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Legislation to reform federal work comp system advances

Reform of the federal workers' compensation system has emerged as a significant issue on Capitol Hill over the course of the last year. For example, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) sponsored legislation back in February that would transition both federal and postal employees who suffered work injuries from the work comp system to the applicable retirement system upon reaching the retirement age of 65.

In addition, a group of federal legislators -- including Representative John Kline (R-Minnesota), Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-California) and Rep. George Miller (D-California) -- proposed purportedly cost-saving legislation designed to reform the federal work comp system -- something that hasn't been done in almost 40 years.

Specifically, the group introduced the "Federal Workers' Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act" (i.e., HR 2465), a bill that would simplify the claims process, create greater accountability for federal agencies and revise available benefits for work injuries.

Now, it appears as if the momentum behind HR 2465 is slowly building as the House voted just last week to pass the bill.

As part of the effort to increase accountability on the part of government agencies, HR 2465 would permit the U.S. Department of Labor - the agency in charge of paying out federal workers' comp - to validate employee salaries against data held by the Social Security Administration, and to gather administrative fees from these agencies.

It would also allow both physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to certify the disability of federal employees due to traumatic injuries and authorizes payment for these services.

"As is too often the case with government programs left unchecked, waste and inefficiencies have crept into the system, leading to poor use of taxpayer resources and diminished support for those the program is intended to serve," said Rep. Walberg. "This legislation will help ensure federal employees have access to a program that reflects the realities of today's economy and the best practices in medical care."

Federal employees are entitled to work comp benefits and medical rehabilitation costs and surviving dependents are entitled to benefits due to work-related fatalities under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) of 1916. Currently, roughly 2.7 million federal workers and postal employees are covered under this legislation.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

The Federal Times, "House approves workers' comp reforms" Nov. 30, 2011

Government Executive, "Lawmakers push to reform federal workers' comp program" July 12, 2011

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