Tucson Tragedy Highlights Workers’ Comp Issues

The tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, and several constituents in Tucson last month has highlighted many issues confronting our country today: questions of gun control, the level of vitriol in political discourse, and, interestingly, many questions of public health services and workers’ compensation.

It is well known that the suspect in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, suffered from various mental health issues and many sources in the Arizona Mental Health community commented that he might have received help had he sought it.  While this can never be known, his mental illness has prompted several discussions about the many cuts proposed to health care budgets as states tighten their belts across the country.

The flip side of this issue of access to health care is the fact that Representative Gabrielle Giffords was injured while on the job and her closely scrutinized recovery could be the result of Federal workers’ compensation.

According to Rebecca Shafer, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, “As Congresswoman Giffords and the members of her staff are federal employees, and as they were at an official function for Congresswoman Giffords, she and her staff would be covered for workers compensation by the U.S. Department of Labors Office of Workers Compensation Programs, which administers the Division of Federal Employees Compensation.”  Shafer notes this kind of workers’ compensation is known as FECA – Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.

The next step in Giffords’ recovery will be a lengthy rehabilitation process. On January 21 she was transferred to the Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston, Texas and then moved to the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research.   Many experts have assured the public that she is receiving the absolute best care possible for someone with her severe neurological injuries.

The Federal Workers’ Compensation that covers Giffords and her staff is often singled out as a kind of “gold standard” by which other workers’ compensation programs are measured. Still, even Federal workers’ compensation benefits are under greater scrutiny in the current fiscal climate.

Joe Davidson writes in the Washington Post that Senator Susan M. Collins wants “the Government Accountability Office to study the program that provides income to injured federal workers.” Collins argues elderly workers who have no intention of returning to work continue to collect workers’ compensation benefits at taxpayer’s expense.

As Representative Giffords continues to recover under the best medical care available and with the well wishes of the Nation, it seems important to reflect on how her recovery stands in relation to the thousands of other injured workers who struggle to receive the same benefits guaranteed to them under the law.  As states continue to slash entitlement budgets, workers injured in preventable workplace incidents will need to find workers’ compensation attorneys who are abreast of the rapidly changing landscape of workers’ compensation law.  Injured workers should consult a Washington Worker’s Compensation Lawyer at Emery Reddy.

Emery Reddy