A recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor titled “Does the Workers’ Compensation System Fulfill its Obligations to Injured Workers?” highlights the danger that a worker will fall into poverty following a workplace injury.
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez is quoted in the report:
A nation built on the dignity of work must provide for workers’ safety, as well as take care of them if they get hurt on the job. When workers are hurt, a robust workers’ compensation program can make the difference between poverty and recovery. It is time that we look at whether this basic bargain is fraying and how we fortify this critical lifeline for millions of working families.
Because workers’ compensation is a state by state program, benefits can vary considerably depending on a worker’s residence. Some state legislators believe that a workers’ compensation system that is favorable to employers gives their state an economic boost – even though there is evidence to suggest businesses do not base location decisions on state workers’ compensation laws.
Underreporting of injuries, capped payments at 2/3 (or less) of a worker’s usual salary, and state legislative restrictions on workers’ compensation laws have created a situation where workers’ benefits have steadily decreased. The shortfall is met by workers, the worker’s families, local communities, non-worker’s compensation insurance, and by federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability. One study cited in the report calculated that only 20% of the cost of a worker’s injury was paid by workers’ compensation benefits. As stated in the report, “If workers are poor before an injury, an injury may push them into destitution.”
If you have had a work injury in Nebraska, below are potential sources of income and assistance, depending on each individual’s family, work, disability, personal and economic circumstances.
Some employers offer short term disability and long term disability through group insurance. If you are enrolled in disability insurance, speak to your human resources department or employer and fill out a claim form as soon as possible. Other people have AFLAC through their employer.
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which are administered by each state. Again, apply as soon as possible. The link for information and an application for Nebraska residents can be found at:
There are also resources to help those in need through various governmental and social service agencies:
Referral for Services – the following entities can help to determine what services are available for individuals and families:
Midlands United Way
Access Nebraska – Department of Human Services
Utility assistance – always contact your utility company for assistance – they may have payment options, programs or referrals to assistance programs
Department of Human Services Energy Assistance
Salvation Army Utility Assistance
Food – there are both government food stamp programs and various food pantries sponsored by various entities
SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Food Pantries – many food pantries listed here
Heartland Hope Mission
Nebraska HUD approved foreclosure counseling agencies to help you keep your home
Family Housing Advisory Services – foreclosure prevention
Salvation Army – housing programs for the homeless
Rent assistance – this link lists many organizations with phone numbers that assist with rent and housing programs
Together Inc. of Metropolitan Omaha
County general assistance programs
Douglas County General Assistance – for individuals in Douglas County NE who are not eligible for other programs, and have no family with resources, considered “programs of last resort.” This government agency can provide assistance with paying for basic living needs including heating bills, rent, nonfood items, utilities, and clothing.
Sarpy County General Assistance
Churches: Often churches will offer various kinds of assistance to people in need. If you are not a member of a church, check with churches in your area, or with the churches of friends. A few local faith based ministries include:
St. Vincent de Paul – offers help with clothing, rent assistance,
Lutheran Metro Ministries
Holy Family Door Ministry
Heart Ministry Center