Some of the cuts in benefits for injured workers that were initially proposed by the Oklahoma Senate were reversed in a House version of the workers’ compensation bill unveiled on April 4. Larger cuts in other areas kept anticipated savings under the proposed workers’ comp overhaul about the same level, without reducing the compensation amounts available to many workers injured on the job in Oklahoma. If you have suffered injuries in an on-the-job accident in Oklahoma, contact our reputable attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center for legal help. With the changes proposed by those working to overhaul Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, injured workers across the state may be denied the benefits they are entitled to following a workplace injury. With our legal team on your side, you can protect your legal rights and pursue the compensation you are entitled to.
New Measure Restores Some Workers’ Comp Benefits
The revised version of Senate Bill 1062 maintains the transition from a court system to an administrative one, and continues to allow employers to opt out of the system. However, according to chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Leslie Osborn, it’s a “kindlier, friendlier” version of the original measure, which was challenged by many in Oklahoma. “We wanted to make sure we had something that was good for Oklahoma businesses but we didn’t want to do it on the backs of injured workers,” said Osborn of the reworked legislation. Among other things, the new version of the bill restores benefits for widows and amputees to current levels, reinstates compensation rights for volunteer firefighters and members of the OK National Guard, and extends the amount of time an injured worker can file a claim from three days back to 30.
Proposed Cuts to Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
Unfortunately, the proposed bill isn’t welcome news for everyone. In order to balance a decrease in cost savings anticipated by the aforementioned reinstatements, lawmakers plan to make additional cuts to the most common claim filed in the OK workers’ compensation system – permanent partial disability. The original version of the measure cut the duration a worker could collect benefits for a permanent but non-incapacitating injury from 500 weeks to 450; the House version reduces it even further to 375 weeks. According to those in support of the workers’ compensation bill, the proposal would stay true to the fundamental focus of the overhaul – reducing costs and getting injured employees back to work more quickly. Critics, however, maintain that the legislation protects employers and doctors by getting rid of rights long-held by Oklahoma workers. As Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City says, “What’s the diference between a court judge and an administrative judge except in this case the workers will not have an advocate?”