Over the past five weeks, we’ve explored OPM’s disability retirement program in depth, from how you qualify through the way those annuities are calculated to what happens once you are on the annuity roll. Now it’s time to look at another option that may be available to you if you are injured or disabled. It’s the workers’ compensation program administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) in the Department of Labor.
While you may be eligible for disability retirement if you are disabled or injured anywhere and at any time, workers’ comp is only available if you are disabled or injured on the job and while performing your official duties.
Workers’ comp pays both scheduled and non-scheduled lump-sum benefits and payments based on permanent, total, or partial disabilities. Non-scheduled awards are compensation for the loss of wage-earning capacity. They are paid for as long as you are unable to return to regular work. The amount of compensation paid is based on the difference between your capacity to earn wages and the wages of the job you held when you were injured.
When your job-related injury or disability is of short duration, you may be eligible for workers’ comp while on leave-without-pay (LWOP). If that’s the case, all the time you spend on LWOP will be creditable in determining your eligibility to retire and in your annuity computation. Further, unlike regular LWOP, the time you spend on workers’ comp won’t be subject to the six month per year limitation on creditable service.
In addition to non-scheduled awards, OWCP can pay you scheduled awards for a specified period of time in the event that certain of your body members or functions are impaired. These include such things as the loss of an eye, hand or foot, or the loss or removal of a kidney due to injury.
If you have a work-related injury, you’ll have to file a report with your immediate supervisor within 30 days of the event. An OWCP claim for a long-term disability or death benefit benefits must be filed within three years. You can find out more about the program by going to www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/owcp/fecacont.htm.
Next week, I’ll options you have when you are eligible for both workers’ compensation and disability retirement.