U.S. Dept. of Labor Posts SAWW Information for 2013 COLA Calculations

U.S. Dept. of Labor Posts SAWW Information for 2013 COLA Calculations

[Editor's Note: This blog post has been corrected.]

Unfortunately when I initially looked at the Dept of Labor site for this information, the link for last year’s information took me to the 4th quarter, not the first quarter.  This resulted in a rather significant understatement of the COLA for 2013.   Therefore, please disregard the prior message and utilize the following calculations, based on the correct SAWW for 3/31/11 of 1003.55.

The US Department of Labor has issued its 1st Quarter Unemployment statistics for the State Average Weekly Wages (SAWW) used for calculating statutory increases in Minimum and Maximum TD benefits and also Life Pension Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) pursuant to [Calif.] Labor Code § 4659.  The SAWW increased for the relevant period to $1059.38 an increase of $55.83 from last year’s figure ($1003.55).  The increase in the SAWW results in a 5.5632% increase in the minimum and maximum benefit rates and life pension rates. Minimum and Maximum rates for 2012 were $1010.50 and $151.57 respectively.

Based on this figure the Minimum & Maximum TTD rates effective 1/1/13 should be as follows:

                              Earnings          TTD Rate

Minimum             $239.53             $160.00

Maximum            $1600.08           $1066.72

For purposes of Labor Code § 4659, pursuant to the California Supreme Court Decision in Baker v W.C.A.B., COLA increases on life pension awards do not begin until the benefits become due.  For Permanent Total Disability awards, the increases begin with the P & S date (or possibly the commencement of the PTD benefit if begun prior to P & S date, an issue the Supreme Court declined to decide in its decision).  For life pension cases based on awards of partial permanent disability between 70% and 99%, the COLA increases do not begin until the January 1 following commencement of the life pension benefit.  COLA increases under Labor Code § 4659 apply only to injuries occurring on or after 1/1/2003.  Increases do not apply to cases with injuries prior to that date.

It is important to remember for those employees who are being paid at either the minimum or maximum rate on 1/1/13, where the injury is more than 2 years old (prior to 1/1/11) the employee is entitled to an increase in TTD up to the new maximum rate (depending on the employee’s earnings) pursuant to Labor Code § 4661.5.  However for life pension cases, the COLA applies regardless of the actual earnings.  The increase for 2012 is the highest in our experience over the past 10 years since Labor Code AB 749 implemented COLA increases based on the SAWW.

The DOL website for confirmation of this information is located at: http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/data_stats/datasum12/DataSum_2012_1.pdf

© Copyright 2012 Richard M. Jacobsmeyer. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Shaw Jacobsmeyer Crain Claffey LLP

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