The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 9

MAY 2014
Promoting FS Health
I am writing in response to the
Speaking Out column in your
workers’ compensation claim.
Although the State Depart-
ment cannot comment on medical and
confidential information on specific
employees, the department shares the
concerns about the health risks that
many of our Foreign and Civil Service
employees face when posted abroad.
We have taken appropriate and effective
action to address them.
The State Department provides sup-
port to its employees in filing claims for
workers’ compensation benefits under
the Federal Employees’ Compensation
Act, a program administered by the U.S.
Department of Labor’s Office of Work-
ers’ Compensation Programs. Although
OWCP is responsible for adjudicating
claims for workers’ compensation, the
department works closely with OWCP
and its employees to assist them if an
employee believes that he or she con-
tracted a disease or other injury causally
related to his or her employment.
The department also consults regu-
larly with OWCP regarding the sup-
porting documentation and standards
it applies in evaluating claims, includ-
ing the required demonstration by an
employee that a disease was contracted
in the performance of duty. The depart-
ment strongly believes that Foreign
Service employees, as well as all other
federal government employees posted
abroad, who contract an infectious dis-
ease endemic to their country of assign-
ment should be eligible for workers’
compensation benefits under FECA.
The depart-
ment has
engaged in
discussions with
OWCP regarding
this issue, and we
understand that
OWCP shares this
view. We con-
tinue to work with
OWCP to clarify the standards it applies
to the adjudication of such cases.
In addition to its work with OWCP,
the department is committed to enhanc-
ing its efforts to inform Foreign Service
and other U.S. government civilian
employees posted abroad regarding the
health risks they face in their countries
of assignment, and to provide them the
necessary resources and direction to
mitigate these risks.
The Department of State’s Office of
Medical Services strives to safeguard
and promote the health and well-being
of America’s diplomatic community.
Overseas, MED provides primary care
and mental health services, manages
hospitalizations and medical evacua-
tions, and assesses local health threats
and medical resources for more than
50,000 employees and their eligible
family members serving under chief-of-
mission authority.
MED staff members promote well-
ness through health promotion, educa-
tion, immunizations and attention to
health maintenance. They provide occu-
pational and travel medical services to
maintain a safe workplace and healthy
workforce worldwide.
They also prepare for medical
responses to pandemics, disasters and
terrorist attacks by emergency planning,
staff training and stockpiling of emer-
gency drugs, medical supplies and per-
sonal protective equipment. And they
support deployments to zones of armed
conflict by psychologically preparing,
screening and treating employees for
post-traumatic stress disorders or other
related mental health conditions.
Hans G. Klemm
Acting Director General for the
Foreign Service and Director
of Human Resources
Washington, D.C.
A Clarification Regarding
Workers’ Comp
The AFSA News article “Claiming
Workers’ Compensation” in your
states: “The cost
of long-term treatment of all civilian fed-
eral government employees—including
members of the Foreign Service—who
are injured in the line of duty, or suffer
from a medical or psychiatric condition
that can be attributed to government
service domestically or overseas, is
reimbursed through the Office of Work-
ers’ Compensation in the Department
of Labor, and not through the foreign
affairs agencies.”
While it is correct that the Depart-
ment of Labor adjudicates claims, pays
claim-related medical bills and pays
monetary, wage-loss compensation for
those who are unable to work or who
have incurred permanent impairments,
all these related expenses are actually
charged back to the employing agency at
the end of the year.
Of primary importance, however, is
not which agency covers such expenses,
but seeing that all claims are handled
fairly and in a timely manner by OWCP.
That is our goal.
Judy Goodman Ikels
Chief, Work/Life Division
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
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