Jeff Buker has been named as Missouri’s new workers’ compensation director, labor officials said.
Buker has worked on various division projects in the past year and a half involving self-insurance and the Second Injury Fund, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said in a news release.
The Second Injury Fund provides payments to disabled employees who suffer job-related injuries. It was created in 1943 to encourage employers to hire workers who are already injured and is designed to take businesses off the hook for work injuries that worsen existing disabilities.
From 2000 to 2006, payouts from the fund more than doubled, from $29 million to $64 million. During that span, benefits for complete and permanent disabilities increased from $8 million to $44 million.
State Auditor Susan Montee released an audit this spring warning that the fund could go bankrupt during the second half of 2008. Montee, a Democrat, blamed the financial problems on a 2005 law that changed the state workers’ compensation system and capped employer payments into the fund.
But Republican Gov. Matt Blunt questioned her findings and asked the Division of Workers’ Compensation to take a second look at the fund and analyze the effect of the increased payments. The division said that report should be released next week.
The previous director of the state Workers’ Compensation Division, Pat Secrest, left in June, saying she was forced to resign.
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