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UPDATING GUAM’S WORKERS’ COMPENSTATION: AN INJURY AT WORK TO BANKRUPTCY

Updated Oct 19, 2017 11:43 pm



The purpose of workers’ compensation should be to ensure an injured worker receives a timely and predictable compensation until the worker is able to return to work.  In 1988, Guam last updated the maximum cap on workers’ compensation to $250 per week for total permanent disability (e.g. loss of both arms or both legs).  The amount of compensation is even less if the loss of limbs is considered partial.  Everybody in attendance at the roundtable on October 10, 2017 at the Guam Legislature seemed to agree that the $250 per week was insufficient.
 
Attorney Bell was advocating for a maximum amount of $1000 per week, which was justified through a comparison with California and New York.  This maximum payment is based on 66 and 2/3% of an individual’s weekly paycheck before injury.  In order to receive up to $1,000 per week, the individual must be earning an annual salary of $78,000.  Unfortunately, the wages on Guam for the average public and private sector employees have stagnated over the years where the $1,000 amount per week would not be met by most employees.  According to McLaren and Baldwin (2017), the average maximum pay for permanent total disability is $945 as set for all states and some territories, excluding Guam.  GFT endorses a maximum compensation of $1,000 per week at 66 and 2/3% of a person’s income despite many workers on Guam not meeting this amount.
 
Some states allow for workers’ ompensation for an individual’s entire lifetime while others place a limit based on the extent of the injury.   For a worker to lose both arms at work as an example of total permanent disability, the pain is a lifetime, not five years or less.  Grabell and Berkes (2015) noted the struggles of underproviding benefits to those workers injured at work.  These struggles of not receiving sufficient funds meant filing for bankruptcy or being at the brink of such a financial disaster.  Workers’ compensation is supposed to be a safety net to keep an individual from complete ruin.  McLaren and Baldwin (2017) list a more comprehensive comparison between states on workers’ compensation benefits within its appendix C.  Knowing that some injuries are a lifetime and may prevent an injured employee from returning to work, GFT proposes that a time limit for monetary payments for permanent total disability be the same as most of the states, which has no time limit or until the employee is able to return to work.
 
References
Grabell, M., & Berkes, H. (2015). As workers’ comp varies from state to state, workers pay the price. National Public Radio. Retrieved here
 
McLaren, C. F., & Baldwin, M.L. (2017). Workers’ compensation: Benefits, coverage, and costs. National Academy of Social Insurance. Retrieved here
 
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