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About 4,000 federal employees have filed workers’ compensation claims with the Labor Department due to COVID-19. 60 people have filed death claims. Labor projects COVID-19 claims among federal employees may reach 6,000 in the coming weeks.

As part of Phase 1 of the Office of Inspector General’s Pandemic Oversight Response Plan, a new report published this month presents the results of its audit of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs’ (OWCP) initial response to the pandemic.

It conducted a performance audit to answer the following question: To what extent has COVID-19 affected OWCP’s ability to process and adjudicate claims, and what has OWCP done to address challenges encountered?

The department’s inspector general says the division that handles federal employee claims is anticipating a strain in resources due to demand and social distancing mandates. It has alternative staffing plans if COVID-19 compensation claims continue to surge. Labor says it’s accepted over 1,600 federal employees claims so far. Over 2,300 are unadjudicated.

It found that most OWCP programs are experiencing or expecting delays and resource management issues as a result of increasing claims or social distancing mandates brought on by the pandemic. In response, the programs are tracking delays, providing guidance, extending deadlines, and taking additional actions as needed.

Specifically:The Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation (DFEC) is expecting a potential strain on resources and claims processing delays. To address these potential challenges, DFEC developed a contingency plan, issued new procedures for handling COVID-19 claims, and created a COVID-19 Task Force to oversee claims development and adjudication.

The Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation (DCMWC) is experiencing challenges in its ability to process claims timely because a significant number of approved physicians have temporarily suspended pulmonary examinations, which are required for a coal miner’s claim to be processed. These delays are creating a backlog that could strain resources when physicians resume claimant examinations. DCMWC is tracking the delays and has taken steps to assist claimants, including publishing guidance on its website and extending deadlines.

The Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) is experiencing delays in obtaining required information from certain Department of Energy facilities and physicians who have closed or limited operations during the pandemic. DEEOIC is tracking a small number of impacted claims and allowing for extensions in these cases.

The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) has not experienced, nor is it expecting, any significant impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.