Proposed workers’ comp changes would cut benefits

Proposed changes to federal employees\' workers\' compensation program could result in lower benefits, testified unions and employee groups Tuesday at a Senate ...

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Proposed changes to the federal workers’ compensation program could result in lower benefits, testified federal employee groups Tuesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on the federal workforce, said the workers’ comp program under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) has not been significantly updated in 40 years.

A bill by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) proposes feds under FECA are automatically converted to the federal retirement system once they reach Social Security age.

A separate proposal by the Labor Department would set a uniform level of compensation at 70 percent of their pay. Currently, feds with at least one dependent get 75 percent and feds without dependents get 66.7 percent.

The 75 percent compensation is greater than employees’ take-home pay and is a disincentive for injured workers to return to work, according to testimony from Gary Steinberg, acting director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program for Labor.

But Ron Watson, who represented the National Association of Letter Carriers at the hearing, said these proposals “unfairly harm injured workers.”

The proposed changes rely on an “over-simplified view of the matter, and it is completely at odds with NALC’s experience,” Watson said.

Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, agreed, saying these changes could force some feds into poverty.

Beaudoin pointed out that feds under FECA cannot contribute to their Thrift Savings Plan and are not receiving promotions and raises, resulting in a lower annuity. Some feds have “little to rely on but the money they receive as compensation for their injuries,” he said.

Another federal union says the debate over compensation is tied to the question of how the government can better prevent injuries.

“NTEU welcomes a review of the FECA program, while always keeping in mind this is an issue of human dignity,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement. “We believe such a review should be broad and comprehensive. By that, we mean that it should never start or be rigidly limited to benefit payments.”

Earlier this month, the House Committee on Workforce and Education passed a bill that increases the maximum awards currently set in FECA.


Increases in federal workers’ comp pass House committee

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.