The Continuation of Pay (COP) Program

Oct 26, 2009

Continuation of Pay (COP) program

Most federal employees know that if they are injured on the job, they are entitled to workers’ compensation. Some mistakenly think that all is well with their workers’ compensation claim due to the quick start of disability compensation called the Continuation of Pay (COP) program. The source of this confusion is that, to some extent, the process of applying for COP overlaps with the process of applying for workers’ compensation.

Initially, it should be noted that COP is paid by the employer only in connection with a traumatic work injury. Employees with occupational disease claims are not eligible to receive COP. They use a different form (CA-2) to apply for workers’ compensation.

COP is the continuation of an employee’s regular pay for up to 45 calendar days of wage loss due to disability. COP is paid as salary, not compensation. It is therefore subject to the usual payroll deductions, such as income taxes and retirement contributions. The pay rate includes missing night differential, hazard, premium, and holiday pay – but neither Sunday pay nor lost overtime is included.

Note: Sunday premium pay is included in the Continuation of Pay (COP) for postal employees as the result of a grievance settlement dated March 15, 2004. You can read the entire document, Pre-Arbitration Settlement Concerning Payment of Sunday Premium for Continuation of Pay (COP) Status, or on Court or Military Leave, at:

https://apwu.org/dept/ind-rel/awd-set/031504irsunpremset.pdf

In order to receive COP benefits, the employee must file form (CA-1) Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation. It must be filed within 30 days of the injury. If the employing agency (EA) does not have a signed CA-1, they cannot authorize medical care or COP benefits.

The employee cannot be required to use his accumulated leave time when he or she suffers a traumatic injury, but if his COP is controverted and terminated due to financial circumstances, he has no choice but to use Form CA-7 to apply for his accumulated leave time, leave without pay, and regular workers’ compensation (which pays a non-taxable percentage of pay rate – 66% if no minor dependents, 75% if minor dependents).

The employee has the right to select a physician of his choice. Because the willingness of the physician to connect the injury to work activity is critical with regards to entitlement to benefits, this selection may be one of the most important decisions an injured employee can make. I suggest that the employee contact local plaintiff attorneys to find out which doctors are likely to be more responsive to the employee as opposed to the employer. If the medical evidence on its face supports disability due to a work-related injury, the employee is entitled to COP when absent from work due to the disability. The attending physician reports the employee’s condition on a Form CA 20.

Generally speaking, once COP has begun, the employer must continue paying. Exceptions to this general rule exist when (1) the employee fails to provide the employer with medical evidence of a disabling traumatic injury within 10 calendar days of claiming COP (2) the employee’s physician has found the employee to be partially disabled and the employee refuses suitable work or fails to respond to the job offer or (3) the employee’s scheduled period of employment ends, or employment otherwise ends, provided the period of employment or date of termination is set before the injury occurs.

The employer does not have the right to interrupt COP if a disciplinary action has been taken against an employee, unless preliminary written notice of termination or other action was issued before the injury occurred and the termination or other action became final during the COP period.

These rules can lead one to believe that he doesn’t have to do anything, causing him to assume all is well, only to be sadly mistaken later. For example, if you don’t get all your medical evidence in the right shape promptly, an attempt to cure the problem later may not be successful. The highest court for the federal workers compensation, the Employee’s Compensation Appeals Board, has said that those medical reports that are most contemporaneous with the date of injury are the most reliable indicators of the period of disability. See Robin L. Brainard, 43 ECAV 329 (1991); Christine M. Yuknas, 33 ECAB 424 (1982).

Therefore, we strongly suggest that you get the help you need early, so that you are not sorry later for not making sure that all is proper in the first place.

– Brad Harris, Attorney

 

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