Do we need to federalize workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2015 | Workers' Compensation |


Being injured on the job is never a good thing. Unfortunately, for many workers, that “not a good thing” is rapidly becoming “a disaster.” Think about being out of work with an injury. Your income is reduced. Under the Illinois workers’ compensation act, a worker who suffers a permanent total disability, you still only receive about 66 percent of your former income.

So, in addition to losing both of your arms or legs, or suffering some other catastrophic injury or illness, you will see a 34 percent cut in your income. Yet this is still far better than what you would face in some states that allow employers to make up their own rules.

In those states, you are likely to have all benefits cut off after two years if your injury even qualifies for coverage. Supporters of these laws point to the millions of dollars saved by employers, but they ignore that those savings are extracted from their injured employees.

In recent years, the federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has experienced significant growth. Some of that growth can be attributed to weakening state workers’ compensation laws, which force workers to fall back to programs such as SSDI when they are disabled and no longer able to work.

One report estimated that cost to the federal government for work-related injuries that are not covered by state workers’ compensation programs is about $30 billion. Some insurance programs overtly state that they are “secondary” to other benefits.

Of course, the Department of Labor would need a significant increase in funding in order for it to effectively manage 50 state workers compensation programs. Given the general level of dysfunction in Congress, it is unlikely any of this will happen.

Source:, “Lawmakers Seek Federal ‘Oversight’ Of Workers’ Comp As States Limit Benefits,” Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes, October 21, 2015

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