Proposed workers’ compensation changes draw criticism

New workers’ compensation guidelines have been proposed that could severely limit coverage and benefits.

Earlier this year the New York Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) was tasked in the state budget with coming up with new medical impairment guidelines that, in the words of a New York Senate press release at the time, would "reflect advances in modern medicine." However, the WCB recently released a draft of their proposed changes to those guidelines and the proposals have resulted in quite a bit of criticism from unions, many lawmakers, and workers' rights advocates. Those critics contend that the changes would significantly cut workers' compensation benefits and would curtail the due process rights of injured workers.

Medical examination changes

One of the most controversial changes to the medical guidelines concerns the medical examination. As the Amsterdam News reports, under current guidelines, during the medical examination the doctor, who is paid by the insurance company, must only ascertain whether the worker was indeed hurt on the job and what his or her injuries are. Under the proposed changes, however, the injured worker would be required to fill out a questionnaire, which could in turn result in them making statements that could be used against them in the future.

Such a questionnaire would present obvious problems for those whose first language is not English. Furthermore, despite the fact that the questionnaire could result in the injured worker losing some of his or her legal rights, a lawyer is not allowed to be present while the worker fills out the questionnaire. Even worse, if the worker refuses to complete the questionnaire then the doctor can declare the worker "uncooperative," which could result in his or her benefits being suspended.

Criticisms of proposals mount

The medical examinations are not the only part of the guidelines that would be changed. In fact, as the New York Daily News reports, a group of 95 state lawmakers recently wrote a letter to the WCB expressing concern that the proposed changes would create new limits on what evidence claimants can present to the board, create new caps for impairment limits, reduce what is defined as the normal range of motion for extremities, and would use earning capacity as a factor in determining the loss suffered by a worker.

The lawmakers also pointed out that the WCB released the proposed changes before it had listened to all stakeholders.

A study by the Workers' Compensation Alliance found that under current guidelines 71 percent of claims are covered, whereas if the proposed guidelines are adopted just 18 percent of claims would receive compensation.

Workers' compensation claims

As the above article shows, making a workers' compensation claim could soon become a lot tougher. That's why injured workers should talk to a workers' compensation attorney as soon after their injury as possible. An experienced attorney can help workers protect their rights and assist them with fighting for the full compensation that they may be eligible for.