On February 6, 2006 the Business Council of New York State, Inc. issued its second Comp Watch '06 bulletin. In it they try to indicate that claimants in New York State are double dipping by collecting both workers' compensation benefits and disability pensions to the detriment of municipalities across the state. The information they put out is an UNTRUTH and an attempt to reduce benefits to public employees in New York.
The Vice President of Claims for Public Employer Risk Management Association (PERMA) claims that public employees who collect workers' compensation benefits for a permanent partial disability (PPD) are supplementing those benefits with "generous disability retirement benefits." This is not true.
New York State has four Tiers within in its pension system for public employees. For those employees in Tier I or Tier II they have very generous accidental disability pension rights. However, these benefits are reduced by any amount of workers' compensation those employees receive for either a PPD or a Permanent Total Disability (PTD) on a dollar for dollar basis.
For these workers the state pension system makes a determination as how much money they are entitled to receive on a monthly basis. The system then looks to see if the injured worker is also receiving workers' compensation. If they are reeiving workers' comp, the pension is reduced for every penny of the workers' compensation benefits paid to the claimant.
Because these benefits were too costly, New York State eventually set up Tier III and Tier IV in the pension system. Most public employees today are in Tier III and Tier IV. These Tiers do not have an offset for workers' compensation benefits. However, these Tiers also pay less than the benefits available to public employees in Tier I or Tier II. Because of the overall benefit to workers, the State of New York has already reduced the amount of benefits available to workers when they become disabled on the pension side. Now the Business Council wants to take even more away from workers by trying to reduce what they are entitled to receive in workers' compensation. UNTRUTH number 2 from the Business Council.
As for Social Security offsets, the Business Council in the chart in Comp Watch '06 implies that New York State has offsets in workers' compensation for SSI benefits. This is not true. New York allows for offsets for Social Security Disability Benefits under only one provision of the law. They are allowed only when injured workers have lost the use of 50% or more of an arm, leg, hand or foot and that injury is the sole reason for the worker's inability to earn what they used earn after participating in rehabilitation. The only other Social Security offset allowed under the New York State Workers' Compensation Law is to surviving spouses in a death claim for Social Security Survivors benefits.
The Business Council thinks that if an injured worker is receiving workers' comp benefits due to a permanent partial disability and then collects Social Security and a pension in addition, the worker is double dipping from the system. Once again they are simply wrong. If a person is found to have a PPD and is collecting workers' compensation benefits, it means that they stopped working before they normally would have ended their working career. A person who stops working before they are ready to cease work activities stops contributing to both Social Security and earning credits towards a pension. This means that their Social Security benefits and pension benefits will be lower when they retire.
Once the worker stops working the employer is no longer paying the matching Social Security benefits for the worker nor are they contributing towards their pension. So the injured worker has had their Social Security and Pension benefits reduced because of their injury. Now, the Business Council wants to take away the workers' compensation which may make up what was lost by the worker in Social Security and pension benefits. This is UNTRUTH number 3 from the Business Council.
The Business Council implies in Comp Watch '06 that workers can file a workers' compensation claim to supplement their Social Security and pension benefits. What they leave out is that prior to being able to file a workers' compensation case the worker must have an accident or an occupational disease! This is the fourth and final UNTRUTH from the Business Council in Comp Watch '06.