Permanent disability debate: many questions, few answers

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, March 23, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee held an informational hearing on Wednesday, March 22, 2006.  The hearing, titled "New Evidence of Declining PD Ratings under SB 899 – Implications for Injured Workers", turned out to be less of a discussion about the issues and more of a showcase for those who have long advocated rolling back the recent reforms.

The tone of the hearing was set with Senator Alarcon advising that he believed the current PD rating schedule to be wholly inadequate and inconsistent with the law under SB 899.  The only other member of the committee present for any length of time was Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, who consistently took a measured stance on the issues at hand – saying that SB 899 was a great step forward and that the legislature should wait for the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) to complete their study prior to considering any changes.

The hearing began with injured workers describing their experiences with the current PD ratings. This was followed by Judge Lach Taylor testifying about the recent report from Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) that has given ammunition to those reeking revisions to the schedule.  Next the acting DWC Administrative Director Carrie Nevans took the witness seat and said that insufficient data at this time requires that more time pass before a valid assessment can be made and that the DWC is in the process of gathering information for their study.  Finally employer, labor and attorney representatives provided their perspectives to the committee.

Representatives of labor and attorneys insist on immediate change in PD schedule based on the recent study from the CHSWC, at least, with some arguing for a roll-back of other aspects of the PD reforms. The DWC and employer representatives have concerns with the CHSWC study and don’t’ think changes should be made before a more comprehensive empirical analysis of the PD ratings and benefits system is done.  

There is likely to be an effort to revise the PD rating schedule this year.  CMTA will continue to remind the legislature that the system was badly broken prior to the reforms of SB 899 and that any changes in the future must be based on valid data and serve the interests of employers and injured workers.

Listen to audio of Schmelzer's testimony
Read more Workers' compensation articles

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