Publication Date



The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is the workers’ compensation program for federal employees. Like all workers’ compensation programs, FECA pays disability, survivors, and medical benefits, without fault, to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their federal employment and the survivors of employees killed on the job. The FECA program is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the costs of benefits are paid by each employee’s host agency. Employees of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) currently comprise the largest group of FECA beneficiaries and are responsible for the largest share of FECA benefits.

Elements of the FECA program include

  • basic disability benefits equal to two-thirds of an injured worker’s pre-disability wage, which rises to 75% of the pre-disability wage if the worker has any dependents;
  • disability benefits that continue for the duration of disability or the life of the beneficiary and in cases of traumatic injuries, beneficiaries can receive a continuation of their full pay for the first 45 days;
  • disability benefits for persons with specific permanent partial disabilities, such as the loss of a limb, for a set number weeks provided by schedules set by statute and regulation;
  • all medical costs associated with covered conditions without any copayments, cost-sharing, or use of private insurance by the beneficiaries;
  • cash benefits for the survivors of employees killed on the job based on the worker’s wages and a modest benefit for funeral costs; and
  • vocational rehabilitation services to assist beneficiaries in returning to work.

This report also focuses on several key policy issues facing the program, including the disproportionate share of claims and program costs attributed to postal workers, the payment of FECA benefits after retirement age, the overall level of FECA disability benefits as compared with those offered by the states, and the administration of the FECA program.

The modern FECA program can trace its roots to 1916 but has not been significantly amended since 1974. A legislative history of the FECA program is provided in the Appendix.


Suggested Citation
Szymendera, S. D. (2015). The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): Workers’ compensation for federal employees. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

A previous version of this report can be found here: