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Congressmen ask DOL to hone in on workers comp changes

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A group of U.S. Senate and House members has asked the Department of Labor to increase federal scrutiny of state workers compensation programs following recent national news reports detailing workers comp benefit cuts and opt-out programs.

In a letter addressed to Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez on Tuesday, the group of 10 congressmen says that they are “concerned about a pattern of detrimental changes to state workers' compensation laws and the resulting cost shift to public programs like Social Security Disability Insurance,” according to a copy posted to the Senate's website.

Authors of the letter include Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.; Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, D-Fla.; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

The letter says the group's concern is based partly on recent reports by National Public Radio and investigative journalism website ProPublica Inc., which have jointly examined workers comp opt-out programs in Texas and Oklahoma, as well as state workers comp benefit cuts nationwide.

“We believe the Department of Labor should take a renewed interest strengthening oversight of state workers' compensation programs by using the agency's expertise and authorities,” the letter reads. “In particular, we would welcome a report from the Department on how it will reinstitute oversight of state workers' compensation programs, what areas it intends to address, and whether added authorities are needed to better ensure ... that the interests of injured workers and taxpayers are protected.”