White House Moves Forward with Workers Comp Cuts During Pandemic

The Trump administration is moving forward with its proposed cuts to federal workers’ compensation benefits despite the coronavirus outbreak. 

Under Trump’s proposal, which is part of the administration’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal, workers who are injured on the job would see steep cuts in their workers’ compensation. Here’s what the administration is proposing: 

1. Reduced benefit for claimants with dependents 

All new claims would be paid at 66 2/3% of salary regardless of dependents. Currently, OWCP wage loss compensation is at 66 2/3% of salary for claimants with no dependents and at 75% for claimants with dependents.  

2. There would be a reduced amount when the claimant reaches retirement age 

Currently, claimants can continue to get 66 2/3 or 75% of their salary as long as they continue to show inability to work due to the accepted condition – even into retirement age. The administration proposed a reduced amount when the claimant reaches retirement age:  

  • Employees injured at ages 35-54 will receive a conversion benefit of 58%  
  • Employees injured at ages 55-65 will receive a conversion benefit of 50%  
  • Employees injured at age 66 and over will receive a conversion benefit of 45% 

3. There would be a 3-day waiting period following an injury when the employee would not be paid 

For the first 45 days after a worker files a claim and until it’s accepted, the worker is entitled to continuation of pay (COP), which is paid by the agency at full salary. If the worker needs to be off work more than 45 days, then workers’ compensation kicks in with wage-loss replacement benefits at 2/3 or 3/4 of salary. This was meant to keep injured workers paid while OWCP processes the claim, and 45 days was the average time.  

Currently, injured workers are put on administrative leave the day of injury and the COP period starts the next day if their claim is accepted. 

Under the administration’s proposal, injured workers would take annual leave, sick leave, or leave without pay before the 45-day COP period begins. The three-day waiting period means an injured worker would not get workers’ compensation for the first three days. 

Savings on the backs of the injured 

The proposal came as the coronavirus is raging across the country, infecting thousands of federal workers, many of whom still do not have proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves against the virus while working on the front lines. 

By taking away these benefits from those injured while serving the American people, the administration hopes to save $212 million in 10 years.  

“This policy proposal is shocking in its plain immorality – even by the standards of this administration,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “Our civil servants have been on the front lines keeping essential services running throughout this pandemic, putting their own health and safety at risk. That risk has been compounded by the widespread inability of this administration to provide adequate safety protocols and personal protective equipment. It shows the absolute disdain this administration has for everyday working people that they would even suggest that these front-line workers’ reward for their service should be a cut in benefits if they get sick or injured while on duty.” 

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