Worker's Compensation for Veterans

The addition of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) has allowed more active military personnel and veterans receive benefits related to their occupational injury or illness.

Understanding Military Worker’s Compensation and FECA

The Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA), in operation since 1916, is a crucial program for veterans seeking worker’s compensation. Originally established during the Industrial Revolution, FECA acknowledges the need to compensate those who suffered injuries or fatalities due to their occupation. Today, it extends its support to federal employees, including military personnel, offering benefits like medical expense coverage, wage replacement, and rehabilitation assistance.

Moreover, veterans may also be eligible for additional compensation from VA centers. FECA’s coverage spans a wide array of injuries and illnesses acquired during work, from mesothelioma and asbestosis to machinery-related injuries and more. FECA is a lifeline for some veterans, providing comprehensive workers’ compensation benefits. It respects your service and sacrifices, offering financial support and rehabilitation assistance to help you recover from work-related injuries. Understanding FECA is key to accessing the benefits and assistance you rightfully deserve as a veteran.

Military Compensation Claims and FECA Process

The process for filing your FECA compensation claims can take some time, but if you have the correct documents and paperwork, you may receive your benefits quickly. Receiving a medical diagnosis from a physician is a first step towards filing for compensation. Without a proper diagnosis, your claim may not be processed and benefits will not be paid out. With your physician’s medical opinion, an employee can file their claims after differentiating between a traumatic injury and an occupational disease. A traumatic injury is labeled as a wound or injury that occurs during one event or work shift, causing significant damage to the body. An occupational disease is an illness or disorder which was caused from repeated exposure or stress to a person. Filing the correct claim will ensure a person receives the correct compensation for their injury.

Each employee is entitled to receive their benefits within a certain time frame. The duration of how long you wait to receive your compensation may be based off of the severity of the injury or disease.  For a traumatic injury, the person filing can receive their compensation as quickly as 75 days after filing. Occupational illnesses may take longer as the process for showing your illness was linked to occupational exposure adds more steps. Evidence needs to be provided at the time of filing to showcase that a physician stated the illness was acquired from the person’s occupation. The longest waiting time to receive benefits with an occupational illness may be up to 10 months.

Worker’s Comp Time Limits and Benefits

People should be advised there is a time limit on filing worker’s compensation to receive benefits. Under the FECA law, a person must file for worker’s compensation benefits within three years. The three years begins immediately after the initial traumatic injury or for an occupational disease it begins when reasonable awareness is known. After the three years have passed, there may still be access to compensation. If the employer had knowledge of the injury within 30 days or there was written notice of an employee’s injury, a claim can still be made. Employees and veterans with work-related injuries filing for worker’s compensation under the FECA Act should file their claims regardless of the three-year time restriction. The Office of Worker’s Compensation Program (OWCP) is in charge of assessing worker’s compensation claims and they ultimately decide the timeline.

Those who are going to receive benefits from their FECA filing should be aware of their guaranteed benefits. If you are unable to work because of your injury or illness, you should be compensated for 45 days at the rate of 66.67 percent of your regular wages. If you have dependents, that number can flex up to 75 percent. If the traumatic injury is made known of to the employer by the employee, they have the right to seek emergency or non-emergency medical care. The OWCP contracts rehabilitation specialists to work with federal employees needing rehab after their injury or illness.

Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.

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Military vs. Civilian Worker’s Compensation

Yes, workers compensation cases can be filed both as a military service member or as a civilian worker. All workers in the United States are subject to receiving compensation if they are injured during work. Each state runs its own system for workers’ compensation and it is important to know your rights before hand. The OWCP outlines compensation offers to both parties. For both military personnel and civilians, if you file for workers’ compensation, how much you receive is based on your current salary. The government places high value on their service members and as a result have competitive salaries paid out. Therefore, when compensation is given because of a work injury or illness, they receive more money while they are recuperating.

There is also the option of receiving benefits from disability. Disability rates and payments are awarded to workers who are unable to return to work because of their disability. Those who can receive these payments must have a substantial work history showing they once were actively working in the community. Their impairment must be of a certain degree making them unable to continue working and it must be confirmed with a physician or doctor. Disability payments may be given after a 5-month waiting period where it is determined if the person qualifies.

VA Benefits and Worker’s Compensation

There are a couple of options for active duty military and veterans to receive worker’s compensation benefits. These benefits may include disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, special monthly compensation, and claims on special circumstances. Worker’s compensation through the FECA law may fall underneath VA benefits but needs to be filed separately. If you file for both, there may be restrictions on receiving compensation from both if you are filing for the same injury, illness, or death. If there were two or more separate instances of injury, a person could then file and potentially receive benefits from both.

VA benefits can expand further than workers’ compensation claims. It may also include and help with pensions, healthcare, insurance, home loans, and more. VA locations around the nation have all types of support to ensure veterans aren’t being left in the dark. Making use of all benefits available to you through the VA and the FECA law may help you in more ways than you know. Contact your local VA center and the OWCP to learn about all options available to you.