On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Tuesday, January 10, 2012
As we previously reported early in 2011, the Second Injury Fund, a statewide resource for workers who have a pre-existing medical condition aggravated by a workplace injury and are left unable to support themselves, is in danger of running out of money. Business leaders and workers’ compensation attorneys called on the Missouri Legislature to reform the Fund, though they had different solutions.
The Second Injury Fund faces huge deficits, due in part to a 2005 law that capped the amount businesses in Missouri pay into it at 3 percent of the cost of their workers’ compensation insurance premiums. The Fund’s assets dropped to $7 million in May, by which time officials had already suspended first-time payments for those who had recently been granted them.
As of last month, 159 people injured on the job who had been awarded compensation from the Second Injury Fund had not seen a dime of their first-time payments, a total of $11 million. An attorney who represents several workers’ compensation clients said he has had to tell several of his clients that they will not be paid anytime soon. The clients’ only income is Social Security disability payments, which often do not go far enough to pay for food, shelter and medicine, the attorney said.
A couple of bills were introduced during the 2011 session, including one that would have replaced the current way the fund is paid for – employers currently pay a 3 percent surcharge on their workers’ compensation insurance premiums – with a floating surcharge that would be measured annually to ensure that all current recipients would get their benefits. But that bill failed to pass, so the issue is expected to come up in this year’s upcoming legislative session.
Business groups are proposing an increase in the payment cap from 3 to 4.5 percent, but also seek to limit eligibility to wounded veterans and those whose first injury led to workers’ compensation benefits.
Source: Southeast Missourian, “Business groups hope for fix of Missouri’s Second Injury Fund,” Melissa Miller, Jan. 5, 2012