About the Study

On October 1, 2012, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) introduced two new requirements for all cases within the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program (FECP). The first requirement is that within 28 days of the start of a worker’s participation in FECP disability management, OWCP must assign a field nurse to the case. The second requirement is that, for workers determined to be “totally disabled,” a second opinion evaluation is necessary if the case remains unresolved after 12 months.

To understand the effectiveness of this policy change, the Department of Labor (DOL) examined FECP administrative data on all cases that received disability management services between January 2006 and June 2017. Researchers separated the cases into two time periods to facilitate descriptive comparative analysis of workers’ outcomes: pre-policy change (January 2006–September 2012) and post-policy change (October 2012–June 2017). The outcome of interest was successful case resolution, defined as a return to work, termination of benefits, or reduction in the loss of wage-earning capacity.

In total, this study included case data for 116,024 injured workers. Of those, 84,795 (73%) were assigned a field nurse, and 21,308 (18.3%) received a second opinion evaluation. The 11.5 year-timeframe captured complete disability periods for both recent disability cases and cases with extended disability periods.

A final report, titled Analysis of FY2013 Policy Change on Disability Management under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program, is available for this study.

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The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.