NYS Workers' Compensation Updates: Schedule Loss of Use (SLUs)

Thu, May 25th, 2017

Before diving into this article, it's important to define the term Schedule Loss of Use (SLU) as it relates to Workers' Compensation. New York State Workers' Compensation Law Sec. 15(3) sets forth the schedule of weeks of benefits that a permanently partially disabled worker could receive based upon the body part injured and the percentage loss thereof.

Schedule Loss of Use Awards

A Schedule Loss of Use award is given to people who have permanent, work-related injuries to their extremities (arms, hands, feet, legs). This is a percentage number that a doctor assigns to your injury to reflect how much function you lost because of your injury. SLU guidelines take multiple factors into account and allow medical doctors to assess the criteria on a patient-by-patient basis allowing for the natural variety of outcomes that can be seen across the spectrum of disability.

As an example, you are on the job and you suffer an injury to your rotator cuff of your shoulder. You need surgery to repair it and, even after surgery and rehabilitation, you cannot raise your arm more than 45 degrees above your head. Medical practitioners will document this permanent loss of function and you could be awarded compensation.

A Brief History of Workers' Compensation Reform and SLU Guidelines

In 2007, there were reforms made to Workers' Compensation guidelines, pushed by the Business Council. These reforms were made to supposedly save businesses money largely at the expense and welfare of the injured worker. However, the insurance industry continued to push for higher premiums, causing the Business Council to push for more reforms. Thus, SLU guidelines came under attack and led to recent changes to rules.

More Reform Is On the Way

As result of the urgings of the insurance industry and big business, included in the recent state budget is a direction for more changes to the SLU Guidelines. The WCB is directed to consult with labor, doctors, business and insurance
companies to develop new SLU guidelines by 9/1/17. This will be followed by a public comment period, and the new guidelines must be adopted no later than 1/1/18. The new guidelines are to take into account the impact of advances
in medicine on lowering schedule loss of use awards thereby lowering benefits to permanently disabled workers.

What Will These Changes Mean for Injured Workers?

Essentially the number of weeks each extremity is "worth" and the percentage of Schedule Loss of Use attributable to different surgical procedures (such as rotator cuff surgery or knee replacement surgery) for which one can receive compensation will be decreased even further. For many injured workers, who will forever be precluded from working in the fields in which they were injured, they and their families could struggle to regain their financial footing following a work related injury and surgery.

What You Can Do

Recognizing the impact of permanent impairment on an injured worker's function has been and should always be the starting point of evaluating that worker for SLU. At The Harrison Law Office, our workers' compensation experience gained working with injured workers for more than 20 years leads us to believe that the revised SLC guidelines are not, and have not been, sufficient enough to compensate for loss of function and future lost earnings for injured workers.
The Harrison Law Office urges you to let your congressional representatives know how further limiting SLU's could be devastating to injured workers and their families.

Contact your NYS Senator for your district by phone, email or letter. For more information on how to find your Senator, visit Find My Senator.

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