Just like workers in any job, federal employees can suffer injuries on the job. Unlike workers in the private sector, federal employees have a number of sources for obtaining benefits for occupational disability benefits. To be sure that you receive all the help due you after an injury, a full analysis of the facts of your case should be done. This is something an experienced federal employment attorney can help with.
Generally speaking there are two programs for disability support for federal workers. Each is managed by a separate agency. That fact alone can be the source of significant confusion.
The program workers may be most familiar with is the one handled by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). By virtue of the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), federal employees hurt on the job should be able to count on benefits that cover medical care, compensation for the loss of a body part, wage loss due to disability or job retraining.
The other program of note, but which might be less well understood, is the one that allows you to retire if you become disabled and can’t perform your normal duties. These benefits are part of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and are administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Workers’ comp offered through OWCP is something that all employees are entitled to from the moment they are hired. Every employee is covered, whether he or she is part time, full time or even temporary.
Rules for retirement disability benefits are stricter. The worker has to have been employed by the government for at least 18 months. The condition for which benefits are sought, whether it’s a mental issue or physical, has to be something that will last for at least one year. It also must prevent you from doing your current job or handling some other available position. Nor does the condition have to have occurred while you were on the job.
In some cases, some experts suggest applying for both FECA and FERS benefits. If you qualify for both, one may serve as a fallback if it is needed. And if your claim is denied, appeals are possible.
To be confident in how you should proceed, contact an attorney who can analyze your situation.