The myriad of federal agencies in this country each have their own ways of doing things. NASA does things differently from the FDA and so on. That trickles down even to the way they handle their workers’ comp operations.
The Federal Times reported that amongst the different approaches taken by the agencies, the ones that follow up on their injured employees and look after them long after the injury seem to have better results than others.
In all, workers’ comp costs for federal agencies came very close to $3 billion ($2.9 billion) this past year. Though that number is down in the past few years, it is still almost $600 million more than it was just 10 years ago.
Some attribute the dips in costs to less jobs overall, but some agencies are getting wiser about how they monitor their programs. Citing NASA and the Army in particular, the vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, John Palguta, said that agencies have been monitoring fraud more efficiently and have developed more effective return-to-work programs. Palguta said that agencies that practice an aggressive and active management style where they often check up on injured workers and determine their progress seem to create more opportunities for getting workers to a light-duty job, rather than just writing them off and putting them on workers’ comp or disability forever.
Not that some of these injured workers are trying to cheat the system, but there are a lot of workers who may be on workers’ comp longer than they should be. In instances like that, proper case management can mean the difference between thousands of dollars lost or getting someone back to work and back to feeling good.
Interestingly, one agency takes up almost half of all federal workers’ comp costs. The Postal Service. They attribute that number to an aging workforce and rising healthcare costs. A spokeswoman for the agency said that many of their costs come from injuries that were incurred before 2008. Costs continue to rise for the agency- a little over $1.3 billion this past year.
The Army is an example of an agency that has reduced their costs- asking their leadership to act as role models in using proper safety techniques and implementing guidelines that are easier to understand. NASA’s costs have also fallen, and they have taken steps to improve their case management programs and counsel workers.
Though natural differences in the kind of work that agencies do might result in different workers’ comp costs, I think we can all agree that better case management never hurt anyone and it seems that the agencies that are trying to improve that part of their program are seeing results.