Madden Bill To Provide Workers’ Comp COLA to Police and Firefighters Passes The Senate

The Senate approved on October 29 legislation co-sponsored by Senator Madden that will provide a cost-of-living increase for permanently disabled public safety workers such as police officers and firefighters who receive workers’ compensation and their survivors.

This bill, S-1967, would provide an annual cost of living adjustment in the weekly workers’ compensation benefit rate for public safety workers who become totally and permanently disabled due to a workplace injury, or to their surviving dependents of those who died as a result of a workplace injury.

The adjustment will mirror the COLA already in place for benefits arising from an injury or from death that occurred before 1980. Current law requires annual adjustments to be paid only for cases before January 1, 1980. The COLA would increase the amount of workers’ compensation benefits, so the new amount equals the same percent of the maximum benefit as it did when originally awarded.

The bill would make no change in the current workers’ compensation law which provides for the reduction of certain portions of workers’ compensation benefits by the amount of Social Security disability benefits paid.

The COLA would be funded entirely through the Second Injury Fund, which is financed through an annual assessment levied on all employers who are workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance policyholders, or who are self-insured employers under the workers’ compensation law.  The COLA would not be provided to any individual who qualified for benefits under the Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Act but does not receive them.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 26 – 12 and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.