Norton Introduces Bill to Help Federal Employee Get Short-Term Disability Insurance

Sep 25, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing today, titled “NextGen Feds: Recruiting the Next Generation of Public Servants,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced she had introduced the Federal Employee Short-Term Disability Insurance Act of 2019, which would help provide financial relief for federal employees who have a short-term injury or disability, become pregnant, or develop a pregnancy-related illness.  Norton’s bill would offer federal employees short-term disability insurance at no cost to the federal government.  Employees would be responsible for 100 percent of the premiums and be able to receive disability insurance benefits for up to one year, which would replace a portion of their lost income due to a non-work-related injury or illness or pregnancy.

In her introductory statement, Norton writes: “According to the Social Security Administration, a 20-year-old worker has a one-in-four chance of becoming disabled by retirement age.  The majority of disabilities are not caused by major accidents, but by injuries or illnesses, such as back injuries or cancer, according to the Council for Disability Awareness.  There is every reason to allow our federal employees to take advantage of the federal government’s group rates to obtain the most reasonable price if they choose to purchase short-term disability coverage on their own at no cost to the federal government.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

on the Introduction of the Federal Employee Short-Term Disability Insurance Act of 2019

Madam Speaker, today, I introduce the Federal Employee Short-Term Disability Insurance Act of 2019, which would help provide financial relief for federal employees who have a short-term injury or disability, become pregnant, or develop a pregnancy-related illness.  This bill would offer federal employees short-term disability insurance at no cost to the federal government.  Employees would be responsible for 100 percent of the premiums and be able to receive disability insurance benefits for up to one year, which would replace a portion of their lost income due to a non-work-related injury or illness or pregnancy.  These benefits would be particularly advantageous to ensure that our federal employees, who do not yet enjoy paid maternity leave, are able to utilize the 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave permitted by federal law while continuing to pay their bills, buy groceries and make their mortgage, car and other loan payments without depleting their retirement or other savings accounts.  Too many federal employees do not take advantage of the full amount of federal unpaid maternity leave they and their newborn need because they have no way to replace the lost income.

I decided to investigate how we could provide short-term disability insurance for federal employees after learning that many of them already buy short-term disability insurance as individuals in the private market at high individual rates.  Although federal employees have good health insurance, federal health benefits do not replace lost income if employees are unable to work.  Moreover, while federal employees may have available sick or annual leave days, they may not have enough such days to pay the bills if they have to be out of work for an extended period, such as following surgery.  Although there are long-term disability options for federal employees who become permanently disabled, federal employees do not qualify for such benefits until they have worked for the federal government for at least 18 months.  My bill does no more than put federal employees in the same position as many of their private-sector counterparts, who often have access to disability insurance through an employer at group rates, an option unavailable to federal employees.  This bill would not allow participating insurance companies to exclude persons based on preexisting conditions.  Because of the federal government's purchasing power, this bill would provide these benefits at a more competitive rate than is available for employees purchasing as individuals, as many do.  Under the bill, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management would contract with private carriers to provide this coverage, essentially providing the equivalent of group coverage available to workers in the private sector.

According to the Social Security Administration, a 20-year-old worker has a one-in-four chance of becoming disabled by retirement age.  The majority of disabilities are not caused by major accidents, but by injuries or illnesses, such as back injuries or cancer, according to the Council for Disability Awareness.  There is every reason to allow our federal employees to take advantage of the federal government’s group rates to obtain the most reasonable price if they choose to purchase short-term disability coverage on their own at no cost to the federal government.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.

 

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