U.S DEPARTMENT OF LABOR STUDY SHOWS STATE WORKERS COMPENSATION SYSTEMS ARE FAILING INJURED WORKERS
Workers’ compensation is a state-run system. Every state has a different set of laws, with different benefits and treatment programs. In an effort to ensure that every worker in the country was receiving an adequate, prompt and equitable system of compensation, Congress created the National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation in 1970. This commission was an 18-member panel of individuals from labor, business, the medical field and insurance industry. After two years of study, the commission prepared a report that contained 84 recommendations, with 19 of those recommendations listed as “essential” to ensuring adequate protection for the injured worker.
Although there was no federal requirement to implement the recommendations of the commission, in the 20 years following the report, states made changes to their compensation systems in accordance with some of the recommendations. This resulted in a substantial increase in the quick and efficient receipt of adequate benefits.
However, in the early 1990s, states began to treat benefits for injured workers as “costs” to be cut. In the past 30 years, states have rapidly moved away from the panel recommendations. These “cost-saving” efforts have resulted in reduced monetary benefits, more difficulty in filing claims, restrictions in medical care, reduced work-place safety, less efficient payment of benefits and a transfer of responsibility to other benefits programs, such as Social Security and the Affordable Care Act. One expert reviewing the trends over time, compared the cuts to making changes with a machete, rather than a scalpel.
A recent Department of Labor study warned that workers are at great risk of falling into poverty as a result of workplace injuries and the failure of state compensation systems to provide them with adequate benefits.
In the face of these ongoing challenges, it is important to hire attorneys that are experts in Workers’ Compensation Law in their state. These experts are in the best position to navigate the roadblocks created and to maximize the injured workers’ benefits, both in monetary awards and medical treatment.