In 1916, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) was enacted. FECA provides medical, compensation, death, and other benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation, and nursing services to federal employees who sustain injuries, including occupational diseases, as a result of their employment. All Postal Service employees are covered by FECA.
The Department of Labor (DOL) administers FECA and makes all decisions regarding the eligibility of injured workers’ to receive workers’ compensation benefits. DOL provides direct compensation to medical providers, claimants, and beneficiaries. The Postal Service reimburses DOL for all workers’ compensation claims in addition to paying an administrative fee.
In fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service workers’ compensation expense was approximately $2.2 billion, an 81 percent increase from $1.2 billion in FY 2008. These costs include $55 million in DOL administrative fees for FY 2009. About 72 percent ($718 million) was a non-cash charge related to changes in the estimated discount and inflation rates used to calculate the liability for future payments. At the end of FY 2009, the Postal Service estimated the total liability for future workers’ compensation cost was over $10 billion.
One of the contributing factors to the high cost of workers’ compensation payments is that FECA does not mandate a cut-off age for workers’ compensation benefits. Thus, injured workers can continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits well past the legal retirement age of 65, and in some cases employees over the age of 90 are still receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Fraudulent workers’ compensation claims also result in higher overall costs. To combat workers’ compensation fraud the OIG launched its crime prevention and awareness campaign in September 2009 and a joint year-long initiative with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in February 2010. The successful investigative efforts saved the Postal Service more than $400 million for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 combined.
What can the Postal Service do to reduce workers’ compensation costs?
This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Human Resources and Security Audit Team.