Labor changes workers' comp rule for feds

Tuesday - 6/28/2011, 6:27pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

A new rule for managing claims under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) requires agencies to begin submitting claims electronically by the end of 2012.

FECA provides benefits to civilian federal employees and other groups who are injured or killed while performing their jobs.

The Department of Labor's (DOL) final rule aims to modernize the process of managing claims. The department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) plans to launch, by Dec. 31, 2012, a free, web-based system that will "allow claimants and representatives to directly upload documents to the electronic case file," according to the June 28 rule.

"This is the first substantial change to the FECA regulations since 1999," OWCP acting Director Gary Steinberg said. "The new regulations take advantage of technological and other changes that will improve the fairness and efficiency of the claims process."

In that spirit, the Labor Department will allow the use of video and teleconferences in claims hearings.

The rule also expands the list of injuries that federal workers can claim for benefits, by adding the skin as a covered organ retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001. Claimants can receive up to "205 weeks of compensation for burns, cancers and other medical conditions that impair the skin's function."

The final rule takes effect on Aug. 29, 2011.