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Feds propose changes to OWCP benefits for maritime work injuries

Considering the size of the federal government, it's fair to ask whether there is any such thing as a small agency or division. It's a rhetorical question. As we noted in our last post on this federal employees' law blog, there is a broad array of programs covering different segments of the government workforce just to deal with compensation when injuries or illness on the job occur.

Whether you are a covered worker in Texas, Georgia, the District of Columbia or somewhere else in the country, the web of programs can be difficult to navigate. Where complexity rules, a single misstep in the process can result in denial of a legitimate compensation claim or increase the risk that the full measure of benefits won't be obtained. Obtaining a free evaluation of your situation from a skilled attorney can help.

Specific to workers' compensation, it helps to know that there are four major plans administered by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs. One covers general federal workers. Another addresses issues for energy employees. Coal mine workers have a dedicated program, as do longshore and harbor workers.

Recently, the OWCP announced some proposed rule changes affecting that last group. Officials say the changes are prompted by ongoing legal disputes. Their purpose is to clarify what the government's interpretation of the law is regarding maximum and minimum benefits available under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Besides setting a ceiling and floor on injury, disability and death benefits, the proposals attempt to explain how benefits will be adjusted year to year.

To be clear, these are only proposed rules. They are currently published in the Federal Register and open to public comment until Oct. 25. Regardless of how the process plays out, however, changes are coming and legal observers will be monitoring.

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