The House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation today on a voice vote to strengthen and reform the existing federal workers' compensation program.
"Workers and their families should be no better off, nor worse off, because of a disabling injury or death caused by while in service to the federal government. This bill preserves and protects that commitment," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat of the Education and the Workforce Committee. "I am encouraged we have advanced bipartisan bill to improve the program and deliver savings to taxpayers."
The Federal Workers' Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act (H.R. 2465) would update and enhance the efficiency of the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA), thereby ensuring the program best meets the needs of both injured workers and taxpayers. The federal program has provided compensation benefits to federal employees who become injured or ill through a work-related activity since 1916, and has not been significantly reformed in almost 40 years.
"No federal employee should face bankruptcy or economic ruin because of an injury suffered on the job," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the senior Democrat of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. "We owe it to these public servants to provide a safety net, so they can continue to support their families in the event of a workplace-related health problem. I am pleased there is bipartisan support for strengthening this important law."
Specifically, H.R. 2465 would:
* Enhance efficiency by expanding eligible providers of medical services to include physician's assistants and advanced nurse practitioners.
* Raise the maximum disfigurement benefit from $3,500 (set in 1949) to $50,000.
* Increase funeral benefits from $800 (set in 1949) to $6,000.
* Codifies coverage for injuries caused by acts of terrorism.
* Extend "continuation of pay" from 45 days to 135 days for overseas personnel in a "zone of armed conflict."
* Save taxpayer money through adoption of program integrity measures recommended by GAO and the Department of Labor Inspector General, including matching of Social Security records with claimant's earnings, and expansion of FECA's subrogation provision.
In addition to these reforms, House Education and the Workforce Committee leaders asked the Government Accountability Office for a comprehensive review of additional reforms that have been proposed by the Department of Labor and to assess the impact of these potential reforms on beneficiaries.
"Congress must be assured that reform proposals do not lead to inequitable outcomes," added Miller.