The condition of workers' compensation programs across the country has sparked Congress to examine the issue. In November, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held hearings to gain insight on the shortcomings of state-run workers' comp programs in New York and throughout America.
At first glance, it appears odd that Congress is so interested in workers' compensation: each U.S. state funds and administers its own program. However, many believe that the failure of workers' comp programs across the U.S. has stressed a federal welfare program, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system.
Because of the alleged impact on SSDI, Congress has become increasingly interested in the failure and successes of workman's compensation. Experts from around the country testified before Congress to share their views on the condition of workers' comp.
What Are the Problems?
One of the testifying experts, John Burton of Rutgers and Cornell, said he has seen the nation's workers' compensation programs deteriorate over the past two decades. He believes that the need for compensation benefits is as high as ever, but that increasingly stringent standards prevent people from obtaining the needed benefits.
California State Representative Lynn Woolsey shared her worries regarding the American Medical Association's (AMA) Guides to Permanent Impairment. The latest edition of the guides has a stricter view of "impairment" which can make it more difficult for workers' compensation claimants to obtain benefits if their respective state adopts the AMA's views.
What Can be Done to Help Injured Workers?
On the federal level, most lawmakers agree that changes must be made to the workers' comp benefits system or federal welfare programs, such as SSDI, will continue to endure overwhelming amounts of claims, and will be forced to reduce the amount of payouts that are made. There is much less agreement about whether those changes should be made at the federal level and how Congress should go about it.
John Burton believes the federal government should enact uniform permanent disability standards more aligned with what most states had in the 1980s - before the push for stricter provisions were put in place. He also calls for changes regarding claimant applications in the SSDI program.
Will New York Claimants See Changes Soon?
While the serious problems in the nation's workers' comp system have gained visibility on the federal level, the Congressional power shift to the Republicans will likely keep workers' comp reform in its infancy. However, if state welfare programs continue to provide inadequate benefits to injured workers, the federal welfare programs will continue to shoulder the burden. Eventually the burden may be too great and lawmakers will have to put aside their partisan beliefs to rescue America's injured workers.
If you have suffered serious work injury or disability, speak with a skilled New York workers' compensation attorney. A workers' comp lawyer can help you obtain all benefits you are entitled to, state and federal, and also explore any personal injury claims you may have against responsible parties.