By Frank Ferreri, April 20, 2021
The one constant that has emerged in the COVID-19 era is that things will change, and such has been the case with Federal workers’ compensation coverage.
Early on in the pandemic, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs made it easier for certain federal employees to establish that their exposure to coronavirus was work-related without going through traditional requirements on producing evidence.
With the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 now in effect, Congress has followed OWCP’s lead, and declared that a federal employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19 and carried out duties that required contact with patients, members of the public, or coworkers, or included a risk of exposure to the virus during a covered period of exposure prior to the diagnosis, is deemed to have an injury that is proximately caused by employment.
Under the law, employees who are “exclusively teleworking” don’t enjoy the presumption of coverage, and it’s up to the U.S. Department of Labor to specify what the “covered period of exposure” is.
In the meantime, OWCP has advised in guidance that federal employees should be aware that:
- Any COVID-19 claim filed under the Federal Employees Compensation Act that was accepted for COVID-19 prior to March 12, 2021, is not impacted because coverage for benefits has already been extended.
- Any COVID-19 claim filed under FECA that was denied or withdrawn prior to March 12, 2021, is eligible for review under the new eligibility requirements.
- Any COVID-19 claim filed under FECA on or after March 12, 2021, will be reviewed solely under the new eligibility requirements.
OWCP explained in the guidance that if employees previously filed a COVID-19 claim under FECA that OWCP denied based on a lack of exposure or lack of medical evidence establishing a causal relationship between the job and the infection, they can expect to hear from OWCP by around the end of April.
For employees who have never filed a COVID-19 claim under FECA but believe they have contracted COVID-19 from federal employment, it’s necessary to file a CA-1 through the Employees’ Compensation Operations and Management Portal.
Employees who previously filed a COVID-19 claim under FECA that was accepted can expect no change and need not take further action. Info@feltg.com