Compensation for Federal Employee Injuries:

It's Time To Rethink the Rules

HRD-79-78: Published: Aug 22, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 22, 1979.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Over the years, the Department of Labor's decisions have provided an expansive interpretation of what constitutes a compensable injury under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act. When an employee of the Federal Government is injured or killed on the job, the worker or survivors are entitled to benefits. The criteria for determining compensable injuries are not always clear. Uncertainties are developing over how far the Government's liability should extend.

Increased costs are caused by increased employee salaries, increasing costs of medical care, and inflation. Another basic cause is the expanding concept of a compensable injury. Broad definitions, inadequate guidelines on the work relatedness of diseases, and uncertainty about the causes of many diseases have expanded program coverage.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should review the Department of Labor's determinations of what constitutes a compensable injury and provide any needed guidance on the Government's liability, and review guidelines for causal relation. To better understand the guidelines' meaning and effect, Congress should enact legislation directing the Secretary of Labor to report the results of the guidelines' application and to document his report by specific references to cases.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To aid the determinations of causal relationships, the Secretary of Labor should establish guidelines that have at least minimal factual and medical standards for developing and evaluating evidence and for deciding whether an injury is compensable; determine whether specific guidelines can be established for cases of aggravation or whether an alternative system for occupational diseases might be possible; and codify specific instructions on approved policies, procedures, and practices for determining causal relationships. To better understand the occupational disease problem and its effect, the Secretary should evaluate the Federal workers' compensation system for the number of claims, types of diseases, related cost, and other pertinent information, and the potential effects of the occupational health problem on the system.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 9, 2018

Dec 14, 2017

May 24, 2017

May 18, 2017

Apr 27, 2017

Dec 29, 2016

Sep 1, 2016

Aug 19, 2016

Jun 8, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here