With recent cuts to Oklahoma's workers compensation system, departments are look for ways to take care of their firefighters. VFIS of Oklahoma has been providing their Accident and Sickness program already too many departments around Oklahoma. Here is a recent article on changes below from the Daily Oklahoman.
Senate Bill 1062 by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, awaits action in the House after securing approval in the Senate.
The measure would cut death benefits to spouses and children, according to attorney Bob Burke, who represents injured workers and is a former state commerce secretary.
It would slash payments for permanent total disability by 42 percent and temporary total disability benefits by 30 percent, Burke said. It also would cut payments for a lost arm or leg by 23 percent.
"You can't live on that," said Keith Horn, a fire equipment operator who has worked for the Tulsa Fire Department for nearly 18 years. "They are saying you are nothing but a number to us."
The proposed changes in SB 1062 would be devastating to workers, said Capt. Stan May, who has 22 years of experience with the Tulsa Fire Department.
Under the measure, having an accident on the job could cost someone his or her house or a child's education fund, he said.
Under the current system, it is already difficult for an injured worker to pay his or her bills, May said.
"No one makes money off of an injury," he said.
The city of Tulsa has been battling rising workers compensation costs in recent years. A city report examining data from 2001 through 2011 found the Fire Department led the way in nearly every category when it comes to expense of workers compensation claims.
More than 6,000 firefighters filed claims totaling more than $19 million during that time -- the most claims and highest amount among all departments.
Greg Connelly, a captain with 13 years' experience with the Stillwater Fire Department, said he showed up to object to proposals to make the firefighters retirement system a defined-contribution plan rather than its current defined-benefit plan.
Herb Bradshaw, executive director of the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association, said both Gov. Mary Fallin and state Treasurer Ken Miller have suggested the changes, although no legislation has been proposed.
In addition, they favor consolidating the administration of the firefighters' retirement system with other systems, he said.
"Without knowing the components of what they want to do, we can only stand in opposition," Bradshaw said.
"The state pension system faces $11 billion in unfunded liabilities, putting the solvency of those plans at risk," said Aaron Cooper, a Fallin spokesman. "This is a priority for the governor and an issue she highlighted during her state of the state address.
"The governor is committed to working with the state treasurer, legislative leaders and other stakeholders to shore up the pension systems so Oklahoma can keep the promises made to firefighters, teachers, state employees and others served by the state pension system," he said.
Fallin has no plans to consolidate pension funds, Cooper said, but the governor does believe that cost savings could be achieved by streamlining the management of the state's seven pension systems.
Miller said he supports the governor's efforts to reduce administrative overhead.
"The firefighters' pension plan is the second-worst-funded of the state's seven pension plans despite receiving the highest percentage of dedicated state funding, has the lowest 5-year investment returns and pays the second-highest investment fees for those returns," he said. "Clearly, the plan can do better and we are working hard to improve it."