Proposed federal workers' comp changes; what's your take?


On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have had plenty to say about alleged abuse of the federal workers’ compensation program. Ricky Cook would like to offer a different view.

“I’m very upset at the perception that everybody who’s on workman’s compensation is abusing it,” Cook, a Federal Aviation Administration employee in the Kansas City, Kansas area, said in a phone interview this week. “That’s just not the case.”

Cook, who had been an air traffic control supervisor, suffered lasting spinal damage in an on-the-job accident in 2007. He was out of work for almost two years. Although the FAA eventually brought him back, his medication disqualified him from returning to his old position, so he’s now in a job paying a lot less and relies on workers’ comp to make up the difference. Which is why he’s concerned about a provision in Senate postal legislation that would eventually cut benefits for people in his situation from 75 percent of pre-injury pay to 50 percent. If that were to happen, Cook said, he might lose his home.

The bill passed the Senate last week; at this point, nothing comparable has gotten through the House. The original rationale for the proposed workers’ comp reductions was to lessen the incentive for feds to stay on the program long past normal retirement age. Some 2,000 U.S. Postal Service recipients are beyond the age of 70, while a half-dozen other federal employees are past the century mark, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said during the debate on the bill.

Collins has been leading the charge for change. Should the proposed benefit cuts in the bill become law, they would save about  $1.2 billion over 10 years, according to her office.  Although the legislation would grandfather in retirement-age beneficiaries already on workers’ comp, Cook, 46, is a long way from retirement.

So, there you have two sides. We at Federal Times would love to get other readers’ perspectives, particularly if you are or have been on workers’ comp.  Please email me at


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  1. Our law firm has represented thousands of FECA (federal workers’ comp) clients, and we are opposed to the Collins bill. Such changes in benefits hurt families and will surely result in unfair financial hardship. If Congress wants to save money, it should look instead to Medicare fraud or defense wastefulness. Blaming injured employees is mean-spirited and ultimately ineffective.

  2. I was a GS-3 as a college student, summer 1973, at one of about 20 FAA Air Control Ctrs. Few controllers were age 50; many were on stress or ulcer-type sick leave, some disability. 60 Minutes exposed that they were often too generous, lenient. This man’s story seems reasonable.

  3. Overhaul of the Federal system is long overdue. It should not provide benefits greater than those in the private sector and it surely was not intended to be an alternative to retirement under normal circumstances. It is about time that someone in Washington pulled back the curtins and let in some sunshine so that we can all see the private little system that the Feds have set up for themselves.

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