- Updated on February 15, 2022 -
COVID-19 and Federal Workers’ Compensation
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) makes it much easier for federal workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to establish coverage under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). To establish a COVID-19 claim, you simply need to establish:
- You were diagnosed with COVID-19 via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or medical professional1; and
- Within 21 days of your diagnosis of COVID-19, you carried out duties that required contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers1.
Yes, Continuation of Pay (COP) is payable under the FECA but only if:
1) You can demonstrate you have COVID-19 via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or a medical professional. A notice to quarantine for exposure without a COVID-19 diagnosis as described above is not sufficient.
2) You file your CA-1 form within 30 days of the date of the injury (the last date you were exposed at work, prior to the positive test result). See 20 CFR 10.205.
If you file a CA-1 and elect to use COP, you must ensure that medical evidence substantiating you have COVID-19 via a positive test result is provided to your employer within 10 calendar days after filing the CA-1. If a qualifying positive test result is on file, you are eligible for COP during that period.
If you are disabled and must be out of work beyond that initial 10-day period, you must submit medical evidence to your employer supporting disability resulting from COVID-19. If evidence supporting disability due to COVID-19 is not submitted, your employer can stop COP after that initial 10-day period. You should also submit/upload proof of your COVID-19 diagnosis and inability to work into your OWCP case file.
If you meet the two requirements noted above, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as of this date recommends a period of isolation of at least 5 days following your symptoms and/or positive test. Therefore, if your file contains a COVID-19 diagnosis via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or medical professional, OWCP will not intervene during the first 10 days of COP since isolation following a positive test result is akin to disability.
OWCP acknowledges that the current recommendation for isolation is 5 days, but because that timeframe has varied and is dependent on symptomology onset, if your file contains a COVID-19 diagnosis via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or medical professional, OWCP will not intervene until the 10-day regulatory timeframe provided for in 20 CFR 10.222 has passed.
If you do not submit evidence you had COVID-19 via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or a medical professional within 10 days, and your employing agency requests that OWCP make a formal determination on your claim, OWCP will formally adjudicate your claim and make a determination on COP. If your claim is denied because you cannot demonstrate your COVID-19 diagnosis via a positive test result (excluding home test) or a medical professional, your employing agency can recover any COP previously paid to you.
If you do not have COVID-19 but cannot work because you must quarantine, consider the following:
Quarantine periods are for when you have been exposed to COVID-19, but there is no evidence that you have COVID-19. Quarantine recommendations vary based on vaccine status, whether you have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, and other factors. Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 website for more detail on quarantine recommendations.
OWCP cannot accept a worker’s compensation claim based solely on quarantine or exposure, and COP is not payable solely for quarantine or exposure.
Consult your employing agency for leave options that may be available if you must quarantine. You can also visit the Safer Federal Workforce website for the most up to date information pertaining to available leave options to include potential weather and safety leave. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and provides valuable information for federal employees regarding the federal response to COVID-19 and how the federal government is responding to keep its workforce safe.
In preparation for filing your Notice of Traumatic Injury, you should view this instructional video to learn how to register and verify your identity, and this video to learn how to file a claim. Doing so now will speed the process when you are ready to file your claim.
Social media toolkit
Use our social media toolkit and graphics to raise awareness of the benefits available to federal employees injured at work, including COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims.
1 You are deemed to have had exposure if you have COVID-19 symptoms or positive test result within 21 days of interaction with at least one other person (a patient, a member of the public, or a co-worker) in the course of your employment duties.
- The interaction does not have to be direct physical contact. Nor is there a specified time for such interaction, any duration qualifies. General office contact and interaction is sufficient. This includes but is not limited to interaction in shared workspaces such as lunchrooms, break areas and common restrooms.
However, an employee that is exclusively teleworking during a covered exposure period is not considered a "covered employee" under the ARPA. See FECA Bulletin 20-09.