Democratic Lawmakers Speak Up About Workers’ Comp Benefit Cuts
In a previous post, we discussed businesses in states like Texas and Oklahoma opting out of Workers’ Compensation. This shift to drop Workers’ Comp has been covered on several news pages, and some of our nation’s Democratic leaders are speaking up about the matter.
A recent NPR article talked about these corporations dropping out of Workers’ Comp as well as a previous study they conducted with ProPublica which investigated Workers’ Comp benefit cuts in more than 30 states. This article also focuses on a letter written to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, from 10 Democratic lawmakers, insisting that the Labor Department address these issues.
These lawmakers included leaders such as Bobby Scott (Senate Labor Committee), Patty Murray (Senate Budget Committee), and Senator and presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. They stated in their letter: “State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job.”
When workers do not receive benefits under Workers’ Comp, they often receive benefits under Social Security Disability, Medicaid, or food stamps. And so although Workers’ Comp is managed at the state level, it becomes a federal issue. Howard Berkes noted in an NPR interview: “[The Social Security disability program] is expected to run short of money next year. So there’s a growing argument for a federal role.”
There may also be a growing argument for a federal role when it comes to the opt-out shift in Texas and Oklahoma. According to the NPR article, “Employers [opting out of Workers’ Comp] say their workplace benefit plans are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), even though ERISA specifically excludes benefit plans maintained solely for the purpose of complying with applicable workmen’s compensation laws.”
At a time when Workers’ Comp is being left behind in certain states, and benefit cuts are being made across the map, it’s a good thing that Democrats on important Senate and House committees are encouraging the Labor Department to pay attention to these issues.
Posted on November 25, 2015 @ 7:55 pm