Injured workers who obtained judgments against the Second Injury Fund may finally get those judgments paid sometime in 2014. The Missouri House and Senate have passed SB1, a bill that makes many changes to the Missouri Workers' Compensation statute. Among those changes is an increase in the surcharge employers pay to cover claims against the Second Injury Fund to 6%. Before 2005, the surcharge would fluctuate based on the Fund's needs. In 2005, pressure from pro-business groups led the legislature to pass a 3% cap on the surcharge. Sadly, that capped surcharge has caused the Fund to become insolvent and, at present, the Fund owes injured workers about $32 million on unpaid judgments. In other words, injured workers have fought their cases in court and still have not been paid for the benefits they are rightfully owed by The State of Missouri.
However, while the increase in the surcharge will certainly help those workers who are owed money from the Fund, the bill also significantly limits the types of cases that will, in the future, qualify for Second Injury Fund benefits. For instance, claims for permanent partial disabillity against the Fund will be eliminated. Second, claims for permanent total disabilty will only be compensable if the worker's pre-existing disabilty is either millitary-related or work-related.
The Governor has until July 14 to veto the bill or it becomes law. If passed, the law would go into effect on January 1, 2014.