Bernie Sanders and Other Lawmakers Seek Federal Oversight of Workers Comp

By Peter DePaolis

Ten ranking Democratic federal lawmakers are urging the Labor Department to respond to state workers’ compensation laws changes that have reduced benefits and protections for injured workers in recent years. The goal is to provide federal oversight of workers’ comp.

In a letter to the Labor Secretary, the lawmakers, among them Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, cited a recent investigation by NPR and ProPublica. The investigation revealed that 33 states have cut workers’ comp benefits, making it harder for workers to qualify for benefits.

The letter also referred to the emerging trend of permitting employers to forego state-regulated workers’ comp programs, create their own injury plans and limit benefits on their own.

The Labor Department said it would review the letter and work to find solutions. However, the agency didn’t say if they would commit to any specific action.

Bobby Scott, the ranking member of the Senate Labor Committee, said the benefits cutbacks make federal action necessary.

Scott said many workers aren’t receiving benefits under workers’ comp so they end up getting benefits under Social Security Disability or Medicaid, because they are not working.

What are the Benefits of Having Federal Oversight of Workers’ Comp?

Workers’ compensation is in place to provide injured workers money and medical treatment for job-related injuries rather than the injured worker filing a lawsuit against the employer.

The benefits of workers’ compensation include the following:

  1. The process tends to be quicker than traditional litigation.
  2. You do not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the injury.
  3. The injured worker receives benefits during the course of treatment for the injury.

However, these benefits are limited. You do not receive the full amount of lost pay, and that amount is limited to a certain period of time. If you are injured on the job and covered under workers’ comp, you cannot receive additional damages such as pain and suffering that you would under personal injury and negligence law. Some people with workers’ comp claims can also have a third party claim. This comes into play if a negligent person or entity who is not the injured worker’s employer or co-worker is responsible for the injury. Many people would not realize they have a third-party claim unless they speak to a workers’ comp and personal injury lawyer.

Our workers’ comp attorneys have over 30 years’ experience assisting employees who sustained injuries while on the job in the Washington metropolitan area as well as the states of Virginia and Maryland. We can assist you during any part of the workers’ comp claim process. Learn about your rights today by discussing the specifics of your claim with a lawyer from our firm during a free, no obligation and confidential consultation.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. – Virginia Workers’ Comp Attorneys

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.