FECA COVID-19 Coverage Process to Change as of Jan. 28, 2023
Brothers and Sisters,
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), signed into law on March 11, 2021, the process for federal employees diagnosed with COVID-19 to establish coverage under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) was significantly streamlined. Specifically, if a member could show that (1) they had tested positive for COVID-19 and (2) had worked with other employees at some point in the previous 21 days, that member could take continuation of pay, or COP, to recover without using sick leave, if they filed within 30 days. That member could also buy back sick leave at a discount if they filed outside of 30 days.
However, Section 4016(b)(1) of the ARPA requires an injured federal worker to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on or prior to January 27, 2023, for the streamlined procedures to apply.
That means members filing claims for COVID-19 based on a positive test performed on or after January 28, 2023, now must affirmatively show that they were exposed to COVID-19 at work and that their work exposure caused the COVID-19 infection. The member must provide a written narrative report from a physician supporting both the work exposure and the causal relationship between the exposure and the infection. In almost all cases, the only evidence available to the member will be a positive PCR test, which will not provide the casual relationship between the work exposure and the COVID-19 infection needed to support a claim.
DOL has established a process in FECA Bulletin 23-02 for filing claims for new COVID-19 infections on or after January 28, 2023, but NATCA members should know that DOL’s ordinary standard of proof will be practically impossible to meet. NATCA thus generally advises members not to file claims for new COVID-19 infections due to this high standard of proof.
So, what should members do now?
Through January 27, 2023, members should continue to file their claims as they have for the past 20 months. If members want to buy back sick leave taken for COVID-19 since January 27, 2020, they should do so as soon as possible.
On or after January 28, 2023, members should contact a Regional OWCP Representative for advice if they want to explore a claim for a new COVID-19 infection as most circumstances may prove difficult in establishing.
Some members may have “long COVID,” i.e., symptoms of COVID-19 while presently testing negative after a prior confirmed infection. FECA Bulletin 23-02 does not speak to a process for adjudicating claims for employees in this situation, but the National OWCP Committee would suggest filing a notice of recurrence, DOL Form CA-2a, for members who are suffering from long COVID and have had a COVID-19 claim accepted by DOL at some point.
In all cases where a member is unsure of what to do, NATCA asks you to contact your Regional OWCP Representative for help:
John Thompson (NEA) / (ZDC)
Committee Vice chair
Stephanie Winder (NNM) / (ZLC)
Ryan Reeves (NAL) / (A11)
Todd Mariani (NCE) / (ZKC)
Aaron Wilt (NEA) / (ZDC)
New England Region
Steven Spiller (NNE) / (BOS)
Stephanie Winder (NNM) / (ZLC)
Thomas Twitchell (NRX) / (EW1)
Eric Grider (NSW) / (D10)
Western Pacific Region
Jacqueline Fragas (NWP) / (ZLA)
Great Lakes Region
Richard Cieplik (NGL) / (ZAU)
NGL RVP / Committee NEB Liaison
Drew MacQueen (NGL) / (ZOB)
National Executive Board