Susan Collins calls for review of federal employees’ workers comp program

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has called for a thorough review of the program that provides federal employees with protection against loss of income from work-related injuries.

The Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) pays benefits to roughly 49,000 federal employees to ensure that injured employees receive income while they recuperate pending their return to work. Senator Collins asked the Government Accountability Office to audit FECA and report on the length of time individuals remain on the program, the number of recipients who exceeded the standard federal retirement age, and how the federal program compares to state workers’ compensation best practices. Senator Collins also asked GAO to compare records against the Death Master File and the civilian payroll database to search for deceased individuals receiving benefits or recipients “double dipping.”

“I am increasingly concerned that individuals with no intention of returning to work continue to receive these benefits,” said Senator Collins. “At the U.S. Postal Service, for example, 1,000 employees currently receiving federal workers’ compensation benefits are 80 years or older. Incredibly, 132 of these individuals are 90 and older and there are three who are 98. This abuse may extend across the government where the Department of Labor regularly pays benefits to employees in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and even 100s. The lack of benefit caps and requirements for regular third-party certifications of continued need further expose the FECA program to possible fraud. If recipients are gaming this crucial benefit at taxpayers’ expense, they must be exposed and the underlying program must be reformed.”

FECA is more generous than federal retirement since on average employees on FECA receive nearly three quarters of their gross pay, tax-free. Under FECA, there also is an annual cost-of-living adjustment. By comparison, a federal employee with 30 years of service would retire under CSRS with an average of just over 56 percent of his or her gross pay, which is taxed. Under this scenario, a retired federal employee would receive 27 percent less annually than a comparable federal employee on FECA. FECA has no limits on the amount of time spent in the program or the amount of money given to recipients. FECA has no caps or cut-off periods, which is why there are reported cases of recipients in their 90s and 100s still receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

  • lostmechanic

    Really 1000 employees, very small number in the scheme of things, and what is the dollar difference between there work comp payment and a regular retirement payment???. This doesn’t add up to much. The other cost is the tax savings for 1000 individuals. The honorable Ms Collins had no problem supporting tax breaks for millionaires who will do nothing with this extra money to help the job market, so why attack retired federal employees who spend every bit of the retirement checks to help the job market. The Honorable Ms. Collins is just plain wrong and is only interested in throwing up smoke screens so she can do her dirty needs with out the middle class see what she is really up to, moving the tax burden from the rich to the middle class.

  • 31 year loser

    lost can you even read? that is 1000 over 80, there must be 100,000 under 80 receiving benefits. I’d like them to do a study on how many people are receiving benefits that worked at McDonalds compared to the Postal service its funny how making more money keeps you disabled longer

  • tatt too

    there are between 17k/18k postal on disability/FECA

  • postal worker

    This is a national disgrace, she should ask some postal managers who have seen this abuse for years to look at it, Using the IG’s will result in nothing. I know a Postal Inspector who has a claim, fell down, hurt my back, yea right.

  • Jack

    Carriers often take some form of disability
    over regular retirement, it’s a joke.
    I know a lot of carriers that get a military
    disability and then retire on postal disability.
    Everyone knows it is much smarter to go
    out on some kind of disability, it just
    pays better. I commend Senator Collins
    for having the courage to speak out
    about this obvious abuse.

  • Charley

    The need for a mandatory end to OWCP benefits and mandatory acceptance of retirement pay is needed. Protect the injured employees, but do not provide an incentive to remain injured.

  • jimbilly

    If all of these employees who were injured due to managements disregard of workplace safety were injured in the private sector they could have sued for and been awarded millions. An employee who suffered a career ending injury deserves comp for life to be made whole due to their loss of lifetime income.

  • Rob

    When FECA disability individuals reach retirement age they must go on FERs or CSRS retirement…this is a needed change….it would be more fair then leaving these individuals on FECA after 62…..

  • tony

    Jimbilly obviously is a union stewart preaching the unions long, tired line….

  • retired manager

    I fired a carrier that had been out for over 2 years for a shoulder injury. We got him on tape playing 18-36 holes of golf per day. The arrogance!! He even posted his scores daily on the web. I printed those scores everyday along with his pay records and used them to walk him out. I then had the NALC stewards waych the video. Its about time something was done about this.

  • HomeinTN

    What took our congress soooo long to do something about this. As a former investigator in this area, I have seen the abundant abuse and it has cost the USPS millions. Not for the ones that deserved the comp, but for the ones that abused the system. I commend Senator Collins. I just wish it had been sooner.

  • John

    762 out of the 1000, sadly, were eas….

  • David

    I don’t know if y’all read the same piece that I did. We are all aware that people abuse Comp. But to have a system that cannot be scammed is to have NO system at all. Of course their should be oversight to limit abuse to the extent possible. The USPS is already well on it’s way to removing injured craft employees on OWCP with their NRP. That is a whole other issue! In CT there are NO carrier craft employee’s on comp that are 80 years old! Or 70 for that matter. Must be another craft or the non-craft folks that get to pull off that number! However mandatory retirement should be at 67 so that nobody with a LEGIT disability is forced to take reduced SSI. I don’t know where Jack is from, but very few carriers here take some form of disability over regular retirement. And the number that do is shrinking. A lot of smoke for a very small fire. I hope none of YOU that want to stick it to the “fakers” need that OWCP when you slip a disc! (disclaimer: I have never been on comp for any injury – thankfully!)

  • retired

    Congress repealed a mandatory retirement age of 70 for federal and postal employees in 1979. As a consequence, OWCP compensation recipients no longer had to retire. If a mandatory retirement age is reimposed, it shouldn’t be less than age 70.

  • justme

    Forcing work-injured federal employeees to retire while huindreds of thousands of able-bodied employees (inlcluding federal) continue to work as long as they wish past their retirement age is nothing but overt age and disability discrimination. Has the Honorable Maine Senator forgot that the US Congress did away with age and disability discrimination decades ago?

  • Jeffrey

    Hey postal manager. How did your carrier get paid for over 2 years when he or she was out on a work related injury? He or she should have been collecting a biweekly check from the DOL. You said you printed out his pay. A manager does not have access to DOL records. They are confidential.

  • retired manager

    OK, I guess I lied.

  • lyntwo

    By GAWD, you see that bum over there, do you think it is FAIR that he has a 32 oz can of beans when you only get a 16 oz.

    Now will you please step back from my security guards around my government provided limousine which I can show you costs less to the taxpayer then all those cans of 32 oz beans that the government is giving to those bums illegally sleeping under the bridges.

  • lyntwo

    I mean, really, do you think it is right that these people are taking advantage of a law passed by congress and administered by persons appointed by Congress.?

    Why next thing you know, we’ll have to put up with all those whining homeowners when they lose their mortgage interest tax deductions.

    Money has to be saved somewhere.

  • lyntwo

    Managers do have access to DOL records. How. Gee, their laptops just happen to be in the same vacation condos that the agency Worker Comp officers use to host Agency (meaning whatever Federal bureaucracy covered by FECA) / DOL work advisory consultation meetings are held in.

    “There´s my laptop. It’ll be safe here? Right?” (wink, wink.)

  • victoria

    Maybe they should look at the fact that when an employee is on owcp they are constantly trying to get physical therapy or some other type of care. I have been out of work now for several months and my Doctor has tried numerous times to get my physical therapy. They don’t even notify you if it has been denied. It is too much red tape to get the proper care. I would rather be at work and know when my pay is gonna come instead of constantly checking to see when it will be here. It isn’t an easy process. So maybe some people need to look at that fact. There are many of us out here that suffer and they don’t care.

  • wy

    the sad part is the ones that are really injured can’t get what they need medically, or financially but the ones that are just plain sorry and working the system have their butts sitting on daylight with weekends off holding all the other employees up from working… get the inspectors to do their job follow them one day and thats all it would take to violate their restrictions . get rid of them once and for all !

  • Peter

    For anyone who thinks worker’s comp pays more than retirement think it through again. In just 10 years of receiving workers’ compensation an injured employee can watch the salaries of his fellow employees nearly double and in 20 years triple or quadruple, while he has had to survive on a shrinking income because COLAs are always at least 1% less than the actual COL Increase not including gasoline prices which are not factored in the annual COLA. Next is the fact that when you are on Comp you are unemployed and therefore not allowed by law to contribute to your TSP (you may only contribute wages) and additionally lose the 5% agency contribution. This can translate to a difference of a million dollars or more for an employee who gets to work his entire career verses next to nothing for an injured worker who had to take out a hardship withdrawal while waiting for his case to be adjudicated and might have $50,000 in his thrift when he reaches retirement age if he’s lucky. Then there is the OWCP who even though are non-adversarial, never relent in trying to terminate or reduce the injured worker’s benefits by sending them to doctors that are hired to say there is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing like living in daily fear of losing your only means of support for your family to improve your outlook on life. For an injured worker every day of his life can be a struggle both physically and mentally. Chronic physical incapacitation and pain often leads to emotional and psychiatric disorders and unresolved emotional psychiatric disorders often lead to major depression, which in turn often leads to physical ailments due to the emotional stress and lack of exercise. Contrary to popular belief, being an injured home-body is not a glamorous lifestyle. It usually can mean a significant loss in one’s quality of life and incredibly may even lead to heart disease (Stress and lack of exercise being the top causes). So we all need to stop and think before our mob mentality causes us to kick those who are already down. Let’s enact legislation to carefully weed out the fraudsters and try to do even more for the real victims whose lives have already been damaged too much by their employer’s negligence.

    Happy Trails.

  • Lightseeker

    Peter I sure hope more folks like you write there representatives. Mob mentality hits the nail on the head. What has happened to this great country of ours. Look at all of these people who are willing to kick there fellow man when he/she is down. The law that was written to create FECA was written to provide relief and opportunity for those who were legitimately injured while serving their country. Surely in a prosperous nation such as ours we can provide for those who have become injured. The fact of the matter is that we can and we should. Obviously these folks with the “hang’em high” attitude toward injured workers have never experienced a serious debilitating injury. They’ve never had the distinct displeasure of being kicked while they are down. Well I have. It leaves you with quite a despicable feeling toward those with that “mob mentatility”, willing to cut their noses off to spite there face. After nearly twenty-five years of loyal and dedicated service to my country I was injured while protecting this country from terrorists and criminals. During all of that time I had no disciplinary history. Once injured I soon found out what it was like to fear loosing my job. I found out the indignant humiliation that an honest man had to go through just to get a little help from the Department of Labor while I recovered from having to have a body part replaced. I found out about the real worries of losing all of those tax paying years of service that I put in just because my federal agency was growing impatient with my absence. Subsequent to my injury I was hospitalized four more times that year due to necessary medical procedures and infections. From a hospital bed I had to fight for my right to retain my job and feed my family. Through the grace of God I have struggled back to my feet and have returned to work. No thanks to my employer who tried to fire me. I do have a deep sense of gratitude to the Senator that looked into my situation and required my Agency to follow the law. There is no doubt in my mind that I will have to leave my position soon due to my injury. While my co-workers are able to put in many more years of work contributing to their retirement I will have to take an early out and continue my life in pain and with a major loss of mobility. The FECA was setup to help people in my position. These people calling for FECA compensation to be stripped away from those who they believe are unjust have no idea what havoc they will wreak upon those of us who have to make an early exit from their careers due to an on the job injury. I sure hope that The Honorable Senator Collins from Maine comes to realize that the Federal Employee Compensation Act is necessary and is the only mechanism that legitimately injured employees have to provide for their families and live a decent life.