How Long Can a Federal Employee Be on Workers' Compensation?

Suffering from a work-related injury can be a traumatic experience, and when a federal worker experiences an injury at work, they often don’t know what to do next.

To be fair, federal workers’ compensation is entirely different from each state’s workers’ compensation program. So if you have an understanding of worker’s compensation, it will not be applicable if you’re employed by the government.

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This article will give you a broader understanding by answering four of the most common questions about federal workers' compensation benefits, including:

How long can a federal employee be on workers' compensation?
What are the eligibility requirements for federal workers' comp benefits?
What do I need to prove to obtain federal workers’ compensation?
What benefits are included for federal employees through workers comp?

If you’re looking to get a more concise understanding of how federal workers’ compensation relates to you, speak with an independent insurance agent today. These agents can give you a clear understanding of which benefits you’re entitled to, how long they last, and what you can do to protect yourself and your finances.

How long can federal employee be on workers' compensation?

For most injuries, a federal worker is provided with regular wages for 45 days after a claim is filed and approved. Furthermore, compensation for lost wages due to an occupational disease can be awarded after an initial three-day waiting period.

After the 45-day period elapses, payment of wages will decrease to ⅔ of pre-disability wages, or ¾ of those wages if the worker has dependents. The question of length, however, can only be determined after a medical evaluation provides information on the extent of an injury. 

Those who are permanently disabled and can no longer participate in the workforce due to their injuries may qualify for life-long benefits. Alternatively, federal workers who are only partially disabled may only receive reduced amounts that make up the difference of lost wages. And if it is determined that a worker has fully recuperated, benefits will cease. 

What are the eligibility requirements for federal workers' comp benefits?

The first thing to understand is that federal employees who were injured at work don’t receive disability benefits through workers’ comp insurance or their state’s workers' comp program. 

Instead, most federal employees will receive workers' comp benefits through the US Department of Labor’s Office of Worker Compensation Programs (OWCP),  provided by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). Regardless of the number of years of service, nature of the position, or type of work you perform, coverage under FECA is provided to all federal government employees.

Like state-specific workers’ comp programs, FECA provides benefits and injury compensation for federal employees who are injured at work, or have occupational illnesses that arise over time due to hazardous work conditions. FECA also covers off-site injuries that occur during the course and scope of their employment, such as while traveling.

Also, surviving family members and dependents of federal workers who die on the job while doing work-related activities are eligible for death benefits and burial expenses.

Exemptions to FECA Benefits

There are few exemptions for those who can receive FECA benefits. 

Injuries and diseases that arise as a result of activities outside the "course and scope of employment" are ineligible for FECA benefits, including: 

  • Commuting to/from work
  • Recreational outings
  • Activities for personal reasons

Furthermore, injuries sustained under the influence of non-prescription drugs or alcohol are unlikely be covered.

Private government contractors are not eligible to receive FECA benefits. For those who work for a private company, the workers’ compensation laws in the state where the injury occurred will cover them instead.

There are also other types of federal employees who receive their own types of worker’s compensation, including:

  • Railroad workers
  • Longshoremen
  • Harbor workers
  • Coal miners (with black lung ailments) 
  • Members of the US Armed Forces 
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What do I need to prove to obtain federal workers’ compensation?

To obtain federal workers’ compensation, you will need to file a claim with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), which is is administered by the US Department of Labor. A claims examiner will be assigned to review your file and will determine if your claim is legitimate, based on five factors:

1. The injury/illness occurred while the worker was employed by the federal government.

The worker must prove that the injury or illness occurred while they were employed with the federal government. In most cases, the supervisor’s report of an accident or injury will be acceptable. However, it is important for the worker to verify that the report has been filed correctly. 

2. Notice of a worker’s injury or death must be provided in a timely manner.

Formal notice must be sent to the OWCP within 30 days of the injury or death. In most cases, the agency the employee works for typically submits the written notice to the OWCP. The statute of limitations for a claim is three years from the date of injury or death. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, claims must be filed in these time frames or they will become invalid.

3. The worker must prove that they were injured.

To ensure that the federal worker was injured as a direct result of work, the claims examiner will look at two factors: 

  • The factual inquiry, establishing that the event or accident did occur.
  • The medical records, establishing that the injury or death diagnosis arose from the factual inquiry.

4. The injury or death must have occurred due to the workers’ performance on the job.

To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, the worker must prove that the injury was a result of acceptable, job-related activities. Those who are injured due to willful misconduct, intent to harm self or others, or while intoxicated will have their claims denied.

5. The injury or death must be causally related to work-related actions.

The claims examiner will look for direct causality that you were injured or died due to your work environment and tasks. If a worker was working on a government project to repair water damage and later contracted an illness due to black mold, the injury/illness would have been directly caused by performing job duties.

To ensure that your case is properly managed, consult an independent insurance agent. These agents can help recommended best practices to receive workers’ compensation, such as which official documents are needed to prove your case in the shortest time possible. 

What benefits are included for federal employees through workers' comp?

The following benefits are provided by the US government to civilian federal workers who become injured or become ill due to their job duties, or may also be awarded to a worker's dependents if a work-related injury or disease causes a loved one’s death:

  • Medical treatment, including rehabilitation, therapy, surgery, medical devices, related transportation costs, and prescriptions are provided. Injured employees have the initial choice of physicians and are able to select any qualified local physician or hospital to provide necessary treatment, or may use agency medical facilities if available. Changes after initial selection must be authorized by OWCP.
  • Compensation for aggravated medical conditions is also provided. These include injuries where a worker may have a preexisting injury or medical condition that is exacerbated while employed by the government.
  • Compensation for vocational retraining is provided if it is determined that an individual requires job retraining to return to the workforce after an injury or illness.
  • Compensation for lost wages. Federal workers can expect a continuation of full wages for the first 45 days of temporary disability payments. For injuries and illnesses that are sustained past 45 days, workers may be eligible to receive ⅔ of predisability wages, or ¾ of those wages if the worker has dependents.
  • Compensation for permanent effects. If a worker suffers injuries that result in permanent disabilities or partial impairment, compensation will be awarded after temporary total disability benefits have been exhausted under a “schedule award.” Schedule awards consist of payments depending on which body part is impaired, the percentage of permanent impairment, number of dependents, and the worker’s wage rate.
  • Attendant allowances up to $1,500 per month are allotted for workers who have injuries that require hired assistants at home.
  • Survivor’s benefits for dependents of a federal employee who died on the job, including the spouse, children, dependent parents, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren.
  • Up to $800 in burial expenses for a deceased worker’s dependents.

Determining which benefits you qualify for can be complex and confusing. For more information and to simplify the process, be sure to consult an independent insurance agent to be aware of any benefits that you may be eligible for through FECA workers' comp. 

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