Recently the Department of Labor issued a bulletin to explain how it plans to process claims under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) for employees diagnosed with Anomalous Health Conditions (AHIs) collectively referred to as Havana Syndrome. This bulletin is particularly newsworthy and important because there is not a lot known about Havana Syndrome, and initially it was not known if the Department of Labor's Office of Workers Compensation would process claims for symptoms to an unknown disease.
Havana Syndrome is a mysterious illness believed to have emerged in late 2016, when U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba began reporting bizarre sounds and sensations followed by unexplained illnesses and symptoms including hearing and vision loss, memory and balance problems, headaches, and nausea. A report from the National Academy of Sciences in 2020 suggests that a cause for these injuries could be the use of “directed, pulsed radio frequency” energy. What started out as just a few cases, within the last year cases are currently topping 1,000. With cases on the rise, the federal government was forced to investigate and evaluate how and why these individuals are suffering while providing guidance for the handling of these claims.
The bulletin included guidance for federal employees and for the Office of Workers Compensation Claims Examiners who review these claims. Federal employees who have sustained an injury that falls into the Havana Syndrome category should file Form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay / Compensation, because it is assumed that the injury was caused by a specific event that occurred over a single day or work shift.
Like any other FECA claim, Havana Syndrome claims may result in permanent impairment to certain parts of the body (hearing, and vision), which will entitle the claimant to a schedule award (lump sum payments for permanent harm). The cognitive deficits are not eligible for schedule awards because the brain was not included in 5 USC 8107 which lists the part of the body considered for schedule awards. However, as with other injuries, federal employees with cognitive deficits are eligible for medical coverage and wage replacement benefits.
If you are a federal government employee who would like more information or require assistance with the processing of your federal workers compensation claim, please contact our office online or via telephone at (301) 869-8774 to schedule a consultation.
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