Worker’s Comp Deform

Walk into your living room and turn on the tv. Is it working? Good. Take the nearest heavy object and throw it at your tv screen.

Seems a little unnecessary, doesn’t it? Taking something that works perfectly well, and break it, giving yourself more expenses in the long run. Yet that is exactly what the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives are doing right now with their Worker’s Compensation “reform.” At first glance, it may almost seem reasonable to cap benefits at 9.5 years from the accident, but look deeper. Is 9.5 years of support truly enough for the police officer shot and paralyzed in the line of duty? He will not walk again in 9.5 years just because the benefits have run out and he still needs to eat.

Then again, one of the proposed changes will make “willful misrepresentations” grounds for disqualification. Why is that not already grounds for disqualification? A person is allowed, under the current program, to knowingly lie on their claim without fear of their claim being thrown out. While the majority of claimants will not take advantage of that, it is worth considering the cost of those who do.

Proposed changes also include adjustments to the way the commission is currently administered. Who can say that removing the commission’s exemption from the Administrative Procedures act is a bad thing? Is reducing the panel size, and thereby the cost of administering the panel, so wrong? Requiring that commissioners be held to a judicial standard should be viewed as a benefit to those in need of benefits.

As it happens with most legislative proposals, there is merit to the arguments on both sides. Workers, especially those who have been severely incapacitated, should not be penalized for working and being injured at work. However, increasing accountability of the commission to the state is also a good idea, as is the attempt to limit the number of people abusing the system.

No matter which side a person is on, or even in the middle, this is something to watch- it can affect any of us directly, and by affecting the economy it affects us all.

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