Fedweek

Once the factual component of the claim has been established and the employee has been diagnosed a traumatic brain injury, a fully rationalized medical opinion as to causal relationship is not needed. Image: Abduramanova Elena/Shutterstock.com

The Federal Employees Compensation Act program has issued guidance on coverage of what it calls the “anomalous health incidents” known as Havana Syndrome—because they first were reported by federal employees stationed in Cuba, but which have since been more widely reported as occurring elsewhere.

The syndrome is characterized by a “series of sudden sensory events such as sounds, pressure, or heat concurrently or immediately preceding the sudden onset of symptoms such as headaches, pain, nausea, or disequilibrium (unsteadiness or vertigo),” a bulletin says.

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Federal employees experiencing such symptoms should file a standard claim form “as current understanding of AHIs are that they are specific events that occur over a single day or work shift” and should designate that as the specific cause, it says. Such claims are to be reviewed by a special claims unit which will consider “medical evidence submitted to determine if any medical conditions have been diagnosed in connection with the AHI incident.”

“Because of uncertainty in the medical community with respect to these incidents, claims examiners may see medical reports addressing symptoms such as headaches, pain, nausea, etc. rather than a concrete diagnosis. While symptoms are not compensable under the FECA, it is appropriate to accept such claims for a diagnosed traumatic brain injury,” it says.

“Once the factual component of the claim has been established and the employee has been diagnosed a traumatic brain injury, a fully rationalized medical opinion as to causal relationship is not needed. The physician’s diagnosis and an affirmative statement are sufficient to accept the claim,” it adds.

The bulletin notes that the Havana Act enacted last October, authorizes agencies to pay their employees and their family members for brain injuries incurred during a period of assignment to a foreign or domestic duty station or in connection with war, insurgency, hostile acts, terrorist activity, or other agency-designated incidents. It says payments under that authority would be separate from any compensation from the FECA program and the two would not offset.

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