Committee Democrats Challenge DOL to Combat Opioid Epidemic in its Workers’ Compensation Program

FECA is “is five or six years behind the rest of the workers’ compensation industry” in dealing with opioid crisis.

WASHINGTON – Today, the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing titled, “The Opioid Epidemic: Implications for the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.” Reducing over-prescription of opioids in workers’ compensation programs is critical to combatting the opioid epidemic.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has a responsibility to prevent opioid abuse through its administration of Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). Enacted in 1916, FECA provides workers’ compensation coverage for close to three million federal civilian workers in more than 70 agencies for work-related injuries and occupational diseases. More than half of all prescriptions written in the FECA program are for opioids, according to a preliminary estimate by the DOL Inspector General.

“DOL’s current practice is to authorize a 60-day prescription of opioids to treat work-related injuries. Yet, evidence is clear that the use of opioids for more than 30-days exponentially increases the likelihood of becoming addicted. There are approximately 27,000 people in the federal workers’ compensation program who are chronic opioid users,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11). “To best serve the federal workforce, we should learn from the example of states like California, which allow for only a 4-day supply of opioids following surgery or injury, but require preauthorization for refills and narrow circumstances for opioid prescriptions. In the battle against the opioids crisis, the federal government should lead the country not lag five years behind many states.”

 “When it comes to dealing with the opioid crisis, FECA is five or six years behind the rest of the workers’ compensation industry, and time is running out for patients who have been on opioids far too long,” said  Joe Paduda, President of CompPharma, LLC. “FECA can and must move now to build an approach to prevent further needless deaths among its 20,000+ chronic opioid using patients.”

There are approximately 108,000 new FECA injury claims each year, which is an indicator of the frequency of injuries and illnesses to federal and postal workers.  Unfortunately, last year the administration dismantled the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health in the Labor Department, which served as a mechanism to elevate federal workers’ safety concerns to agency leaders at the top level. 

While the Department of Labor recently implemented protocols to prevent opioid over-prescription for newly injured workers, there are questions about whether it has adopted the best practices that states are using to prevent opioid dependency. The DOL must fulfill its responsibility to address the opioid epidemic by adopting best practices from states and allocating the resources to implement these policies. Despite continuous threats by Republicans to repeal health care or other benefits that help workers, Committee Democrats will press for solutions that keep America’s workforce safe, healthy, and thriving.

OPENING STATEMENT: Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)

TESITMONY: Joe Paduda, President of CompPharma, LLC


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