TRENTON � A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem) and Sen. Fred Madden (D-Camden and Gloucester) to provide an annual cost of living adjustment in the workers� compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979, was approved today by a Senate committee.
The bill (S-785) would also provide for a COLA for the surviving dependents of any worker who died from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979. Both changes would take effect July 1, 2011.
�The law currently requires annual adjustments in benefits for death and permanent total disability to be paid from the Second Injury Fund, but only for cases of injury or death occurring before January 1, 1980,� Sen. Sweeney said. �The weekly benefit awarded to a beneficiary remains permanently fixed. In 1980 there were a large number of workers and dependents receiving as little as $25 to $40 per week, the maximum amount they could have been awarded in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. This bill is a matter of fairness to those who had family members killed or suffer permanent disabilities post-1980.�
Testifying in support of the bill were three widows of New Jersey State Police troopers whose husbands died in the line of duty. They are members of Survivors of the Triangle, a New Jersey Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc., an organization that provides resources help the surviving families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
One of the widows who testified was Donna Lamonaco, whose husband, Philip Lamonaco, was shot and killed during a motor vehicle stop on Route 80 in Warren County in December 1981. Because his death occurred after Jan. 1, 1980, his widow continues to receive the same death benefit that was established at the time of his death, with no cost of living adjustments.
The bill approved today would extend the supplemental benefits paid from the Second Injury Fund to claims originating after December 31, 1979, although the adjustments would apply only to benefits paid on those claims after July 1, 2011, avoiding a backlog of retroactive benefits.
�The supplemental benefits are paid out of the Second Injury Fund, which is financed by surcharges on workers� compensation insurance policy holders and self-insured employers. This bill would not impact the State�s general fund,� Sen. Madden said.
New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association President David Jones testified in favor of the bill, which was also supported by the N.J. State PBA, the N.J. AFL-CIO and the N.J. IBEW.
The bill was approved 5-1 by the Senate Labor Committee and now moves to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.