The 2004 Schwarzenegger workers’ compensation law, according to studies, is resulting in a reduction in permanent disability benefits of more than 50%, just based on the new way of calculating permanent disability called the AMA Guides. Further cuts in permanent disability benefits are also resulting because the law allows for “apportionment” to non-work-related contributing factors such as age, genetics, and even gender and race. “Apportionment” to such factors further reduces what is paid for permanent disability. Efforts to try to modify some of the drastic cuts and discriminatory aspects of the Schwarzenegger law have so far resulted in vetoes by the governor. There is one exception that applies to safety officers only.
The new law allowing apportionment of permanent disability to non-work-related factors will not apply to conditions that are covered by the safety officer presumptions. These presumptions include heart trouble and cancer. Safety officers should remember, however, that the “heart trouble” presumption does not include hypertension when the hypertension does not have any accompanying heart trouble. Hypertension by itself – along with all other non-presumptive conditions – is subject to the new apportionment law.