CHICAGO (CN) – Totally disabled workers and survivors of workers killed on the job say the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission unfairly suspended cost of living increases through an illegal “peremptory edict.” A totally disabled worker filed the complaint as a class action in Cook County Court.
Named plaintiff Regina Johnson says the Commission promised beneficiaries lifelong payments from Illinois’ Rate Adjustment Fund (RAF), but has peremptorily cut them off.
“The RAF pays additional benefits to workers who have been awarded benefits based on a death or permanent disability,” the complaint states. Johnson says these “additional benefits are intended to provide cost of living increases to the injured worker or his or her surviving spouse, child or dependents.”
Johnson suffered work-related injury in April 1984. In March 1992, Illinois’ Industrial Commission found her “wholly and permanently disabled” and “entitled to receive the sum of $184.54 per week for the remainder of her life,” according to the complaint.
In July of the following year, Johnson began receiving the additional rate adjustment payments. In May of 2001, Johnson settled her disability claim for a lump sum with her former employer and the Illinois State Treasurer, which promised to continue paying the rate adjustment benefits under the agreement, she says.
Johnson says that she received the payments until May 2010, when she got a letter from the commission informing her that the additional benefits were suspended.
The commission stated: “Your case, as well as others involving similar issues, has been referred to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, as attorney for the Illinois Treasurer, ex officio custodian of RAF, to determine their position on the termination of your RAF benefits.”
Johnson complains that “The IWCC unilaterally created an administrative rule suspending and/or terminating the RAF benefits of all persons who obtained a permanent total disability or death award and subsequently settled their award for a lump sum amount.”
She claims that not all members of the commission were consulted about the rule and that the Commission “failed to comply with the rulemaking procedures,” as this was not an emergency ruling.
Nor did the commission give the public 45 days notice, seek comments or hold hearings, she says. It “did not provide an additional notice of the RAF Rule to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules,” and did not file the rule with the Secretary of State, as required.
She demands an injunction and retroactive reinstatement of benefits.
Lead counsel is O. Randolph Bragg with Horwitz Horwitz and Associates.