There has been much talk lately about disabled workers and their struggles in getting back to work. Much of this talk ignores what some have called the “elephant in the room”, the great recession, which has resulted in millions of lost jobs. This shortage of employment opportunity is pitting the able against the disabled in the race to find a new job. Clearly the disabled are at a disadvantage in this competition. This makes some to look at trying to change the Workers’ Compensation system because of the stress placed upon it by this very competition. In a thriving economy, many more opportunities are available to return to the workforce once they are able to do so. Currently, one may stay in the system longer because those jobs are no longer as readily available.
Ohio is unique in that it is a state monopoly and therefore permits the stakeholders in the system to look outside the box finding solutions to this “elephant in the room.” Discounts on employers’ workers’ compensation premiums for bringing back employees with restrictions, transitional work and improved vocational rehabilitation services are just a few of the ideas to solve this troublesome quandary for many injured workers. That’s why I was pleased to see the comments of Steve Buehrer, the BWC Administrator, in the Letter to the Editor in the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday, January 7th on how the bureau is starting to take steps to improve the system. There are many things that can be done within the system without legislation or major changes to the system but will take foresight and the willingness of the stakeholders to meet the challenge.