Each and every one of us knows about the cost of living. That’s the monetary cost we all incur in maintaining a certain standard of living. Anyone who’s been on workers’ compensation for awhile knows that this cost is always on the rise. As a matter of fact, over the last ten years, the cost of living has gone up 24%. Unfortunately, in that same time frame, the compensation rate of a Pennsylvania worker who was injured in 2000 has increased by 0%!
The Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act does not allow for any cost of living adjustments (COLAs). Injured workers in other states such as California or Massachusetts do actually get a cost of living increase every year. Even the Federal workers’ compensation system has a COLA built in. Why? Because it’s fair and just. The Pennsylvania legislature, however, chooses to insidiously punish people who have had a work injury by denying them their COLA.
A COLA would adjust income based on changes in a cost-of-living index. Benefits are typically adjusted annually. As an example, in Rhode Island, another state that has a COLA, injured workers’ benefits increased by 2.8% this May. If this change took effect in our own commonwealth, a worker who was injured in 2009 and received $836.00 a week would have received an increase to $859.41. This would help prevent an injured worker with a permanent injury from financial hardship over the long-term.
It’s time that Pennsylvania workers are given their protection against inflation.