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Labor Dept. considers national workers' comp requirements

The U.S. Labor Department is calling for a federal intervention on the state workers' compensation laws, asking for a closer inspection of the federal oversight and federal minimum benefit program.

The new report states that working people are at a greater risk of "falling into poverty" because current changes to state workers' comp laws and systems have failed to help injured workers receive the necessary benefits.

New state laws are "insult to injury"

The report states that in the past decade, many states across the U.S. have passed new laws and decided new procedures. These new rules and laws limit benefits, reduced workers' abilities to successfully apply for benefits and have discouraged injured workers from filing claims to get help and benefits, according to the report.

The report was inspired by a letter sent to the Labor Department by 10 Democratic legislators last fall asking them to better protect the rights of injured workers. The lawmakers were inspired by a series from ProPublica and NPR focusing on the changes in 33 states' worker's compensation laws. The series interviewed people who were injured at work and were denied operations, lost their houses and even denied medical devices like prosthetics which were recommended by their doctors.

State vs. federal workers' comp programs

The Labor Department says they need to investigate the establishment of minimum standards, which would lead to federal oversight if the state workers' comp programs don't meet the set goals. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said that lacking federal standards for injured workers' benefits, those who are hurt are being financially burdened and on a "pathway to poverty."

However, insurance companies, employers and others worry about the intervention from the federal government. They say that the state workers comp system has been in place for over 100 years, and would interfere with the existing programs.

No legislation or administrative actions were mentioned in the report by the Labor Department. However, there are lawmakers like Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who agree that the lack of minimum standards across the nation can lead to poverty for injured workers.

Iowa: a leader in workers' benefits

Iowa already has a strong workers' compensation program - in fact, our state is number one in the nation for average maximum weekly benefits at $1,543. Although Iowa already has a strong workers' comp policy, there are still injured workers who can fall through the cracks. You could have your claim denied, or your employer could bully you into not filing a claim.

If you've been injured at work, contact an attorney right away. They can help you recognize all of your rights as an injured worker, and will assist you from filing the claim to receiving the proper compensation.

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