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Collins introduces FECA reform bill

On Feb. 2, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to reform the federal government’s workers’ compensation program.

Her bill, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2011, would require a “transition” to regular Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) retirement for federal and postal employees, who receive benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) as a result of workplace injuries, once they reach their retirement age under Social Security.

Collins has argued that workers who have been permanently disabled by their injuries and who will never return to work should not be covered indefinitely by FECA, a program that is designed to provide income for workers injured on the job until they recover and return to work. The senator points to some 1,000 postal employees over the age of 70 who are still receiving FECA benefits, which are greater than retirement benefits provided by CSRS and FERS.

The NALC cannot support the legislation as drafted. It makes no provision for the loss of regular retirement benefits under CSRS and FERS suffered by FECA recipients who are separated from the Postal Service—since such injured workers get no years-of-service credit over the period of their injuries once separated, and since their annuities are based on their high-3 average salaries at the time of their separation, not at the time of regular retirement.

This loss of retirement income is compounded for FECA recipients covered by CSRS since those employees are unable to participate in the Thrift Savings Plan or to accrue benefits under Social Security—both of which make up two-thirds of the retirement package earned by FERS employees.

“We believe that any reform of the FECA program that requires a transition to retirement must be carefully constructed to ensure a fair retirement for injured workers,” NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said. “It should not punish workers for being injured in the line of duty.”

“NALC is committed to working with Sen. Collins and Chairman Joe Lieberman to achieve this result should the Committee take up this legislation,” the president added.