The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) expired on January 27. The APWU has opposed the expiration of those provisions of the act that protected federal workers who contracted COVID-19 (COVID). We are providing the following as information to members on the new procedures for COVID-related workers’ compensation (OWCP) claims through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
The ARPA included presumptions for federal workers who were exposed to COVID in the course of their employment. Postal workers who tested positive for COVID and had been working in the Postal Service were presumed to have contracted their illness while at work. Workers’ compensation claims were to be processed through the Department of Labor (DOL) by submission of form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury. Traumatic Injury claims allow for the benefit of Continuation of Pay (COP).
The ARPA expired on Jan. 27, 2023. For workers who test positive for COVID after Jan. 27, 2023, the DOL has announced their procedures for processing workers’ compensation claims in FECA Bulletin 23-02, available online.
In most instances, workers’ compensation claims for COVID should now be filed on form CA-2 Notice of Occupational Disease (unless the injured worker is capable of positively identifying their exposure to a single event or a single work shift). There is no entitlement to COP in an occupational disease claim. Any claim for wage loss benefits will need to be pursued through filing a CA-7 through the DOL. Any claims for COVID benefits based on testing after Jan. 27, 2023 and filed on a CA-1 will be administratively converted to a CA-2 by the DOL, and COP will be denied. The injured worker will receive written notice of any such change. There is also a three-day waiting period and the employee will initially need to use their own leave until the claim is approved.
For claims based on positive testing after Jan. 27, 2023, the injured worker will have the burden of establishing all five (5) essential elements to workers’ compensation entitlement to include a causal relationship (there will be no more presumptions). A causal relationship is established by providing a physician’s reasoned medical opinion as to why he or she believes that a positively tested COVID diagnosis was attributable to work place exposure. The claims examiner will issue a developmental letter explaining in more detail the evidence needed to establish the claim.
All COVID claims based on positive testing through Jan. 27, 2023 were assigned case number with a prefix of 19. COVID claims based on testing after Jan. 27, 2023 will be assigned a prefix 55, like most other claims received by the DOL.
(Reference: FECA Bulletin No. 23-02. Dec. 15, 2022)