A new Department of Labor report says cuts to state workers’ comp systems have left injured workers with inadequate benefits and raises the specter of federal oversight. The findings echo those of a ProPublica and NPR investigation last year.
Does The Workers’ Compensation System Fulfill Its Obligations To Injured Workers?
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, October 2016
State-based workers’ compensation programs provide critical support to workers who are injured or made sick by their jobs. These programs are a key component of the country’s social benefit structure and of occupational safety policy, and the only major component of the social safety net with no federal oversight or minimum national standards. This Report provides an introduction to these programs, but it also sounds an alarm: working people are at great risk of falling into poverty as a result of workplace injuries and the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide them with adequate benefits.
Despite the sizable cost of workers’ compensation, only a small portion of the overall costs of occupational injury and illness is borne by employers. Costs are instead shifted away from employers, often to workers, their families and communities. Other social benefit systems – including Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, and, most recently, health care provided under the Affordable Care Act – have expanded our social safety net, while the workers’ compensation safety net has been shrinking. There is growing evidence that costs of workplace-related disability are being transferred to other benefit programs, placing additional strains on these programs at a time when they are already under considerable stress.