|Sponsor||Rep. Kline, John|
|Committee||Education and the Workforce|
|Date||November 29, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)|
|Staff Contact||Sarah Makin|
On Tuesday, November 29, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2465, the Federal Workers' Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. H.R. 2465 was introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) on June 15, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The committee held a mark-up session on September 21, 2011, and ordered the bill reported by voice vote.
H.R. 2465 would modify the definition of "medical, surgical, and hospital services and supplies" under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) to include physician assistants and advanced practice nurses and to provide for the reimbursement for services provided by such assistants and nurses. The bill would also allow physicians assistants and nurses to certify disability for traumatic injuries. H.R. 2465 would streamline the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.
The bill would extend eligibility for compensation under FECA for disability or death resulting from an attack by a terrorist or terrorist organization. The bill would also ensure that injuries or illnesses sustained as a result of terrorist are covered as a war-risk hazard and would provide additional support for funeral expenses (up to $6,000) and for workers who sustain an injury that leads to facial disfigurement (up to $50,000).
Lastly, H.R. 2465 would authorize the Secretary of Labor to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration and would authorize the department to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker.
According to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, since 1916, a workers’ compensation program has provided benefits to federal employees who suffer injuries or illnesses as the result of their work. The program, established by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), is operated by the Department of Labor and covers an estimated three million federal employees. During the last fiscal year, beneficiaries received nearly $3 billion in compensation.
However, the program has not been significantly updated in almost 40 years, resulting in a number of weaknesses and inefficiencies. For example, workers in rural areas often have limited access to medical care and only certain medical professionals can certify a worker’s disability. Additionally, compensation is often determined by outdated information that does not reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting those changes would reduce net direct spending by a total of $22 million over the 2012-2021 period, including $16 million in off-budget savings. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues. The costs for federal workers compensation are ultimately paid by the agencies that employed the injured workers, including the Postal Service, whose cash flows are classified as off-budget. Implementing the bill would result in increased discretionary costs for federal agencies’ salaries and expenses totalling about $3 million over the 2012-2016 period, but would decrease discretionary costs by less than $500,000 over the 2012-2021 period.
Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending.