This past December, the Lawrence Journal World ran a story about a worker in Wichita, Delbert Young, who was injured on the job riding a bicycle from building to building at Boeing to stock parts. The article went on to relate how Mr. Young, who is permanently disabled, currently receives $483 a week under Kansas’ Work Comp system; his benefits, however, will run out in a few years once he hits the state’s total disability benefits caps of $125,000.
In recent years, the Legislature has allowed workers compensation to deteriorate until it no longer provides adequate disability protection for working families. Kansans hurt on the job are falling through the cracks and face job loss, diminished health, and financial instability.
Instead of protecting workers, work comp protects insurance companies that delay and deny needed medical care and enjoy outrageous profits at the expense of Kansas businesses and employees. The Legislature must include substantive reform overhauling workers comp in its agenda in order to protect the engine of the economy: Kansas’ workforce.
Additionally, we believe that workers who are injured on the job deserve fair and just compensation. A recent Kansas Supreme Court Case last year dramatically altered the compensation system for injured workers. The Legislature must clarify this law so that Kansas workers receive the compensation they deserve when they are injured on the job.
Another way to honor the lives of hardworking Kansas families is to raise the wrongful death cap. In these difficult economic times, we have a responsibility to protect the family any Kansan who loses his or her life as a result of someone else’s negligence. Though no monetary reward can replace a life, raising the wrongful death cap will enable grieving families to cover funeral expenses and temporarily recover the loss of the victim’s income in the family budget. This prevents yet another family from falling into poverty as a result of unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances beyond their control.
In times of economic hardship, especially in the current downturn that our nation is currently weathering, it would be easy to turn our backs on the financial hardships suffered by those Kansas workers and their families who have been seriously injured or killed on the job. But that’s also why it is more important now more than ever to be sure that we are taking care of those workers who have sacrificed for Kansas commerce.