Senator JOSEPH PENNACCHIO
District 26 (Morris and Passaic)
Senator FRED H. MADDEN, JR.
District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)
Concerns certain workers' compensation supplemental benefits for surviving dependents of public safety workers who die in the line of duty.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning certain workers' compensation benefits for surviving dependents of public safety workers and supplementing chapter 15 of Title 34 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. a. Beginning with the fiscal year 2012, commencing July 1, 2011, and each fiscal year thereafter, an individual who is or was a dependent of a public safety worker and who is receiving weekly benefits pursuant to R.S.34:15-13 because of a death of that public safety worker in the line of duty that occurred after December 31, 1979, and who is not entitled to receive special adjustment benefits pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1980, c.83 (C.34:15-95.4), shall be entitled to receive weekly supplemental benefits from the Second Injury Fund during the period in which the individual is eligible to receive the initially-awarded weekly benefits, whenever the amount of the initially-awarded weekly benefits is less than the total amount of weekly benefits that would be payable to the individual if that total amount included weekly supplemental benefits calculated in the manner indicated in subsection b. of this section. In making the determination of the aggregate annual surcharge for the Second Injury Fund to be levied pursuant to paragraph (4) of subsection c. of R.S.34:15-94 for calendar year 2011 and each subsequent calendar year, the commissioner shall include the anticipated additional amounts, including administrative costs, required for payment of supplemental benefits pursuant to this section during the fiscal year which begins on July 1 of the respective calendar year.
b. The base amount of the weekly supplemental benefits to be paid pursuant to this section during each fiscal year shall be calculated in a manner so that when it is added to the workers' compensation weekly benefits initially awarded, the sum of the initial award and the base weekly supplemental benefits shall bear the same percentage relationship to the maximum workers' compensation rate for the current fiscal year that the individual's initial compensation bore to the maximum workers' compensation rate in effect at the time of the death, except that:
(1) The actual amount of the supplemental benefits paid pursuant to this section to any individual shall be reduced by an amount equal to the individual’s benefit payable under the Federal Old-Age, Survivors’ and Disability Insurance Act (42U.S.C. s.401 et al.) (except for disability benefits paid under that act and any increases in benefits under that act due to federal statutory changes after May 31, 1980), Black Lung benefits, or the employer’s share of disability pension payments received from or on account of an employer, except that the supplemental benefit paid to the individual shall not be reduced pursuant to this paragraph (1) if the workers’ compensation benefits of the individual on which the supplemental benefit is based are reduced pursuant to section 9 of P.L.1980, c.83 (C.34:15-95.5); and
(2) A supplemental benefit shall not be paid if the actual amount of the benefit to be paid is calculated to be less than $5 per week.
c. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, weekly supplemental benefits paid pursuant to this section shall not be paid in a manner which in any way changes or modifies the provisions of sections 1 or 9 of P.L.1980, c.83 (C.34:15-95.4 and 34:15-95.5).
d. An insurance carrier or self-insured employer responsible for the payment of workers’ compensation to an individual shall notify the Division of Workers’ Compensation of the need to have the Second Injury Fund make supplemental benefit payments to the individual pursuant to this section not later than the 60th day after the date on which it is determined that the payment of supplemental benefits is required pursuant to this section. If the insurance carrier or self-insured employer fails to notify the division and that failure results in the payment of an incorrect amount of benefits, the liability for the payment of the supplemental benefits shall be transferred from the Second Injury Fund to the employer until the time at which the insurance carrier or self-insured employer provides the required notice.
e. For the purposes of this section, “public safety worker” means a member, employee, or officer of a paid, partially-paid, or volunteer fire or police department, force, company or district, including the State Police or a first aid or rescue squad.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill provides, from July 1, 2011 forward, an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the weekly workers' compensation benefit rate for any surviving dependents of any public safety worker who died in the line of duty after December 31, 1979. The bill defines “public safety worker” as a member, employee, or officer of a paid, partially-paid, or volunteer fire or police department, force, company or district, including the State Police or a first aid or rescue squad.
The COLA would be an amount such that, when added to the workers' compensation weekly benefit rate initially awarded, the sum will bear the same percentage relationship to the maximum benefit rate at the time of the adjustment that the initial rate bore to the maximum rate at the time of the initial award, except that the bill reduces the supplemental workers’ compensation benefits (but not regular workers’ compensation) for claimants injured after 1979 by the amount of any Social Security benefits (other than Social Security disability benefits and any increases in Social Security benefits due to federal statutory changes after May 31, 1980), Black Lung benefits, or the employer’s share of disability pension payments received from or on account of an employer, except that if the worker's original workers' compensation award was already reduced under current law, there would be no further reduction of the supplemental benefits under the bill.
These reductions parallel the reductions provided under current law for surviving dependents of public safety workers who died in the line of duty before 1980. The bill also provides that no supplemental benefits would be paid in any case where they are calculated to be less than $5 per week.
Current law requires such annual adjustments in the rate of workers' compensation benefits for death and permanent total disability to be paid from the Second Injury Fund (SIF), but only for cases of injury or death occurring before January 1, 1980. The bill extends the adjustments paid from the SIF to claims originating after December 31, 1979, although the adjustments would apply only to benefits paid on those claims after July 1, 2011, thus avoiding a backlog of retroactive benefits.
The bill provides that supplemental payments will commence only after SIF assessments are sufficient to pay them without using General Fund money. The supplemental benefit payments would start on July 1, 2011 and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is required to take into account the supplemental benefits when calculating the amount of the SIF assessment which starts on January 1, 2011, thus avoiding the need for any General Fund appropriation.
The bill sets time limits for workers’ compensation insurers and self-insured employers to notify the Division of Workers’ Compensation when supplemental workers’ compensation benefits are required from the SIF under the bill. An insurer or self-insured employer is required to provide the notice not more than 60 days after the supplement is awarded or voluntary payment is to begin. If a failure to notify results in the payment of an incorrect amount of benefits, the liability for the payment of the supplemental benefits is transferred from the SIF to the insurer or employer until the required notice is provided.
The bill makes no change in the provisions of sections 1 and 9 of P.L.1980, c.83 (C.34:15-95.4 and 34:15-95.5), which provide for the reduction of certain portions of workers' compensation benefits by the amount of Social Security disability benefits paid. In addition, the bill expressly states that the supplemental benefits shall not be paid in a manner which in any way changes or modifies the provisions of those sections. The bill, therefore, will have no effect on existing provisions of State and federal law regarding offsets between workers' compensation and federal Social Security disability benefits.