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PA Workers’ Compensation – Legislative Report

There are a number of bills pending before the Pennsylvania Legislature which seek to amend the PA Workers’ Compensation Act.  Summaries of three are set forth below:

SB 1232 –  “According to the American Payroll Association, more than 95% of workers receive their pay by direct deposit. Unfortunately, in the workers compensation system, many payments are still being made by paper check, leaving these payments vulnerable to delays, loss, or misplacement.

This bill will modernize the Workers Compensation Act by establishing a regulatory framework to govern payment of benefits by direct deposit. It will allow individuals entitled to compensation to request funds be deposited to an account of their choosing. It will also allow insurers to no longer offer paper checks as a payment option so long as they provide the individual entitled to compensation the option of direct deposit or a payroll account card.”

The bill is currently pending before the PA Senate Appropriations Committee.  It was referred to that committee on June 12, 2024.

HB 1632 – ”Our first responders put their lives on the line every day for us by responding to dangerous and dire situations. They are the first to provide survivors and loved ones with physical and emotional support in extremely stressful situations. Sadly, their work predisposes them to an increased risk of mental health issues; an estimated 30% of first responders go on to develop behavioral health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). However, first responders who suffer from work-related PTSI do not qualify for workers’ compensation under current Pennsylvania law.

Our bill will amend the Worker’s Compensation Act to remove a roadblock that prevents first responders’ PTSIs from being recognized as eligible claims for worker’s compensation. To qualify for worker’s compensation under our bill, an eligible first responder must sustain a PTSI in the course and scope of employment, and a first responder must have received a PTSI diagnosis from a licensed medical or mental health professional. Workers’ compensation claims must be filed within three years of the date of PTSI diagnosis.”

The bill was referred to the Labor & Industry Committee on May 28, 2024.  Allowing first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits for a “mental-mental” injury without showing abnormal working conditions is the start of a “slippery slope” that the legislature should not impose on PA employers and insurers.  While we greatly appreciate the work of first responders, who is next?  The bill provides for benefits to EMS providers, as well as employees or members of fire companies, PA State Police officers and peace officers.  We submit that the list of potential claimants will be expanded as time goes on.

HB -930“Imagine being permanently scarred or disfigured on the job and not being eligible for workers’ compensation. This is the situation that Pennsylvania workers may face if the disfigurement occurs below the neck. Under current law, this coverage is only provided when individuals suffer from serious or permanent disfigurement of the head, neck, or face. While bodily injuries may not be visible under normal circumstances, they can still cause substantial physical and emotional distress. 

We plan on reintroducing legislation (former House Bill 2061) to resolve this oversight in the Workers’ Compensation Act to ensure that workers who are seriously or permanently disfigured are eligible for workers’ compensation. In addition, this bill will extend existing workers’ compensation eligibility for permanent disfigurement from 275 weeks to 400 weeks and clarify that claimants are not precluded from collecting both total or partial disability benefits and disfigurement benefits simultaneously.

Workers should be provided workers’ compensation coverage for disfigurement regardless of where it occurs on their bodies.”

This bill is still before the Senate Committee on Labor and Industry, where it was referred on May 9, 2023 and where it will hopefully die.  The bill would increase workers’ compensation costs in the Commonwealth exponentially, and would only serve to hurt the business community and, ultimately, the residents of the Commonwealth.

We urge you to contact your representatives and let them know your opinions on these issues.