How Does Workers’ Compensation Work For Public Servants?
By Brian Mittman
Many people suffer work-related injuries and turn to workers’ compensation to provide financial and medical benefits. Under workers’ compensation a worker is typically entitled to receive financial compensation when injured, regardless of what caused the injury. For law enforcement officers, firefighters, and government workers, there are potentially some differences or additional benefits provided under state or local laws regarding workers’ compensation for public servants.
Who Administers Workers’ Comp Programs?
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers four federal workers’ compensation programs, including wage replacement, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits available to federal employees who sustain employment-related injuries or illness. For example, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act provides benefits to U.S. postal workers and other federal employees who suffer work-related injuries or occupational diseases related to their employment.
The DOL points out that individual state workers’ compensation boards administer the programs for state and local government agencies as well as individuals employed by private companies.
How is Workers’ Comp Filed for First Responders and Public Servants?
Much like a worker employed by a private company, state, county or local government, workers and other public servants apply to the entity designated by their specific employer. However, this varies from one state to the next. For example, in Washington, D.C., the Office of Risk Management handles claims filed by public servants through the Public Sector Workers’ Compensation Program. In New York City, on the other hand, the NYC Law Department states that NYC is a self-insurer of its workers’ compensation obligations with regard to all covered city employees.
Because of the different requirements regarding who a first responder, state or local government employee reports work-related injuries or illness to, public servants need to consult their superiors regarding how to file a workers’ compensation claim. This is especially true for public servants because, as Business Insurance recently reported, recent tragedies and medical research have triggered several states to consider expanding their workers’ compensation presumption laws for public employees.
Report Your Injury Immediately
A public servant who sustains an injury or becomes ill due to work-related conditions needs to report the injury or illness to their supervisor or designated workers’ compensation administrator as soon as possible, even if the injury or illness initially seems minor. This is because public servants often face dangerous conditions and may not initially realize complications of a seemingly minor injury or illness that occurs on-the-job. For example, although it looks like just a bruise sustained while an individual resisted arrest or after a beam fell when fighting a fire, the injured police or firefighter could potentially have fractured bones or internal bleeding.
All public servants who abide by their individual city or state reporting laws avoid scrutiny later for failing to follow regulations regarding reporting work-related injuries or illness.
Are There Specific Benefits to Offer?
Again, additional benefits available to law enforcement officials, firefighters, other first responders and employees of local and state government offices varies by state or even locale. An employee needs to have knowledge of workers’ compensation pertaining to public servants in their area. The D.C. workers’ compensation program provides benefits for employees who suffer injury or illnesses while working, including when traveling in a government vehicle during the course of their employment.
New York City, on the other hand, does not provide benefits to police officers. An injured or disabled law enforcement officer in NYC must apply for benefits administered through Accident Disability Retirement (ADR), approved by the NYC Police Pension Fund Board of Trustees.
Understanding Eligibility as a Public Servant
The first step to determining eligibility for workers’ compensation as a first responder, government worker or other public sector employee is to familiarize yourself with laws and specific regulations related not only to your state, but to your specific city, if applicable, and to your specific agency.
Follow all guidelines when filing a claim and while awaiting approval. As a government employee or public servant, you may have benefits specific to your agency or your specific job title.
About the Author:
Brian Mittman is a managing partner at Markhoff & Mittman, P.C and a sponsor of the website TheDisabilityGuys.com. He is experienced in workers’ compensation, social security and personal injury law.