Archive for November, 2016

Injured Workers Face Holiday Financial Hardship Due to Workers’ Comp Benefit Restrictions

In Rhode Island, workers are entitled to benefits if they sustain an injury on-the-job. The Social Security Administration explains how the workers’ comp system works in Rhode Island when it comes to the provision of benefits. The workers’ compensation statute which outlines available benefits to Rhode Island workers is found in Title 28. The rules establish workers can receive certain payments for loss of wages caused by temporary or permanent disabilities.  Payments are based on 75 percent of pre-injury spendable wages earned by the worker, up to state maximum limits. money-cube-1512873

While an injured worker receives loss wage benefits if he can get covered, sometimes getting access to workers’ comp benefits is difficult even though the law is supposed to provide broad protection to employees.  A worker who receives benefits also will not get his full salary, which can always be difficult for families but which can be especially burdensome during the holiday season when spending tends to rise.  Injured employees need to know what benefits they will receive from workers’ compensation if they get hurt and may need to adjust their holiday budgets accordingly if they do not have the money coming in that they would receive from their normal salary.

While the holiday season can make it especially hard to get by on limited workers’ comp benefits, especially as you have to buy gifts for loved ones and entertain family, there are challenges year-round if an injury causes missed work and necessitates medical care. Cuts to workers’ compensation benefits systems, which have been occurring nationwide, have made those challenges worse.

Workers’ comp should provide comprehensive benefits for injured employees who need to be covered for medical care and who need disability income if they cannot work.  Unfortunately, ProPublica published a report indicating 33 states had slashed workers comp benefits. Affected employees were faced with major financial hardship as available benefits were reduced and as states made it harder for workers to get the coverage they need for workplace injuries.

In response to the ProPublica report, democratic senators wrote a letter urging action and the Labor Department responded. The Labor Department prepared a report discussing the detrimental impact state workers compensation laws were having. The Department of Labor also made some recommendations to try to fix the issue. Re-starting a 1970’s commission from the Nixon era was one proposal. The commission would have the power to set some basic standards for state workers’ comp systems and would facilitate federal oversight in situations where workers’ comp programs fell short. Another option would be for congress itself to set minimum standards and to require federal oversight when workers’ comp programs fell short of fulfilling those standards.

Unfortunately, the chances of action on the Labor Department’s report seem slim, so workers may continue to suffer hardship- especially during the holiday season when more money is needed to participate in festive events.