Fedweek

Bureau of Land Management smokejumpers at a briefing before a training jump in Boise, Idaho. (DOI photo Neal Herbert)

The Labor Department has created a special unit to process claims from federal firefighters and has eased the requirements for establishing that certain heart and lung conditions and cancers are work-related to qualify for Federal Employees’ Compensation Act injury compensation.

It said that the unit “consists of existing staff specifically trained to handle these claims. The agency is also providing comprehensive training to the unit’s examiners on the impacts of the policy changes, and working with federal agencies including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security and Interior to explain the changes in policy and procedures.”

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It said the Office of Workers’ Compensation receives about 2,600 claims annually from federal firefighters, of which about 175 on average “are complex occupational disease claims” that include conditions such as cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

The policy makes claims asserting certain conditions as eligible for expedited processing if the employee was engaged in firefighting activities for at least five years and was diagnosed with one of those conditions within 10 years after the latest involvement with such activities. If those standards are met, the individual would not need submit additional evidence of specific exposures or medical evidence addressing causal relationship.

The department earlier had committed to taking those steps after pressure from some members of Congress and several unions. One of those unions, NFFE, said that “federal firefighters have had significant difficulties in receiving compensation and healthcare for injuries sustained while on the job” and that the new policy “will go a long way to help firefighters who have been injured or developed illnesses from protecting the country and their neighbors from fires.”

More information is at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/FECA/FederalFirefighterclaims/

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2022 Federal Employees Handbook