In the waning days of the Brown Administration significant changes were proposed for the SIBTF, commonly referred to as the Subsequent Injuries Fund.
This was done in an end of 2018 under-the-radar request to the California Department of Finance by David Lanier, Brown’s Secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and Chief Deputy Director of the DIR, Victoria Hassid (see link below).
The request asks for more money to fund increased staffing to handle SIBTF claims. That’s probably a good idea, and certainly appropriate for a budget bill.
What is unusual, however, is the proposed amendment of the SIBTF statute that would be part of a budget “trailer bill”. Trailer bills are sometimes used to implement other bills, such as budget bills. They can be a convenient way to hide significant policy changes.
The proposed language (see link below) would make wholesale changes in eligibility for the SIBTF and in the proof required to establish SIBTF liability.
This proposal was made just before Governor Newsom took office. As I write this post it is not yet clear whether Newsom’s advisory circle is on board with the proposed trailer language change to SIBTF.
The SIBTF concept is to compensate workers who have a significant underlying disability who then have a subsequent industrial injury or occupational illness which render them significantly more disabled.
We are talking about some of the most disabled workers that come through the California workers’ comp system.
To be eligible their overall disability has to exceed 70%. As the DWC website notes:
“The Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF) is a source of additional compensation to injured workers who already had a disability or impairment at the time of injury. For benefits to be paid from the SIBTF, the combined effect of the injury and the previous disability or impairment must result in a permanent disability of at least 70 percent. The fund enables employers to hire disabled workers without fear of being held liable for the effects of previous disabilities or impairments.”
Many of the recipients of SIBTF benefits are “working people”, i.e. union people, minorities, older workers, workers with significant prior injuries and disabling health conditions.
An effort to jam major changes in this program through in a budget trailer bill is shameful and anti-worker.
The Brown Administration had repeatedly trumpeted that it supported changes in workers’ compensation based on evidence-based studies and reports.
I’ll analyze the proposed SIBTF changes in more depth in an upcoming blog, But what is clear is that these proposed changes to SIBTF are not based on any CHSWC studies or recent research.
Major changes such as this should go through “regular order” and consideration by the relevant legislative policy committees, not by budgetary “sleight of hand”.
If there are changes that need to be made to the program, they should be debated and given careful consideration.
Here is the proposed statutory change to the SIBTF:
Here is the budget request: