Lawmakers Seek Federal ‘Oversight’ Of Workers’ Compensation As States Limit Benefits

Many of us go to work each day so that we can pay our bills and provide for our loved ones. However, sometimes injuries can happen on the job especially if you work around dangerous equipment. Workers’ Compensation benefits usually help those that may suffer an injury on the job. However, many states are now limiting these benefits and making it more difficult for workers to get the help they need. If you have questions about how these limits may affect your workers compensation case or if you have been injured at your workplace, you should speak to a workers compensation lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We will answer any questions or concerns you may have and help you to get the compensation you need for your injuries.
Ten ranking Democrats on key Senate and House committees are urging the Labor Department to respond to changes in state workers’ compensation laws that have limited protections and benefits for injured workers over the past ten years. In a letter addressed to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the lawmakers cited an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, which found that thirty-three states have cut workers’ comp benefits and made it more difficult to qualify or given employers more control over medical care decisions.

This letter also discusses NPR and ProPublica stories last week that detailed an emerging trend that allows employers to drop out of state-regulated workers’ compensation programs, and allows them to write their own injury plans and limit benefits on their own. The letter is signed by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential hopeful and ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee; Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Senate Labor Committee; Bobby Scott, the ranking member of the House Workforce Committee; and seven other senior Democrats on House and Senate Budget, Finance, Employment, Workforce, Ways and Means, and Social Security committees.

The Department of Labor stated that it also has these concerns. “Every year injured workers and their families are bearing more and more of the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.” The agency also stated that “It will review the letter and work with stakeholders to find real solutions.” However, they agency did not commit to any specific action. An NPR/ProPublica request to speak with Perez was declined.

Before budget cuts in 2004, the Labor Department tracked changes in state workers’ comp laws and failures to meet nineteen minimum and essential standards for benefits established by a 1972 commission convened by President Richard Nixon. “If many of the workers do not get workers’ compensation benefits, they may end up on Social Security Disability or Medicaid and food stamps because they are not working”, stated Bobby Scott. The federal trust fund that pays for Social Security disability benefits is expected to end up short of funds next year, and cost-shifting from workers’ compensation is partially to blame.

Federal intervention may also come as the result of the “opt out” movement in some states in which employers turn away from heavily regulated workers’ compensation and are allowed to write and administer their own largely unregulated workplace injury plans. Tennessee and other states are considering opt-out laws now, and proponents are aiming for a dozen states by the end of the decade.

This effort by Democratic lawmakers to draw attention to workers’ comp cutbacks is not likely to result in legislative action, given Republican control of Congress. They’re more likely to get results by appealing to the Obama administration, which has used administrative authority in the past year on a range of workplace issues, including overtime, paid sick leave and the mis-classification of employees as independent contractors.

If you have concerns about how these limits or “opt out” plans may affect your workers’ compensation case or if you or someone you work with has been injured while on the job then you need to speak to a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer at the Higgins Firm. We will review your claim and help you to receive any compensation you may be entitled to for what you have suffered.

You can contact us online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your case and any questions you might have.

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