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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Blog can now be monitored through Technoratic

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is The EPA in a Rush To the Botton for Asbestos Experts?


The US EPA (Environmental; Protection Agency) has published an announcement to seek appointments to its Scientific Advisory Panel with asbestos expertise in short course. In a notice published in the Federal Register on October 26, 2007 the US EPA announced a deadline of November 16, 2007.

"The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office is seeking public nominations of additional experts in the formation of the Asbestos Expert Panel in the areas of biostatistics, statistical modeling, epidemiology, meta-analysis, Bayesian analysis and toxicology of inhaled particles." Nominations may be submitted on line. Any interested person or organization may nominate individuals qualified in the areas of expertise described above to serve on the SAB Asbestos Expert Panel. Nominations may be submitted in electronic format through the Form for Nominating Individuals to Panels of the EPA Science Advisory Board which can be accessed through a link on the blue navigational bar on the SAB Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/sab.

An alarm has been sounded that panels of the EPA have been filled by defense firms. See "Don’t Let Mercenaries Advise EPA on Asbestos Science." David Michaels, who heads the the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) and is Professor and Associate Chairman in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services stated, "One important step in ending corruption in science would be to ban employees of product defense firms from federal science advisory committees. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board Asbestos Panel is a good place to start."

The Bush Administration has tried to undermined te integrity of scientific research in an ongoing program. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has claimed that the "EPA is dumbing down its research." “There appears to be a deliberate policy of marginalizing EPA science on issue after issue, so that the agency is becoming increasingly irrelevant to emerging environmental threats,” Ruch testified, pointing to internal surveys showing a growing pessimism by agency scientists about the direction of EPA. “EPA’s public health research agenda has been neutered.”

The selection of quality membership is not one than came be done on short notice. Is the EPA yet again in a rush to the bottom?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Workers Compensation Research Institute Conference 2007 – Boston MA


WCRI has been “researching” or generating data for the Industry for 24 years. The introductory remarks were offered by Robert Steggert, Marriott International, Inc., Chair WCRI Bd of Directors. The central topic of the entire program has been medical costs and how to contain them and the consequential effect upon medical claims, temporary benefits and permanent benenfits.

Preliminary research reports were offered on “The California Reforms; Monitoring Impact” by Richard Victor, WCRI. Victor has testified in the past in support of “reforms” before Congress of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The data presented was a “snapshot” of data from post the 2003 reforms and preliminary data from recent legislative changes. Basically it demonstrated a significant drop in medical services especially in chiropractic care and physical therapy and physical medicine. The data sources were medical bills, telephone interviews of hundreds of injured workers (650 to 750), access to medical care, utilization and costs and timing.

The bottom line is that WCRI is not releasing final data that they have available for recent reforms. The trend, however, is toward a dramatic decrease in medical care, and the decrease in the numbers of claims filed. While this will probably result in the decrease in the amount of PPD (permanent partial disability) it is not something that they will publicly admit at this time. They do admit that there is decrease in the number of satisfied injured workers who have serious medical conditions.

The research concerning “The Texas Reforms” was obviously apparent. There are no lawyers in that system and the adversarial system for all intents and purposes eliminated. Texas remains as the highest number of chiropractic visits of any State. See the recent blog report.

The “Lessons from a Stable and Lower Cost State” [Oregon] demonstrated a system where the presenters: Bob Shiprack, Orgeon Building and Construction Trades Council and Jerry Keene, defense WC atty, have engineered a system to eliminate lawyers completely by eliminating litigation. Oregon is now 42nd in the country in WC rates and premiums have not gone up for 18 years while costs have declined 50%. The Oregon system allows treating physicians to initially make recommendation concerning PPD which generates a RTW package [Return to Work] by actively allowing the employer to participate in terminating TDB or PPD. The ADR (Alternate Disputes Resolution) program provides for a 10% counsel fee. The EAIPO [employee accident and injury program] allows for a 50% wage subsidy and theoretically acts as a safety net following a “lump sum” payment. Shipwreck’s philosophy is to first “Starve All the Lawyers.” That was accomplished in Oregon. See also another blog report on Oregon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Vaccinating Workers In a Pandemic Maybe a Pain for Employers




The US DHHS has issued a draft guidance for allocation of pandemic flu vaccine. Tough decisions for tough times is what it looks like. What workers will be allocated vaccinations and in what order in preference in the general population? Tough decisions for tough times.

Vaccinations afforded to employees which provide benefit to the employer against possible disastrous business consequences have been considered to be a mutual benefit. Saintsing v. Steinbach Co., 1 N.J.Super. 259, 64 A.2d 99 (App.Div.1949).

The public as been asked to comment staring, Friday, October 26, 2007.

"This draft guidance is intended to provide strong advice to support planning an effective and consistent pandemic response by States and communities. Nevertheless, it is important that plans are flexible as the guidance may be modified based on the status of vaccine technology, the characteristics of pandemic illness, and risk groups for severe disease –factors that will remain unknown until a pandemic actually occurs.The Federal Government has embarked on a rigorous and collaborative process that seeks input from all interested parties in developing this strategy. Hearing opinions from persons and organizations with a wide variety of interests and concerns is the best way to ensure that allocation of vaccine in the early stages of a pandemic is fair and provides the best chance for our country to emerge from a pandemic with minimal levels of illness, death, and disruption to our society and economy."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Does OSHA Know Its Numbers: Questionable Counting of Workplace Injuries and Accidents


A debate is occurring in the occupational health community over whether or not the validity of the statistics produced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is accurate concerning their reporting of data in recent years that that reflects a decline in occupational injuries and illnesses. Charged with a record-keeping in 1995 OSHA has reported a constant decline annually in its statistical reports.

The agency's recent reporting has become the subject of an analysis by scholars who conclude that the substantial declines in the number of injuries and illnesses merely correspond directly with changes in OSHA's recordkeeping requirements. The report goes on to illustrate that the most significant changes in employment, production, and OSHA enforcement activity, and in fact sampling error just do not explain the large decline. The scientists report that the decline of 2.4 million injuries and illnesses were in fact statistically inaccurate. Over 83% of the decline can be attributed to merely the change in OSHA's recordkeeping requirements.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The House of Lords Steps Backward in Time for Asbestos Compensation


The British House of Lords in a recent decision has take a step backward in time and has ruled that those who suffer pleural plaques (scarring of the lungs) as a result of asbestos exposure are unable to claim compensation. Parliament declared, " If the pleural plaques are not in themselves damage, do they become damage when aggregated with the risk which they evidence or the anxiety which that risk causes? In principle, neither the risk of future injury nor anxiety at the prospect of future injury is actionable. "


The decision widely reported in the British press, has been declared a major step backward in time. British Unions have strongly sounded their dismay. Unite Joint General Secretary, Derek Simpson said: "This is a harsh decision which will affect thousands of people with pleural plaques now and in the future." "The judgment will disadvantage many of our members who have been exposed to asbestos in their work by denying them the right to sue their former employers for developing pleural plaques. Unite will continue to fight to re-coup damages for those people who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions."


Many support groups have declared their outrage. Tony Whitson, chair of the forum of asbestos support groups said: 'This judgment gives solace to rich insurance companies and leaves asbestos victims uncompensated. It is a disgrace.'

The House of Parliament has turned it back on the victims of asbestos related disease. Since 1775 when Percivall Pott, a prominent British surgeon, noted that chimney sweeps had a high incidence of cancer which he attributed to prolonged exposure and repeated contact with soot, many other work-related cancers have been documented. The British, who first epidemologically recognized asbestos related disease, have now stepped backward in denying benefits to those who suffer from this terrible disease.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Federal Court Grants Class Certification to Federal Express Driver Case - Independent Contractor Status at Issue

In a pending MDL (Multi-District Litigation) claim against Federal Express, US Federal Judge Robert Miller (US DCT Northen District of Indiana), granted class certificationto the claims of potentiall 14,000 current FedEx Ground/Home Delivery drivers and up 10,000 former drivers.

An important issue confronting the litigation is the determination of the existence of an "independent contractor" relationship between FedEx and its present and former drivers.

In re Federal Express Ground System Inc.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Workers' Compensation, "'The Dead Elephant' in the Room"

Joining a loud and vocal majority, Peter Rousmanie, a writer for the periodical, Risk and Insurance, has authored a series of 4 articles on the failing workers’ compensation system.

In a series initially focusing on the World Trade Disaster he has shifted his focus in the first two articles from merely the 911 tragedy to the entire system calling workers’ compensation, “”The Dead Elephant’ In the Room.”

World Trade Center In-Depth Series (Part 1): Up in Smoke

World Trade Center In-Depth Series (Part 2): The Disease Within

World Trade Center In-Depth Series (Part 3): Peeling a Sour Apple

Friday, October 12, 2007

Recrafting the Delivery of Workers' Compensation Benefits

It has been reported SaltLakeTribune: Few lawyers willing to represent injured workers that fewer lawyers are now representing injured workers. The situation is critical in many areas of workers' compensation law including the delivery of medical benefits.

This situation is rather contagious. While claims have dropped nationally, the number of attorneys representing injured claimants have also fallen, but at an alarming rate. This phenomenon is not reflective of a safer work environment, but one in which the Industry has squeezed lawyers out of the process intentionally, through many aspects including: regulatory action, philosophical strategy, and legislative tactics. It has been difficult, to say the least, for stakeholders to seek benefits. The failure to mount a defense against these disruptive and destructive practices is partly based upon the inability of stakeholders to maintain a united front.

Yet the CMS (Medicare reimbursement issue) challenge is one that should be a new beginning for injured workers, Labor, lawyers and other groups to creatively employ tactics and strategy to reconstruct the benefit program, albeit periodic payments, rather to merely adopt a program and jump on the band wagon of Industry to deconstruct the program of "lump sum" reductions in benefits including medical care. A good start would be to propose to Congress a legislative package meaningful to injured workers and one that would preserve the integrity of the periodic benefit system and continued provision of full and complete medical benefits. The convoluted system proposed, yet again, by Industry fails to meet those goals.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Losing the workplace cancer fight – BBC

The Stirling University study mentioned in the BBC programme blurb below will appear in the October-December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH), available free online www.ijoeh.com It concludes the contribution of workplace factors to all cancers is at least double and possibly four times the commonly cited Doll/Peto contribution (4 per cent of all cancers related to work). The BBC piece, a 40 minute documentary, concentrates on the UK, but most of the lessons apply equally well in other modern, industrialised nations – and certainly to the situation the US, Canada and Australia.

You can listen to the programme online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio4_aod.shtml?radio4/fileon4
Duration: 37mins File Size: 18Mb

Podcast: Download Episode

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/fileon4/fileon4_20071009-2130.mp3


Related materials are available online at: www.hazards.org/cancer and www.hazards.org/cancer/preventionkit

Losing the workplace cancer fight

By Tim Whewell
BBC Radio 4, File On 4

The HSE is responsible for workplace safety

Occupational cancer is a quiet almost invisible epidemic picking off its victims years after they were first exposed to the risk.

It is one of the areas of workplace safety that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for.

Yet according to a new study published on Tuesday its occupational cancer figures are out of date.

The HSE's figures say 6,000 people die annually of work related cancers.

We know that the existing figures are wrong because of the basis of the calculation that was done some 25 years ago


Prof Andrew Watterson

But the study by Prof Andrew Watterson of Stirling University has found that between 18,000 to 24,000 people a year die of occupationally caused cancers.

"We know that the existing figures are wrong because of the basis of the calculation that was done some 25 years ago," he said.

"They looked at small number of - at that time - large industries. There are many more small to medium sized enterprises now where there may be exposures."

The HSE accepts its figures are out of date but the academic charged with reviewing them, believes they will only show a small increase.

Lesley Rushton of Imperial College said: "Because we are adding more cancers the estimates will rise."

But he added that figures for the six cancers in the HSE's original research will not differ greatly.

Cancer cluster

One of the newer industries Professor Watterson believes the HSE's data does not take into account is microelectronics.

Eleven years after Grace Morrison left the National Semiconductor factory in Greenock, near Glasgow she still has no explanation for what she and many other former workers saw as a cancer cluster in the area.

Grace was diagnosed with cancer and in the same week her sister, who also worked at the plant was found to have leukaemia which eventually claimed her life.

"It was a dreadful time my sister endured two years of hell with the treatment she was having.

Female cancers

"She survived two years and I'm still in remission."

Eventually after a local campaign, the HSE agreed to look into complaints by the firm's employees.

One theory was their cancer stemmed at least partly from exposure to some the chemicals the workers added to tiny silicon discs as part of the microchip production process.

The HSE's 2001 report found two to three times the expected rate of female lung cancer and four to five times the expected rate of female stomach cancers.

'No proof'

It found no immediate proof of a link but said further study was needed urgently yet this work only began this year.

Minutes of meetings of the Microelectronics Working Group, which brings together industry representatives, trade unions, and the HSE, obtained by File On 4 indicate disagreements between the various sides that may help explain the delay in starting the more detailed follow-up study.

One, for example, was over the remit of the new research, with National Semiconductor apparently wanting it limited to lung cancer.

The company declined a request for an interview, but in a statement they said: "There is NO proof that working at National Semiconductor in Greenock has caused an increased risk of employees developing cancer

"Although we have had some concerns regarding the HSE's proposed follow-on study, we have worked closely with the HSE to provide timely comments and information to them.

"National Semiconductor is continuing to work with the HSE on its follow-up study and until this study is completed it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.

"The health and safety of our employees is of paramount importance and we remain committed to providing a safe working environment.

"This is highlighted by the numerous awards secured by the company from organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the British Safety Council and National is one of the top Environmental Health and Safety performers in the UK."

Enforcement action

Steve Coldrick, head of the HSE's disease reduction programme, denied that the micro electronics industry was slow to agree to cooperate with in depth studies.

"The key point is the follow up is a further study so it is not an enforcement action," he said.

"It requires the co-operation and collaboration of the people concerned and the follow up study has started.

"You are talking about six years, but it is determining at the rate of other people as well.

"If other people do not think it is urgent and we have no regulatory force behind it, we are dependent on the pace at which they will go."

You can learn more about this story from File On 4, at 2000 BST, Tuesday 9 October 2007, repeated Sunday 14 October 1700 BST.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes

Sunday, October 7, 2007

California: Did Workers' Comp Reform Go Too Far?

Friday October 5, 2007

Did Workers' Comp Reform Go Too Far?

By Alan J. Wax

California employees have borne the entire brunt of the Governor's 2004 Workers' Compensation Reform (SB899). Studies by state agencies confirm that the benefits have been reduced by 50 to 70 percent. Even the U.S. Chambers of Commerce reports that California's benefits are among the lowest in the nation. The average maximum weekly permanent disability benefit for the nation is $595, compared to California, which is $270. Weekly benefits for permanently disabled workers in California are the fourth lowest in the nation. Balance this with the fact that California's cost of living is one of the highest in the nation. The insurance industry reports their profits for the last three years exceed the cost of all benefits combined. (Based on the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau July 2007 Rate Filing and Summary of March 31, 2007 Insurer Experience)-

Here are some examples of California's ranking among the lowest in the nation compared to other states:

Loss of an eye: California ranks lowest in the nation!

Hearing loss in one ear: California ranks lowest in the nation!

Loss of a foot: California ranks second lowest in the nation!

Loss of a leg at hip: California ranks sixth lowest in the nation!

Loss of a thumb: California ranks seventh lowest in the nation!

(Source: "Analysis of Workers' Compensation Laws," U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

In a special hearing regarding the Reform, Senator Sheila Kuehl had admonished the then, Administrative Director Andrea Hoch by stating that there was no legislative intent to reduce "whole hog" the overall benefits, the then Chairman Richard Alarcon, stated it was his understanding "that [SB899] should not reduce benefits to injured workers." In fact, Governor Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying, "I never wanted to hurt any one of the workers or the people that get benefits," (Sacramento Bee, November 19, 2003). However, that is exactly what is being done by this reform.

SB 936 sponsored by Senator Don Perata, would help restore fair and adequate in small measure benefits for those who through no fault of their own become permanently disabled as a result of a work related injury and will not require any cost increase for employers. As permanent disability benefits represent only 13 percent of total benefits. This measure has been passed on a virtually unanimous vote of Senate and Assembly Democrats. This remedial bill partially corrects unintended 50 to 70 percent cuts in permanent disability compensation to injured workers. There are many problems with the workers' compensation reform dealing with limits on reasonable medical treatment, temporary disability benefits and vocational retraining. SB 936 would be a first step in trying to restore modest compensation to California's injured on the job.

Alan J. Wax, a Certified Specialist by the State of California in the area of Workers' Compensation Law, and a member of Board of Governors of the California Applicant's Attorney's Association is a partner with the law firm of Wax & Wax. He can be reached at (661) 255-9585. His column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Business Law" appears Fridays and rotates between members of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association. www.SCVbar.org.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Asbestos Ban Passes US Senate

The United State Senate passed the legislation to ban asbestos in the U.S. The following press release was distributed bythe bill's sponsor, Senator Pat Murray.

October 4, 2007 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today United States Senate unanimously passed Senator Patty Murray's bill to ban asbestos, bringing the legislation closer to enactment than at any point since Murray launched her effort to protect families and workers six years ago. Murray worked closely with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Environment and Public Works Chairman Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to reach this historic milestone.

"This is a historic day in the fight to protect Americans. Workers and their families deserve a future free of deadly asbestos exposure, and I'm not stopping until this bill is signed into law," Murray said. "I’m very pleased that Senators from both sides of the aisle came together to unanimously support my bill. I especially want to thank Senator Johnny Isakson for his bipartisan leadership in moving this bill forward. I also want to commend Senator Barbara Boxer who championed this bill from the start and led its quick passage through her Environment and Public Works Committee."
“It was a pleasure to work with Senator Murray on crafting this legislation. This bill is the culmination of months of bipartisan work to find common ground on this important issue, and I extremely pleased the Senate acted so quickly to approve it,” Isakson said. “For the few areas where asbestos is still used in the United States, this bill provides a reasonable transition so that Americans can rid themselves of asbestos once and for all.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said: “Because of this bill, America is poised to join the more than 40 nations that have banned asbestos because it is deadly. This bill is long overdue.”

“I have been pleased to work closely with Senators Murray and Isakson to move this important bill through the Environment and Public Works Committee, and now through the Senate. This bill will take asbestos off the shelves, and will also ensure we continue to study and treat the health effects asbestos has already caused.”

Murray's bill would ban asbestos, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign. Murray started working to ban asbestos six years ago. This March, she re-introduced her legislation as S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007.

On March 1st, Senator Murray held a hearing in her Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee on the bill.

On June 12th, the bill got a hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee, at which Senator Murray testified.

On June 6, Murray discussed the bill's progress at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where she was joined by doctors, a patient, environmental experts, and advocates.

On July 31st, the bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee 19-0.
....................................................................................
Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007
http://murray.senate.gov/asbestos
Bill Summary
1. BANS ASBESTOS
Prohibits the importation, manufacture, processing and distribution of products containing asbestos. The ban covers the 6 regulated forms of asbestos and 3 durable fibers. The EPA will issue rules to ensure asbestos products are off the shelves within 2 years of the bill's enactment.
2. Dramatically Expands Research and Treatment
Creates a $50 million "Asbestos-Related Disease Research and Treatment Network"The network will be composed of 10 new research and treatment centers around the country. Locations will be selected by the director of NIH. The network will focus on finding better treatment, early detection and prevention strategies. Funded at $50 million ($1 million per center per year for 5 years). [Section 417F]
Creates a New National Asbestos-Related Disease RegistryExpands on the existing mesothelioma disease registry to include patients with other asbestos-related diseases. This national clearinghouse for data will help scientists conduct more comprehensive research. [Section 417E(c)]
Directs the Department of Defense to Conduct Additional ResearchAbout one-third of mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy. The bill directs the Pentagon to conduct additional research on asbestos disease, early detection and treatment. [Section 417G]
Identifies the Most Promising Areas for New ResearchDirects the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to study the current state of knowledge on asbestos disease mechanisms, health effects, and measurement methods. NIOSH will recommend the areas where new research is most needed. [Section 222]
3. Launches a Public Education Campaign TO PROTECT AMERICANS
The EPA Administrator shall conduct a public education campaign to increase awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos-containing products and contaminant-asbestos products, including in homes and workplaces. Patients and front-line health care providers will receive current and comprehensive information about disease awareness and treatment options. The EPA will work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Secretary of Labor, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on this public education campaign. [Section 224]

Ban Asbestos in America Act Passes U.S. Senate

ADOC Press Release

Washington, D.C. Oct 04, 2007 ADAO Praises U.S. Senate for Passing Senator Patty Murray's Ban Asbestos in America Act

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an organization dedicated to serving as the voice of asbestos victims, today praised the passage of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)'s Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 by the U.S. Senate. The Ban Asbestos in America Act is an effort to ban all production and use of asbestos in America, launch public education campaigns to raise awareness about its dangers and expand research and treatment of diseases caused by asbestos.

"Senator Patty Murray is a hero for all asbestos victims and their families, and a future protector of generations to come, helping to ensure a safer environment for us all," said Linda Reinstein, Executive Director and Cofounder of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). "We praise the Senate for passing Senator Murray's monumental Ban Asbestos in America Act and now encourage the House to follow this important bi-partisan lead for a full ban on asbestos. We also extend a special thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for their critical support. We look forward to the day when asbestos disease will no longer needlessly claim lives."

The occurrence of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, is growing out of control. Studies estimate that during the next decade, 100,000 victims in the United States will die of an asbestos related disease - equaling 30 deaths per day.

Murray's Asbestos Ban Passes Senate

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

NJ Beneficiaries Wait for Supplemental Increase in Workers’ Compensation Benefits

For almost 2 years New Jersey’s most severely injured and their families have been waiting for the legislature to act upon a law to provide for a cost of living increase of their benefits. The legislation, S-1005, would increase benefits of those injured after December 31, 1979. The bill was stalled in the legislature as the parties ironed out technical issues concerning the Social Security reverse offset. NJ is one of the few States remaining that allow workers’ compensation insurance carriers to benefit from Social Security offset rules.

Additionally NJ has side stepped the triennial increase that is provided for under the Social Security Regulations causing NJ’s injured workers not to be allowed to obtain any additional increases in benefits afforded by application of that provision of the Federal law.

………………………..
The Senate Labor Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 1005.
This bill provides, from July 1, 2006 forward, an annual cost of living adjustment in the weekly workers' compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after December 31, 1979 and for the surviving dependents of workers who have died from a workplace injury at any time after December 31, 1979.
The cost of living adjustment would be an amount such that, when added to the workers' compensation weekly benefit rate initially awarded, the sum would bear the same percentage relationship to the maximum benefit rate at the time of the adjustment that the initial rate bore to the maximum rate at the time of the initial award, except that the amount of the adjustment shall be reduced as much as necessary to ensure that the sum of the adjustment and the amount initially awarded does not exceed the amount which would cause any reduction of disability benefits payable under the Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Act. The amount of the adjustment would be paid from the Second Injury Fund (SIF), which is supported by a uniform assessment spread out evenly over all employers and insurers.
Current law requires such annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) in the workers' compensation benefit rate for death and permanent total disability to be paid from the SIF, but only in cases in which the injury or death occurred before January 1, 1980. The bill extends the adjustments to cases originating after December 31, 1979, although the adjustments would apply only to benefits paid on those claims after July 1, 2006.
The bill makes no change in the provisions of sections 1 and 9 of P.L.1980, c.83 (C.34:15-94.4 and 34:15-94.5), which provide for the reduction of certain portions of workers' compensation benefits by the amount of Social Security disability benefits paid. In addition, the bill expressly states that the supplemental benefits shall not be paid in a manner which in any way changes or modifies the provisions of those sections.