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dations, State reform efforts continued at a slow,
but steady pace until 1976. The actions taken
by the States during the 1972-1976 period have resulted in significant improvements. Since 1976, however, the pace of reform has slowed.
Today, nearly seven years after the National Commission focused attention on the need for major reform, and despite substantial public and private efforts to encourage reform, major deficiencies persist.
What follows is an evaluation of the progress made and some the main remaining deficiencies:
Full coverage for all employees has not yet been achieved. By 1977, more than 10 million, or approximately 12 percent of the 82 million employees that could have been covered by State laws, still had no workers' compensation protection. Those denied this protection are mostly low-wage workers--household employees, farmworkers, and employees of small firms. Only 14 States provide coverage for farmworkers equal to that afforded other employees. Only one State provides full coverage for domestic and casual workers although
several States provide protection for some domestic and causal employees. Most State laws lack a provision to protect workers in the event employers default on their obligations or become insolvent.
Coverage is a particular problem for employees whose work requires them to travel from one State to another and who find they have no jurisdiction in which to file a workers' compensation claim.
In 1972 only 15 States met the National Commission's recommendation that a claimant be given the choice of filing a workers' compensation claim either (1) in the State where the injury or death occurred, (2) where the employment was principally located, or (3) where the employee was hired. Today, such protection is given by only 27 States.
in the other 23 States, however, still have limited recourse. The lack of uniform territorial coverage causes some workers to "forum-shop" to select that State which provides the higher workers' compensation benefits.
Despite considerable progress in raising benefits, major deficiencies still persist in
ire disabled or diseased. Today, the benefits
in 49 States for temporary or permanent total lisability are set at 66-2/3 percent of the worker's gross weekly wage, compared with only 29 States
which met a benefit level of 66-2/3 percent in L972. In 1972, the maximum benefit a worker could
regardless of the amount of preinjury
was limited in every State but two to
less than 100 percent of the State's average weekly
for permanent disability and 26 have raised the
results in the compensation of many disabled workers
at less than 66-2/3 percent of their preinjury
A study of closed claims conducted for the Interdepartmental Workers' Compensation Task Force in 1975 and 1976 found that the benefits of 25
percent of all total disability claimants and 40 percent of death claim beneficiaries were less than two-thirds of the workers' predisability wages due to weekly benefit maximums and other statutory restrictions. In 11 States the benefit maximums for total disability are lower than the poverty income level for an urban family of four in 1978 $126 per week.
The problem of inadequate benefits is most acute for the long term disabled.
10 percent of all long-term beneficiaries receive automatic cost-of-living adjustments in their
benefits which would protect the value of their already inadequate benefits from being further reduced by inflation.
Only 18 States provide death benefits to
a widow or widower for life or until remarriage. Only nineteen States allow benefits for a dependent
child to be continued until the child reaches
age 18, or beyond that age if the individual is incapable of self support.
Deficiencies also persist in the compensation available for victims of occupational disease. Although all States now provide a statutory basis for coverage of occupational diseases compared with 41 in 1972, it is clear that an extremely small proportion of disease victims are actually compensated. Recent studies indicate that less than three percent of all claims awarded by States are for death or disability due to an occupational disease. Yet, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that one out of every four Americans is exposed to some substance while on the job that could cause death or disease, and that more than 100,000 deaths and 400,000 illnesses per year are attributable to work-related exposures. Equally startling is the HEW estimate that as many as 20 percent of all cancer deaths are job-related.
There are two primary factors which account for the small percentage of job-related diseases
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