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(c) 2020 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Case for a Federal Response to Compensate Workers

Several recent studies highlight the inability of workers’ compensation based programs on a state level to provide a consistent and coherent response to a viral national pandemic such as COVID-19.



The National Academy of Social Insurance [NASI] reported (May 2020), “The challenges, even in ordinary times, posed by occupational disease versus injury claims are likely much more difficult for both workers and employers to understand and navigate during this crisis. Now they are further complicated by the spectrum of stay-at-home and reopening orders issued by governors across the country who are struggling to balance the public health and economic aspects of the crisis and landing in different places.”

The author of the NASI study, Jay Patel, surveyed all state systems, and found that benefits programs and coverage of “infection diseases” were inconsistent and wide disparities existed. Governors and state legislators, are actively trying to adapt the 1911 based system to 2020 pandemic. The issues of benefits and coverage have been further amplified by employment status of “gig workers” and remote “stay at home” working locations.

Another study mirrors additional problems that are attributed to the under reporting of occupational disease claims. Four experts: J Biddle, K Roberts, K D Rosenman, E M Welch, have reported that, “ Overall, between 9% and 45% of reported workers file for benefits. Data limitations prevent a more precise estimate of this rate, but a large proportion of workers with occupational illnesses clearly does not utilize the worker's compensation system.”

Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] has yet to offer an enforceable emergency standard for the COVID-19 Pandemic. The published, and then re-published, reporting guidelines were vague.

A national approach to coverage for employment related claims of the COVID-19 pandemic have been proposed by Congress. A coherent, uniform and adequate benefit program needs to addressed by the Federal government.

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Twitter: jongelman
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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters