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Lawmakers Ask for Federal Oversight of State Workers’ Comp Programs

Ten powerful members of Congress, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have asked the federal government to resume oversight and monitoring of workers’ compensation in the wake of drastic cuts to benefits for injured workers.

“State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job,” the lawmakers wrote. “The race to the bottom now appears to be nearly bottomless…”

Over the last decade, 33 states, including North Carolina, have cut workers’ compensation benefits, making it more difficult to qualify and giving employers more control over an injured workers’ medical care.

These so-called workers’ comp “reforms” have pushed many injured workers into poverty and have shifted the cost of caring for them to taxpayers, via Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, they have enriched insurances companies and big businesses.

The cuts in workers’ comp benefits coincide with the end of federal oversight and tracking of state-run programs.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor Department tracked changes in state workers’ comp laws and failures to meet 19 “minimum and essential standards for benefits” established by a 1972 commission created by President Richard Nixon.

Unchecked and without federal accountability for 11 years, many states have bowed to influence and pressure by insurance companies and big businesses and stripped injured workers of their rights and safety net.

The letter urged the federal agency Department to strengthen its oversight of state-run workers’ comp programs.

You can read the full text of the letter here. http://bit.ly/laborletter.

According to a news report by NPR, the Labor Department said in a statement it shares the lawmakers’ concerns. “Every year injured workers and their families are bearing more and more of the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.”

However, the agency did not outline a specific plan for addressing these issues but did indicate it will work “with stakeholders to find real solutions.”
The cuts to workers’ compensation programs in North Carolina and elsewhere will continue without strong, vocal opposition to the big business and insurance interests. We praise these lawmakers for standing up for injured people.

It’s important that we as citizens support and vote for candidates who support injured workers and stand up for their rights. Please remember that as you go to the polls.

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