FECA’s Centennial Anniversary: Worker’s Compensation and Safe Workplaces Are Basic Necessities for Working Families

September marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Administered by the Department of Labor, FECA provides workers' compensation coverage for federal and postal workers including wage replacement, medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits for work-related injury and occupational disease. Today, FECA protects three million federal workers from economic hardship due to workplace injury and illness.

A key principle underpins FECA: Since workers lose their right to bring a suit for injury or against the government for work-related injuries, workers and their families should be provided compensation so that they will be no worse off, and no better off, than if the worker had not been injured or lost their life due to their federal service.

FECA sets the high water mark regarding wage loss benefits: it provides 75% of the average weekly wage for those families with dependents in cases where workers are disabled.  Since workers disabled early in their careers will never earn social security benefits or a retirement, FECA benefits continue until death.  

FECA provides wage replacement, medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation costs in case a worker is permanently disabled and must seek another career path.   And, in the tragic circumstances when a worker dies while on the job, FECA offers compensation to eligible survivors of the deceased proportional to the number of dependents, which helps to bridge the gap from the loss of a breadwinner.

As we observe the 100th anniversary of FECA, we note that there has been a severe erosion in workers’ compensation in many states, driving a race to the bottom.  Committee Democrats will fight against any cuts to FECA that compromise the core principles underpinning this law. In fact, Committee Democrats have worked on a bipartisan basis to update benefits that, in some cases, have not been updated since 1949 to account for inflation.

The first priority is to focus on ways to prevent workplace injuries and death. And in this regard, there is much to do. Recently, we applauded DOL for publishing a regulation that offers the most significant worker health protection in 40 years, by limiting worker exposure to crystalline silica—a substance that causes silicosis, lung cancer and kidney disease.  This summer we observed the 10 year anniversary of the MINER Act, a law that helps ensure we protect our nation’s miners. A safe workplace is a basic necessity for all Americans, and when Americans are injured on the job FECA provides a much needed safety net that allows them to focus on their health, not their finances.