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SAFETY NET? WHAT SAFETY NET?

In 2007, in exchange for raising the maximum weekly workers’ comp benefit rate, the Legislature changed the Workers’ Compensation Law to impose time limitations, or caps, on benefits for permanent partial disability, which were previously payable for life.

The Legislature did two things connected to the “PPD caps:” It directed the Department of Labor to produce an annual “Safety Net Report” about what happened to permanently partially disabled workers after their benefits ended; and it allowed workers with a disability of 81% or more to seek continued benefits after their time limitation expired. In 2017 it transferred responsibility for the Safety Net Report from the Department of Labor to the Workers’ Compensation Board, and it also reduced the threshold for eligibility from an 81% disability to a 76% disability.

The Department of Labor produced the Safety Net Report for three years, ending in 2010. However, in the past decade neither DOL or the Board have issued the required annual report. We therefore have no information about the fate of permanently disabled workers whose benefits have ended. The theory in 2007 was that they would return to work. We suspect that instead they have simply lost their income and depend on other programs to survive.

Meanwhile, the Workers’ Compensation Board has decided eighteen appeals from workers who asked it to continue their benefits because the loss of income would be an extreme hardship. Only one worker was granted relief; the other seventeen were denied.

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