On December 23, 2022, President Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law which contained three (3) provisions for federal workers under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). The changes brought about by Section 5305 of the NDAA are delineated below.
- Under section 5305(c) an increase was added to the time period afforded to FECA claimants to supply supporting documentation to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) in support of an initial claim. Specifically, the legislation directed the Secretary of Labor to amend the FECA regulations at 20 CFR 10.121 to increase the minimum time to submit supporting documentation on an initial claim from 30 to 60 days and to modify the FECA procedure manual to do the same. At Congress’ express direction, OWCP has revised 20 CFR Section § 10.121 to read as follows via publication of RIN 1240-AA18 (effective March 7, 2023), Claims for Compensation Under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, in the Federal Register:
§10.121 What happens if OWCP needs more evidence from the claimant?
If the claimant submits factual evidence, medical evidence, or both, but OWCP determines that this evidence is not sufficient to meet the burden of proof, OWCP will inform the claimant of the additional evidence needed. The claimant will be allowed at least 60 days to submit the evidence required. OWCP is not required to notify the claimant a second time if the evidence submitted in response to OWCP’s first request for additional evidence is not sufficient to meet the burden of proof.
- The next provision from the NDAA 5305(a), amends FECA to delineate certain diseases as caused by Federal firefighting activities and to provide that certain occupational illnesses are to be deemed proximately caused by Federal Firefighter employment. The legislation generally mimics FECA Bulletin 22-07.
- The final provision, Section 5305(b), changes the FECA subrogation provisions by expanding what DOL can recover from a claimant, or their beneficiary, in a third-party matter. When a claimant, or their beneficiary, receives money from a third party liable for their injuries, DOL can now also include the amount of continuation of pay (COP) disbursed by the employing agency, in addition to the amount of compensation received from DOL, in the total used on the CA-1108 and CA-1122 forms to calculate the refund due to the United States. The procedure for obtaining the COP information from employing agencies is forthcoming and will be circulated at the earliest opportunity.
How does this change impact Injured Workers?
This change allows the injured worker additional time to submit evidence in support of an initial notice of injury, occupational disease or death (Forms CA-1, C-2, CA-5 and CA-5b), but our goal is to adjudicate claims in a timely manner to expedite benefit delivery. When additional evidence is needed to accept an initial claim for traumatic injury, occupational disease, or death on account of a work event or exposures, we will now afford 60 days for submission of this evidence, but encourage all parties to submit evidence as soon as possible.
How does this change impact Employing Agencies?
It does not. The FECA program will continue to request responses from the employing agencies within 30 days for any factual information. Further, this does not impact any other agency requirements, such as the administration of Continuation of Pay (COP).