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Recent GAO Reports on the Federal Employees' Compensation Act

T-GGD-97-187: Published: Sep 30, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1997.

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GAO discussed the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) oversight, focusing on: (1) the recovery of continuation of pay (COP) benefits in cases where third parties were liable for injuries; (2) selected comparisons of FECA provisions with provisions of other federal and state workers' compensation laws; and (3) issues associated with changing benefits for older FECA beneficiaries.

GAO noted that: (1) the federal government's workers' compensation program is authorized under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA); (2) this program, which is administered by the Department of Labor, provides employees suffering from work-related injuries and occupational diseases with various types of benefits, depending on the nature and extent of the injury and their ability to return to work; (3) GAO recommended that FECA be amended to allow the government to obtain refunds of COP benefits when injured employees recover damages from liable third parties; (4) injured employees are to continue to receive their regular pay for up to 45 days when they are absent from work for traumatic injuries; (5) because of interpretations of FECA by the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board and a federal court, the government no longer has a legal basis to obtain refunds of injured employees' COP benefits in third-party injury cases; (6) in effect, these employees receive a double recovery of income for their first 45 days of absence from work due to injury; (7) although the formula for calculating benefits under FECA was similar to most other laws, FECA's authorized maximum weekly benefit amount was greater; (8) unlike most states, FECA provides claimants with a spouse or a dependent with an additional benefit of 8 1/3 percent of salary; (9) under other workers' compensation laws, employees must be out of work for a 3- to 7-day waiting period before they can receive wage-loss benefits; (10) under FECA, the 3-day waiting period is preceded by a period of 45 days in which employees with traumatic injuries continue to receive their regular pay; (11) GAO's August 1996 report provided information on: (a) selected characteristics of individuals on FECA's long-term rolls; (b) views of proponents and opponents of changing FECA benefits for older beneficiaries; and (c) questions and issues that Congress might consider if crafting benefit changes; and (12) of the $1.28 billion in compensation benefits paid in 1995, about $611 million was paid to beneficiaries on the long-term rolls who were age 55 and older.

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