The Fight Against Kansas’s Unfair
Permanent Disability Cap
April 12, 2022
The attorneys at Wichita-based Slape & Howard, staunch advocates for reform to the state’s workers compensation system, recently attended a hearing in Topeka to advocate for Senate Bill (SB) 164, which would expand benefits by eliminating current benefit caps for those permanently disabled.
The legal firm of Slape & Howard has been working with other workers compensation attorneys and advocates ever since the passage of the Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA) of 2011 which made the eligibility process more difficult and kept in place restrictions that threaten the well-being of workers who are disabled.
If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury and are seeking medical treatment and lost-wage replacement through the workers compensation system, contact us immediately wherever you are in the state. We will help you file your claim, fight any adverse decisions, and strive to obtain the maximum benefits available for you.
How Workers Compensation Works
If you’re injured on the job in Kansas, as in every other state, your employer has an obligation to provide medical care for you and to cover lost wages. This is accomplished through what is called workers compensation, which has been around for more than a century nationwide.
In Kansas, almost every employer, with few exceptions, must provide workers compensation coverage, which usually means contracting with an insurance company to administer the benefits. Benefits include covering medical expenses and providing replacement income for wages lost due to time off from work. In Kansas, however, the state’s workers compensation system has not kept up with inflation or with advances in workers’ salaries.
The Kansas Cap on Permanent Total Disability
If you become permanently disabled, Kansas workers compensation will pay for medical benefits throughout the term of your “permanent total disability” (PTD) that prevents you from ever working again—but it dictates which physician you can use and requires certification for the visit before approving it.
Worse is that the Kansas workers compensation system caps the limit on the benefits available for lost wages. First, the law allows only the payment of two-thirds of the “average weekly wage,” and second, it caps the total of those wages recovered at $155,000. Then you’re on your own.
The Kansas system has been notoriously stingy. The state maximum cap on PTD was not increased between 1987 and 2011 and it stayed at $125,000 through that 24-year period. With the passage of the Kansas Workers Compensation Act in 2011, the cap was raised to today’s figure of $155,000.
If you take into account the increase in the average wage rates for Kansans dating back to 1987, the cap now should be $425,000. Consider this in contrast to the 45 states in the United States that have no caps at all.
For example, under the current Kansas system, if you were making $60,000 a year when you went out on permanent total disability, you would receive roughly two-thirds of that sum every year, equating to about $40,020 a year. Then, in less than three-and-a-half years, the wage replacement would stop because of the $155,000 cap. You would have no choice at that point but to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which likely might never reach that replacement level.
Senate Bill 164
The legislation that Slape & Howard attorneys Phil Slape and Jon Voegeli traveled to Topeka to support is Senate Bill 164. The proposed legislation drops the lifetime cap for workers who face permanent total disability. Its wording states that compensation for PTD shall be “the employee's average weekly wage in effect on the date of injury for which compensation is being made, starting from the date of maximum medical improvement and continuing for the lifetime of the employee for the duration of such disability.” Maximum medical improvement refers to a physician’s evaluation that the disabling condition is permanent. If SB 164 becomes law, those on permanent total disability will continue to receive benefits throughout their lives.
Slape & Howard’s Fight Against Kansas’s
Unfair Permanent Disability Cap
Attending hearings to remove the cap on permanent total disability claimants is just one of the many efforts being put forth by attorneys Slape and Voegeli on behalf of all workers in Kansas. Our workers compensation attorneys have been advocating for changes to the KWCA and the entire system for a long time, and we continue to represent workers who face uphill battles to receive the benefits they deserve.
If you have been injured on the job anywhere in Kansas, contact us immediately. We will discuss your situation with you, help you file your claim or appeal, and fight for you every step of the way.