WASHINGTON — The law allowing former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., to collect about $100,000 a year in workers’ compensation, even though he pleaded guilty to looting his campaign fund, is wrong and needs to be changed, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I believe if you’re a member of Congress and you are convicted of stealing campaign funds, you should not be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Members of Congress need to be good stewards of taxpayer money,” Davis said.
“We’re reviewing the process and possible legislative options to prevent the abuse of this program that is meant for honest-working taxpayers,” he said.
All federal workers, including members of Congress, are eligible for workers’ comp, according to the law, if they suffer “from injuries sustained in performance of duty while in service to the United States.”
Because of health privacy laws, the public is not entitled to know what kind of job-related injury Jackson, 52, said he suffered on June 1, 2012, while performing his duties as a member of Congress.
DIVORCE FIGHT YIELDS DISABILITY PAYMENTS DETAILS
Jackson, who used to represent the 2nd Congressional District, anchored in the South Side and the southern suburbs, is embroiled in a messy divorce with his estranged wife, Sandi, the former 7th Ward alderman.
They both served prison terms after pleading guilty on Feb. 20, 2013, to stealing $750,000 in campaign cash and using it for personal spending sprees between 2005 and 2012.
Sandi Jackson, who has custody of their two children, has been battling her husband in courtrooms in Chicago and Washington in a successful bid to get Jackson to pay more support.
Details about Jackson’s payments from Social Security Disability Insurance and federal workers’ compensation surfaced for the first time as a result of the child-support fight.
A benefit statement in the D.C. court file from the Department of Labor Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation states Jackson’s “date of injury” as June 1, 2012.
Jackson’s income from workers comp and Social Security Disability Insurance provides him with a gross income of $138,452, according to a report from the D.C. government Child Support Services Division filed with the D.C. court.
Jackson gets $124,052 per year in workers comp and SSDI benefits for himself. An additional $14,400 per year is for SSDI “derivative benefits” flowing to the Jackson children and counting as Jackson’s income.
That’s a hefty sum, considering that when Jackson went to Congress in 1995 his base salary was $133,600. When he resigned while under an investigative cloud in November 2012, the base salary for lawmakers was $174,000.
The newly revealed long-term payments drew the attention of Davis, a member of the Committee on House Administration. That panel oversees the internal management of the House.
Davis represents the 13th Congressional District in central and western Illinois.
Jackson lawyer Brendan Hammer said about “one-fourth or one-third” of the $138,452 is from SSDI. Hammer also confirmed that Jackson’s family did receive payments during the time Jackson was in prison, though the amount was reduced.
FEW DETAILS ON JACKSON’S DISABILITY
Jackson cited his mental condition in asking a judge for a lesser sentence.
However, during Jackson’s sentencing hearing on September 19, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson [no relation] told Jackson, “the information that was provided to me concerning your mental health issues is somewhat thin. . . . There was little provided about the actual diagnosis. . . . Some of the depression and stress has been directly related to the fear of exposure and the public disgrace and the pendency of this case.”
Hammer was asked how Jackson’s disability was related to his work as a member of Congress.
“Since approximately 2013, Former Congressman Jackson has qualified and repeatedly re-qualified for certain benefits — without issue,” Hammer replied in an email.
“Any questions now arising regarding these benefits, and the extensive processes associated with their initial granting and subsequent renewal, should be directed to the relevant departments of federal government that awarded them consistently and for over 3 1/2 years — until a very public and politically sensitive divorce received media attention.
“Like all other Americans — the Jacksons and their two young children are entitled to some measure of personal privacy as well as medical and familial confidentiality.
“As such, Mr. Jackson, a private citizen, will address the benefits he receives only with the governmental and medical professionals that determine his qualifications for these programs — as opposed to the media who do not,” Hammer said.