Cut in Benefits For Injuries Occurring One Day Apart
February 5, 2015
This memorandum addresses the oft repeated, and utterly false, claim that the new workers’ compensation law enacted in 2014 is somehow better for workers due to changes in accessibility to the adjudication system. We fear these claims are made to disguise the disaster this continues to be for Oklahoma’s working families who have a member suffer an on-the job injury or illness. Why the need for a disguise? To make sure the average Oklahoma worker is unaware of the 30-90% cut in non-permanent total disability benefits that has resulted in financial ruin for many of our fellow citizens.
There are many ways to demonstrate what has happened to worker’s benefits during the past year and why the benefits levels today constitute an unconstitutional benefit system because these levels are not a sufficient remedy to be made the exclusive remedy for all workers. Here is one hypothetical example:
Two 20 year veteran Oklahoma teachers who make 20% more in salary than the average teacher in Oklahoma both suffer back injuries requiring disc surgery. One is hurt on January 31st, 2014, and the other is injured on February 1, 2014, the next day. Each takes 10 weeks to recover from the injury and resume classroom duties at their respective schools. The January 31st injury receives compensation of 20% disability using the disability guides in affect then. Newly adopted guides give the same injury 10% disability. After the guidelines are applied, there was a 30% benefit cut effective February 1st. What payments for their disabilities will they likely receive to compensate them for these injuries occurring one day apart?
BENEFITS FOR INJURY OCCURRING ON: 1/31/14 2/1/14
TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY $7,000 $5,610
PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY $32,300 $11,305
FORFEITURE BECAUSE OF RTW 0 ($11,305)
TOTAL BENEFITS $39,300 $5,610
% BENEFIT CUT -85.70%
It is insulting for Oklahoma workers to be told that the system has become more accessible and worker friendly when benefits have been virtually eliminated for most injuries resulting in permanent partial disability and cut up to 30% for temporary disabilities. It is exactly like reading that new banking laws have been passed touting improvements in direct deposit making funds available more quickly only to learn that 30-85% of your paycheck has been kept by the bank to afford you these speedy new services.
The Oklahoma Coalition For Workers Rights calls for our elected leaders to repeal these unconstitutional benefit cuts and restore integrity back to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system.