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How the Dept. helps Those Who Lose Loved Ones on the Job
AMY SUSAN: Hi, I’m Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor. On this weeks edition of labor talk, a podcast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life, I’m joined here with Peter Lyskowski, he’s the director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation and we’re here to discuss the importance of survivor benefits, but first can you tell us how long you’ve been here and what you do here for the department?
PETER LYSKOWSKI: Sure Amy. I’ve been with the department for about almost two years now, since last January, and I’m the deputy director for the department. I’m also the director of the division of Workers’ Compensation. We basically do three main things. First of all we receive and process all reports of injury and claims for compensation based on these injuries and based on the information we get in, we send out information to educate employees and employers about their rights, about who’s entitled to what under that law. The second thing that we do in the division is we have 38 judges throughout the state who hear cases regarding the claims for compensation and decide who gets benefits and if so how much. The third thing that we do is we investigate allegations of fraud or non compliance attempts to cheat the system and it’s a criminal act and we take these matters very seriously and refer them to the attorney generals office for prosecution.
>>SUSAN: If a loved one dies on the job, what benefits does that family member have?
>>LYSKOWSKI: Well, it’s actually pretty straight forward. If a loved one dies on the job, the employer or its insurance company is required to pay up to five thousand dollars in burial expenses. The other benefit which is a really important benefit is that the loved one’s survivors would get two thirds of that persons wages for a period of time.
>>SUSAN: How does a person find out whether he or she is entitled to those benefits that you were just referring to?
>>LYSKOWSKI: Well, ultimately that’s the decision that an administrative law judge makes in our system, but at the front end of the process, the division upon hearing of a death on the job that might be on the job, we notify the employees survivors dependents about what their rights might be and we can only notify those people if we’re told by the employer or insurer that those dependants exist and the employers’ required by law to keep track of any dependants that might exist and we’ve had a problem actually with a lot of employers not keeping those records and we’ve referred some of those employers to the attorney generals office because it’s workers’ compensation fraud.
>>SUSAN: That’s definitely a problem. That’s where it leads to the fraud non compliance unit that you were also discussing.
>>SUSAN: Ok, who is entitled to benefits if their loved one dies?
>>LYSKOWSKI: Anyone who’s considered a dependent. A dependant is somebody who’s related to the person who died by blood or marriage and actually is dependant upon that person for their livelihood. So, obviously it could be a spouse, it could be a child or children, it could even be a parent. If there’s maybe an elderly parent who lives with the person who died. And I should add that a spouse, a widow or widower who is receiving benefits will receive these benefits until that person dies or remarries. Same goes for parents, until that parent dies. If we’re talking about a child, that person would receive benefits until he or she turns eighteen, unless they go to college or enlist in the armed services and the benefits continue in that instance.
>>SUSAN: Are there any other benefits associated with the survivor benefits?
>>LYSKOWSKI: Actually, yes. There’s a new program called the live of duty compensation fund. It was created a couple years ago by the legislature, to provide a $25,000 benefit to the family members of any police law enforcement officer fire fighter, emergency medical technician…those types of public safety folks who are killed on the line of duty. Unfortunately, with the budget being what it is, that program hasn’t been funded, but we believe it’s an important benefit and want to make sure that we can get that funding in place for those survivors of those who make the ultimate sacrifice.
>>SUSAN: Is there any other advice that you can give to those individuals who lost a loved one at work? What would you like to say to them?
>>LYSKOWSKI: Well, the first thing I would say is we’re really very, very sorry and our hearts go out to you. We want to do all that we can to provide you the help that we can in this very very difficult time. Unfortunately, these cases so often become very complicated and so the best thing I can tell folks is to please consider consulting an attorney because the stakes are high. There’s a lot of money involved and it’s really important benefit for so many people. It’s also an incredibly difficult time in a person’s life and so to have someone there who can help explain the law, who can help assert their claim is really really important. So that’s probably the best advice we can give.
>>SUSAN: Okay. Is there anything else you’d like to add or for other individuals to know?
>>LYSKOWSKI: No, just I think one other thing is to make sure that because nobody wants to think about these things and or anything like that, but make sure that your employer knows who your dependants might be in the event that the worst happens.
>>SUSAN: Ok, well thank you for that advice.
>>SUSAN: If you guys have any other questions or concerns that you would like the experts to discuss or for Peter, you can log onto labor.mo.gov, click on news and notices and then click on labor talk podcasts.