Hearing Loss Claims Processing Delays Under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act

HRD-80-19: Published: Jan 21, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 1980.

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The growth of hearing loss claims by Federal employees over the last 10 years, coupled with the growth of higher priority claims, has led to a large backlog of hearing loss claims. The Hearing Loss Task Force was established to reduce the claims backlog. The task force was established as a temporary group and staffed primarily with temporary employees under the supervision of two experienced examiners. The Department of Labor planned to disband the task force and return adjudication of hearing loss claims to its district offices. GAO was asked to review and suggest ways to expedite the processing of these claims.

GAO found that because of case backlog and insufficient expertise in case processing, examiners were not able to review claims as they came in. There was a lack of response to claimant requests for claim status. Agency officials said that claimant inquiries were not answered because a response would require preempting the processing of other cases to review the inquirer's file. District office claims examiners appeared to lack expertise and did not adequately evaluate audiometric testing results. The task force's approach to evaluating the claims produced more accurate awards. However, the claims could have been resolved more quickly had the examiners been familiar with the technical aspects of hearing loss. GAO felt that the process could be improved by hiring more full-time examiners instead of temporary ones. Also, maintaining the centralized hearing loss unit could result in greater efficiency. There would be greater sharing of knowledge derived from a wide variety of cases, more efficient training of new examiners, and the availibility of an expert audiologist staff for consultation on technical matters.

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