News Releases

FEDERAL WORKFORCE: Republicans Block Akaka Amendment that Would Protect Workers Hurt on the Job

Apr 24 2012

Murray: "I am very disappointed that Republicans blocked this common-sense attempt to protect federal workers hurt on the job”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her strong disappointment that Senate Republicans blocked an amendment she cosponsored to the postal reform bill that would have protected and reformed the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). The amendment was defeated by a vote of 46-53. The postal reform bill (S. 1789) currently includes provisions that would substantially reduce FECA payments for employees who are disabled by a work-caused injury or illness. In response to these harmful provisions, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) presented his amendment that would strike the government-wide FECA provisions and replace them with common-sense bipartisan reforms already approved by the House that would improve efficiency and integrity without reducing benefits. 

“I am very disappointed that Republicans blocked this common-sense attempt to protect federal workers hurt on the job,” said Senator Murray. “Without this amendment, significant and unfair changes will be made to FECA, not just within the postal service, but across the entire federal government. I am especially concerned that these changes are retroactive and that the minimal savings are realized on the backs of disabled federal employees who are relying on these benefits.

The Akaka amendment would have struck Title III of S.1789 which reduces workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees and replaced it with the text of H.R. 2465, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act.  This bi-partisan bill passed the House by voice vote last year and would have amended the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101 et seq., the federal workers’ compensation program.  Specifically, this amendment would have: 

  • Ensured that Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Nurses are reimbursed for their services and that these medical professionals can certify disability for traumatic injuries during an initial time period.
  • Ensured injuries or illnesses sustained as the result of terrorism are covered as a war-risk hazard. This would help guarantee federal workers injured abroad or in the line of duty are appropriately compensated.
  • Raised the maximum disfigurement benefit from $3,500 (set in 1949) to $50,000.
  • Saved taxpayer money through adoption of program integrity measures recommended by GAO and the Department of Labor Inspector General, including allowing the Department of Labor to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration, and expansion of FECA’s subrogation provision.
  • Streamlined the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.
  •  Provided 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).
  • Authorized the department to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker, promoting greater accountability in the program.