OWCP Covid-19 Claims
The Department of Labor has posted bulletins explaining how they will process federal employee Covid 19 Claims under FECA. FECA Bulletins 21-09 and 21-10 which were published in April and August of 2021, based on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, says that all federal employees (not telework) are eligible to receive OWCP benefits after being infected with Covid as a result of exposure in the performance of duty.
FECA bulletin 21-10 adds to Bulletin 21-09 from April 2021, which states that in order to establish a diagnosis of Covid-19, the federal employee should submit:
- A positive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test result; or
- A positive Antibody or Antigen COVID-19 test result, together with contemporaneous medical evidence that the claimant had documented symptoms of and/or was treated for COVID-19 by a physician (a notice to quarantine is not sufficient if there was no evidence of illness); or
- If no positive laboratory test is available, a COVID-19 diagnosis from a physician together with rationalized medical opinion supporting the diagnosis and an explanation as to why a positive test result is not available.
The FECA bulletin states, “In certain rare instances, a physician may provide a rationalized opinion with supporting factual and medical background as to why the employee has a diagnosis of COVID-19 notwithstanding a negative or series of negative COVID-19 test results.”
It goes on to say, “As antigen testing has become more prevalent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FECA Program will no longer require contemporaneous medical evidence submitted together with an antigen test to establish the diagnosis of COVID-19. Submission of an antigen test alone is now sufficient to establish the medical component of a COVID-19 claim.”
So, in other words, OWCP is accepting work-related Covid claims from federal employees who have a positive PCR Covid test, a positive antigen test, or a medical narrative from your doctor that clearly details why and how the employee has had Covid-19, with or without positive testing.
And for those federal employees who previously had their OWCP Covid claims denied after submitting a positive antigen test, Bulletin 21-10 says they will automatically go back and review those claims and reverse them.
Report Covid Claims with Form CA-1 on ECOMP
OWCP requires all federal work-related Covid-19 claims to be submitted by filling out a CA-1 form using ECOMP. You can access this portal by going to ecomp.dol.gov and creating a user profile. From there, complete the Covid CA-1 and your supervisor will be notified to complete their portion prior to submitting the completed form to OWCP.
You will be able to upload relevant documents to assist in getting your OWCP Covid claims approved.
These may include:
- A positive Covid-19 PCR Test
- A positive Antibody or Antigen Covid-19 Test
- A Medical Narrative from a physician that includes a Covid-19 diagnosis and a rationalized medical opinion supporting that diagnosis and an explanation as to why a positive test is not available.
Information Needed to Establish Covid-19 Claims
In addition to the positive test results or the medical narrative explaining your situation, you will also need to supply the following information:
- You first have to prove that you were a federal employee at the time of exposure to Covid-19. This is fairly simple: you either were employed at your federal agency, or you weren’t.
- Explain how, in performance of duty, you were required to have interaction with a patient, a member of the public, or coworker(s).
- Explain how you had duties that included the risk of exposure to Covid-19.
- Evidence should establish that you began having symptoms within 21 days of the exposure to Covid-19.
These points may also be covered in your doctor’s medical narrative.
Covid-19, OWCP, and Telework
If you were working from home at the time of exposure to Covid-19, you are not covered under ARPA, but it states that “routine FECA case handling procedures apply”, which would suggest that some telework cases may be approved based on the specifics of the exposure. This would need to be detailed in your doctor’s medical narrative.
Previously Denied OWCP Covid-19 Claims
If your claim for Covid was previously denied, the claims examiner may review that denial and overturn that decision. When a claim was denied after a positive antigen test, these reversals should be automatic, but you may want to contact your claims examiner to verify your claim is being reviewed again based on FECA Bulletin 21-10.
Some federal employees who had a denied OWCP claim for Covid may need a doctor to write a medical narrative assisting in getting their Covid claims approved. In these cases, the narrative should include a diagnosis of Covid-19 along with a detailed, rationalized medical opinion as to how and why you contracted Covid in the performance of Duty.
CA-1 Rules Apply to OWCP Covid-19 Claims
Because OWCP Covid claims are CA-1 claims, the rules for CA-1 claims apply, including:
- When reporting your CA-1 Covid claim within 7 days, you are eligible for a CA-16. This will pay all of your Covid-related medical bills for 60 days.
- Because you reported your CA-1 Covid claim within 30 days, you are eligible for Continuation of Pay (COP), which will give you up to 45 paid calendar days off work when needed to fully recover from Covid.
- You have 3 years to report and file your CA-1 claims. That means if you did not previously report your OWCP Covid-19 claim, for whatever reason, it may not be too late.
- If your OWCP Covid-19 claim was denied and it is not automatically reversed, you are eligible to file for Reconsideration on your Appeal Request Form. In doing so, you can submit new medical evidence from your physician to overturn the denial decision. The deadline for reconsideration is 12 months from the date of denial.
CA-16 for OWCP Covid-19 Claims
Bulletin 21-09 states the following:
“The employing agency is prompted to provide a CA-16 if they do not substantively dispute the employee’s description of Cause and Nature of Injury, and if the claim was submitted within 1 week of the Date of Injury, or the date the employee had symptoms of COVID-19 or received a positive test result. Issuing the CA-16 will allow the claimant to obtain the necessary test to confirm COVID-19 and receive medical treatment, if indicated.”
As with all CA-1 claims that are reported within 7 days, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO A CA-16 and your supervisor has 4 hours from the claimed injury/condition to deliver that form to you.
CA-17 Duty Status Reports for OWCP Covid-19
If your doctor needs to take you off work due to a work-related federal Covid-19 claim, this should be reported to your supervisor using a CA-17 Duty Status Report. If your doctor wants to release you back to work, with or without restrictions, this should also be done using a Form CA-17. Many people report lingering and ongoing affects from Covid that may limit physical work abilities. The CA-17 serves to report these limitations to management. The CA-17 should be signed by your Medical Doctor.
What if You Need Help with Your OWCP Covid-19 Claim?
You should be able to use the ECOMP portal to report and get your OWCP Covid-19 CA-1 claims approved, but many federal employees have reported confusion and difficulty in filing their OWCP Covid claims. The ECOMP portal can be confusing for some people. You may need a medical narrative, or you may need a CA-17 completed for your supervisor so you can get back to work safely. OWCP can be frustrating and overwhelming. Some supervisors may also be confused or misinformed as to how to help you file your claims.
If you need help with this process, a Federal Injury Centers doctor and staff member can help you with any of the following:
- Creating a profile on ECOMP.
- Completing your CA-1 on ECOMP.
- Uploading Documents.
- Writing a Medical Narrative to help get your OWCP claims approved.
- Filling out a CA-17 as needed so you can return to work with or without restrictions or be taken off work if your symptoms prevent you from performing the physical functions of your job.