February 2022 Bar Bulletin
By Christina Faliero
In November 2021, I started drafting an article that was published in the January 2022 edition of the Bar Bulletin advocating that the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) should be amended to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners as healthcare providers qualified to treat federal injured workers under the statute.
In conducting subsequent research, I discovered that Congress recently introduced legislation directly addressing this issue on November 30, 2021.1 This bill, titled the “Improving Access to Workers’ Compensation for Injured Federal Workers Act,” was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-02) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI-07), and is currently co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-07). The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. A summary for H.R. 6087 is still pending, but the introductory text reads, “To amend chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, to cover, for purposes of workers’ compensation under such chapter, services by physician assistants and nurse practitioners provided to injured Federal workers, and for other purposes.” I write in full support of this bipartisan effort.
Briefly summarizing my January 2022 article, the FECA provides federal workers’ compensation benefits to injured federal employees with accepted claims. However, access to medical care is limited for these workers because the current text of the FECA does not recognize physician assistants or nurse practitioners as “qualified” medical providers. In practical terms, this means that medical reports documenting treatment or disability, signed by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, are not considered probative evidence, and thus cannot substantiate any claim actions, including authorizing various treatments or approving wage loss compensation payments. Since 1974, there have been no major amendments to the FECA. H.R. 6087 would allow federal workers with work-related disabilities, injuries, and illnesses finally to have increased access to medical care. Promptly passing this bill would be invaluable for both medical providers and workers alike, especially those in more remote or rural areas of the country.
A press release published by Rep. Courtney’s office on December 2, 2021 states, “NPs and PAs are crucial members of the health care delivery system, especially in rural and underserved areas. This commonsense update to federal employee worker compensation law is long overdue and will help reduce the administrative barriers to these benefits that workers are entitled to.”2 Expanding federal workers’ access to medical care by allowing them to be treated by physician assistants and nurse practitioners will help support more FECA claims, allow more medical providers to be paid for their needed services, and ensure that federal workers can acquire the healthcare they need to recover from employment injuries and illnesses.
My office exclusively serves federal workers; many currently face this statutory predicament and are therefore without a healthcare provider despite suffering from debilitating work-related conditions. I am more than happy to discuss this issue in more detail with other practitioners, advocacy groups, or Congressional representatives interested in declaring their support for this needed amendment.
Christina Faliero is an attorney and the owner of Faliero Law Firm based in Seattle, WA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2015, and shortly after earned her JD from Santa Clara Law. Her law firm is focused on assisting federal workers with Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) claims governed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Website: www.falierolawfirm.com | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cfal013