FECA program releases guidelines on ‘Havana Syndrome’ coverage


Once the factual element of the claim has been established and the employee has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, a fully rationalized medical opinion as to the causal relationship is not required.

The Federal Employees Compensation Law Program has released guidelines on coverage for what it calls “abnormal health incidents” known as Havana Syndrome – because they first been reported by federal employees stationed in Cuba, but have since been more widely reported as occurring elsewhere.

The syndrome is characterized by a “series of sudden sensory events such as sounds, pressure or heat simultaneously with or immediately preceding the sudden onset of symptoms such as headache, pain, nausea or imbalance (instability or dizziness),” a bulletin read.

Federal employees with such symptoms should file a standard claim form “because the current understanding of AHI is that they are specific events that occur within a single day or shift.” and must point to that as the specific cause, he says. These claims are to be reviewed by a special claims unit which will review “the medical evidence submitted to determine whether any medical conditions have been diagnosed in relation to the AHI incident”.

“Due to the medical community’s uncertainty regarding these incidents, claim reviewers may see medical reports discussing symptoms such as headaches, pain, nausea, etc. rather than a concrete diagnosis. Although the symptoms are not compensable under FECA, such claims should be accepted for a diagnosed traumatic brain injury,” it says.

“Once the factual component of the claim has been established and the employee has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, a fully rationalized medical opinion as to the causal relationship is not required. The doctor’s diagnosis and an affirmative statement are sufficient to accept the claim,” he adds.

The bulletin notes that the Havana law enacted last October authorizes agencies to pay their employees and family members for brain injuries sustained while on duty at a foreign or domestic duty station or in connection with war, insurgency, hostile acts, terrorist activity, or other incidents designated by the agency. It indicates that payments under this authority would be separate from any compensation from the FECA program and that the two would not be offset.

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