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Report suggests federal oversight for workers' compensation

Workers in Minnesota and throughout the country risk falling into poverty after they are injured on the job, according to a report issued by the U.S. Labor Department. The federal agency began looking into the plight of injured workers after 10 Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to it following a Pro Publica and NPR report. The report noted that some injured workers lost homes or were denied treatment or prosthetic devices.

It suggested that federal oversight of state workers' compensation programs might be one solution along with federal minimum benefits. Thomas Perez, the secretary of the DOL, said that the federal government had abdicated its responsibility for this important safety net. While the report did not propose any direct action, at least one senator has said he is drafting legislation to address some of the issues the report pointed out.

However, insurance companies, employer groups and others have pushed back against the recommendations. The American Insurance Association argued that state plans are more responsive to changes in the local economy and can be more easily altered to meet state needs.

An on-the-job injury can be devastating for workers. Their medical expenses may mount, and they may lose wages during their recovery period. They in some cases might not realize that they are eligible to file for workers' compensation benefits. They have other rights as well. Their employers are not supposed to intimidate them or otherwise retaliate against them for doing so. An attorney can often be of assistance during this period.

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