Employers and Insurers Must Comply with Workers Comp Programs, the Second Injury Fund and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), says I.I.I.
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NEW YORK, February 13, 2006-Employers and their insurers need to be prepared for the tens of thousands of physically injured veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the I.I.I.
"Workplace injuries that are primarily the result of injuries originally sustained during military service will generally be covered by the employer's workers compensation program or, in some states, a second injury fund," says Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the I.I.I. "In addition, employers will need to adhere to the law pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."
By the time "major operations" are complete in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than two million United States military personnel, including National Guard and Reservists, will have been deployed in those theaters, many more than once. Of these, most have endured significant physical, emotional and psychological hardships. More than 2,200 have died and well over 16,000 have been injured in Iraq alone.
Hartwig observed that, relevant from an insurance perspective, and a workers compensation perspective in particular, are the challenges that tens of thousands of injured service men and women and their employers will face when they rejoin the civilian workforce. Reintegration of the physically and psychologically impaired will likely present unexpected challenges to a generation of employers with no experience in dealing with such large numbers of returning veterans.
THE INJURED VETERAN
Large numbers of military personnel are physically wounded each month in Iraq. From the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 through January 31, 2006, a total of 16,598 military personnel had been physically wounded in action, an average of 474 per month.
REINTEGRATING THE RETURNING VETERAN
The issue of reintegrating veterans back into the social and economic fabric of America is not new. After World War II, despite programs like the "GI Bill" and government assistance with employment, home mortgages and health care, hundreds of thousands of physically injured veterans faced special challenges and even discrimination in the workplace.
In response, many states established "second injury funds" (SIFs). SIFs allowed employers (and their insurers) to cede costs of injuries that were principally the result of a worker's prior injury to a statewide plan that would redistribute those losses across all employers (insurers) in the state, according to Hartwig. Effectively, SIFs functioned as reinsurers of second injury claims.
However, Hartwig noted, the number of second injury funds has declined in recent years, with states reasoning that they are no longer needed since the enactment of the Americans with Disability Act in 1990, which not only prohibits discrimination against disabled employees but also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for them in the workplace.
WHAT EMPLOYERS AND THEIR INSURERS NEED TO KNOW
In preparing for returning veterans, employers and their insurers need to be aware of the following:
For a full report on the subject, go to /media/hottopics/additional/veterans/ .
For more information regarding insurance, go to the I.I.I.'s Web site at http://www.iii.org .
The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the property/casualty insurance industry.