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Possible cuts to workers' compensation debated in Congress

When a federal employee in New York suffers a workplace injury, he or she is entitled to workers' compensation under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act. These employees, like any injured worker, often rely on workers' compensation to pay for their everyday expenses while they cannot work.

Some injured workers may be permanently injured on the jobs and unable to work again. For these employees, workers' compensation can be their main source of income. Now, for many, their federal workers' compensation is being threatened as Congress debates cuts to the program.

This is the case for one former Secret Service agent who was injured while working in New York. This agent slipped and fell on some ice while on assignment. This fall caused him to injure two disks in his back and damage some nerves in his leg. This agent now lives in constant pain and is unable to work.

The proposed legislation would reduce workers' compensation payments to either 50 percent of the worker's pay before their injury or two-thirds of the worker's pay before their injury if they have dependents. Currently, workers without dependents receive two-thirds of pay before their injury, and workers with dependents receive 75 percent of their previous pay. Amounts paid to workers who are fully disabled would not change under the new legislation.

If this legislation is successful, workers like the agent will see a serious cut in benefits. This agent estimates that he would lose between $800 and $1,000 a month if these cuts are passed. He worries that it would become difficult for him to keep up with everyday expenses and support his family.

Congress argues these cuts are necessary. Proponents of the bill claim these cuts are designed to discourage workers from claiming workers' compensation past retirement age -- under the current system, workers' compensation benefits are often higher than retirement benefits.

Source: The Washington Post, "Possible cuts in workers' compensation cause concern," Joe Davidson, March 26, 2012

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