A Summary of FECA Bulletin 24-01

In the realm of federal employee compensation, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) stands as a stalwart, ensuring support for those who suffer work-related injuries or fatalities, irrespective of fault. However, recent amendments under the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA) have introduced significant changes.

Section 5305 of the NDAA, known as Fairness for Federal Firefighters, has reshaped the subrogation landscape within FECA, particularly concerning third-party liabilities. Now, when a FECA beneficiary pursues a claim against a third party responsible for their covered injury, reimbursement to the United States extends beyond mere compensation to encompass Continuation of Pay (COP) as well.

This amendment mandates a shift in procedure. FECA beneficiaries eligible for COP or compensation are now obligated to pursue or assign any relevant third-party claims to the United States. Upon recovery from a liable third party, the beneficiary must refund to the United States the COP and compensation received for the injury, with any surplus allocated towards future federal workers compensation and COP for the same injury of a federal worker.

Previously, COP was excluded from reimbursement considerations due to its exclusion from the compensation definition. Consequently, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) lacked a standardized method for collecting COP data. However, with the amended provisions, COP data collection is now imperative for every federal employee injured by a third party.

Administratively, the Division of Federal Employees’ and Energy Workers’ Compensation of the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) retains responsibility for managing third-party liability and subrogation matters. Reporting third-party recoveries through designated forms ensures accurate determination of reimbursement to the United States.

Despite these changes, OWCP retains its broader responsibilities, including benefit disbursement, addressing billing inquiries, surplus tracking, and chargeback bill calculation.

In essence, these amendments aim to streamline the process, ensuring fair reimbursement practices while maintaining support for FECA beneficiaries.