Workers' compensation is a state-run program. As such, benefits can vary widely from state to state, even for the same injury. Unfortunately, in a number of states, legislatures have taken action in recent years that make it more difficult for injured workers to receive benefits after an injury. For many this has meant extreme financial difficulty for the injured worker and their family, and a lack of access to the resources needed for surgeries or other medical interventions. Now the U.S. Department of Labor is taking note of this trend, in part triggered by an award-winning joint ProPublica/NPR series on the topic. The result: a report that recognizes how workers' protections have been eroded over the years in many states, and acknowledges that those who suffer a work injury could be unwittingly set on a path to poverty. The report also suggests that federal oversight of state workers' compensation programs could provide minimum benefits to protect injured workers and their families from financial ruin.
While a federally bolstered safety net would presumably provide a welcome development for many workers who now lack sufficient protection for on-the-job injuries there are surely many who would oppose such a development, including the legislators who have been working to trim workers' compensation benefits.
Regardless of whether workers' compensation ultimately remains a state program, or if federal oversight becomes a reality, workers who are injured on the job should not attempt to navigate the system alone. The guidance and protection of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can go a long way to protecting injured workers' physical and financial health.