system available around the clock that provides information on various claims. If you want to know your case status call 866-OWCP-IVR (866-692-7487), however, before making the call, you should have the claim number which is a 9-digit number and social security number.

How Do I Learn About My Claim Number?

Once your employer sends the claim form to the OWCP, and it is received, a letter is mailed to you. This letter contains your file case number or claim number and any other essential information that is relevant. If you know the OWCP district office handling your case, you can also get the claim number. When making the call, be prepared with your full name, social security number (SSN) and the date of the injury. If the claim was filed via ECOMP, you could check the claim number that will be displayed on your dashboard.

How Is the FECA Program Financed?

The benefits that injured or ill federal employees receive, are paid by the Federal Employees’ Compensation fund. The fund is financed through an appropriation from Congress, which is used to pay today’s federal workers’ benefits. For every quarter, the OWCP gives cost estimates to all federal agencies with beneficiary so that they can prepare budgets. The cost of administration associated with FECA programs is provided to the Department of Labor through appropriation. On July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2015, FECA paid $3.117 billion in benefits. $1.889 billion went to disability benefits, $1.075 billion to medical benefits and $156 million in bonuses to the designated survivors of public or federal employees killed in the line of duty.

In conclusion, this is an indicator that a lot of civilian employees working for the state get compensated after injuries or work-induced illnesses. It is therefore vital that when you suffer an injury at work, you contact a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney to help you file a claim.

Contact an Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorney Specializing in Federal Employees’ Compensation Cases Near Me

For increased chances of substantial FECA benefits, expertise and experience are compulsory. The Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group is knowledgeable and experienced in matters regarding employee compensation. Our attorneys understand everything about federal employee compensation laws and will help you attain a favorable outcome. Call 562-485-9694 to speak to one of our best legal practitioners for a free consultation in Orange County, CA.