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In Complicated Times, Police Who Risk Their Lives Still Need Support

Today’s post comes from guest author Edgar Romano, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Last week was a very bad one for police officers across the country, starting with the separate police shooting of two unarmed men. These shootings – days apart in different parts of the country – sparked widespread outrage and protests throughout the country. 

While the investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding these civilian shootings, video evidence suggests the outrage over these shootings appears to be justified. The week ended with the assassination of five police officers in Dallas who were providing protection to citizens engaged in a peaceful protest over the shootings of the unarmed men. The gunman indicated he had killed the police officers in retaliation for the shooting deaths. This was the worst loss of life for the police department since September 11, 2001.  Additionally, seven police officers were injured in the attack.

These horrific events highlight the difficult job that police face every day. While not all police officers are perfect (in fact, who amongst us is?), most don’t begin their shifts with the mindset that they are going to kill a civilian. Most see their role as keeping the peace and protecting citizens. They do, however, wonder many times whether they will make it through their shift safely and return home to their loved ones.    Unfortunately, they are not always immune to death and injury.   

As an attorney who has represented many law enforcement officers injured on the job, I know the majority of them receive medical treatment and may have a period of convalescence, but then are able to return to work. However, some sustain serious and career-ending injuries. Most police officers in New York City and Long Island are likely a member of a Civil Service Retirement System. If so, and they become permanently disabled from performing their specific job duties, they may be eligible for a life-long disability pension.

There are many pension systems in the state, all with different applications, rules, procedures, and guidelines. Each disability pension has its own statute of limitations and guidelines for eligibility. There are different pensions available, ranging from one-third to three-quarters. Just because you were injured on the job does not mean you are automatically entitled to the three-quarter pension, which would enable you to receive 75% of your previous year’s earnings. 

Although not always relevant, how police officers are injured on the job can impact whether they are entitled to a three-quarter disability pension. Additionally, just because they were injured while working does not automatically mean they are entitled to a three-quarter disability pension. Factors that get taken into account are issue of causation, medical evidence from the officer’s own doctor, and the retirement system’s medical board. It is not always an easy process for our law enforcement personnel to receive reasonable retirement benefits, but it should be. Day in and day out, they protect the citizens of our cities and our states, putting their own lives at risk simply because they are dressed in blue. 

There is a huge spotlight this week on police, and rightfully so, as there is so much mistrust and anger regarding the recent events. There needs to be an honest, open dialogue where those aggrieved are given the opportunity to be heard without fear of reprisal, just as the police department needs to be given the opportunity to have investigations completed before a rush to judgment. While the majority of police officers are honest and hardworking, those who fail to uphold their oath should be punished.

Police officers are sworn to protect and serve; they run toward trouble when we run away from it. They patrol neighborhoods that are dangerous, riddled with crime, where we are taught to avoid them. They put their lives on the line every day, knowing they might never return to their families. Yes, this has been a very tough week. Let’s hope that future discussions help bridge the gap between our police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.

 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy  Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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Don’t Believe What Insurance Carriers Say: Workers Do Finish Retraining Programs

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

“He’ll never go back to school.”  “He’ll never complete school.”

As a representative of injured workers, I hear those refrains on repeat from insurance carriers.  And, guess what?  It’s just not true.

Vocational retraining claims straddle the line between being a worker’s advocate and being their social worker.  Under the law, if an injured worker has permanent limitations following an injury that does not allow them to return to their former employer, they can pursue vocational retraining benefits–which includes receiving weekly workers’ compensation benefits (2/3 of weekly wage) along with compensation for meals, parking, books, mileage and tuition.  As an advocate, I’m urging an injured worker to pursue retraining to maximize their benefits under the law.  But more importantly, I put on my “social worker” hat to encourage these workers to return to school as a means to help themselves, their families, and society as a whole.

Restoring an injured workers’ earning capacity serves as the underpinning behind vocational retraining benefits.  Simply put, we want to incentivize working.  If a worker is too injured to return to their old line of work, let’s try to get that worker retrained (presumably to a less physical field) so they can reenter the workplace and be a productive member of the economy.  Social work and advocacy fit together when encouraging a worker to go back to school.

However, far too many insurance carriers scoff at the viability of injured workers returning to school–especially after decades of absence from a school setting.  Even though not everyone is a great school candidate, I’m amazed each and every day watching my clients pursue their retraining with passion and vigor.   I feel pride and vindication when that same client forwards me a copy of their certificate or diploma after completing the program.  That document is immediately forwarded to the insurance carrier.  (I recently forwarded a completed diploma from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one from Milwaukee Area Technical College).

Most workers just want to be back working.  They want to earn income, provide for their families, and find purpose.  If a work injury knocks them out of their old job, most workers embrace the idea of going back to school and finding a new field that fits their limitations.   Even for individuals with limited eductional backgrounds, most schools provide incredible academic support or remedial programs.  Under Wisconsin law, we can claim vocational retraining benefits for remedial or GED programs, even before a worker begins a formalized program (though consulting with an attorney first is best).

I’d urge insurance carrier to not underestimate the efforts of a motivated worker.

 

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WA L&I’s Stay at Work Program Hits Major Milestone: > 20,000 Workers Helped

A Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) program that helps support light-duty jobs after workplace injuries has reached two major milestones. The Stay at Work Program has now helped more than 20,000 injured workers and provided more than $50 million to reimburse businesses that take part. 

The program pays employers for part of the costs associated with offering light-duty jobs to injured workers. It helps defray some of the expenses so businesses can allow eligible employees to keep working during their recovery and stay connected to their workplace.  

“This return-to-work incentive is changing the workers’ compensation system, and more importantly, changing workers’ lives and improving the bottom line for employers,” said Vickie Kennedy, L&I’s assistant director of Insurance Services.   

To date, more than 4,500 employers have used the program to offer light-duty jobs to help thousands of workers return to work as part of their recovery from a workplace injury or illness.

Supporting Recovery

Mao Pen, an industrial seamstress at Seattle Tarp, is one example of those helped by the Stay at Work Program. Pen broke her left elbow and forearm last June when she fell backwards while helping coworkers stretch a large tarp. “It was a horrible break,” said Chris Perlatti, president of Seattle Tarp, where Pen has worked for 20 years.

After having surgery and staying home for three months, Pen wanted to come back to work. “And we wanted her back,” said Perlatti. “She’s a valuable employee and a sweet individual. She’s part of our work family.”  

Perlatti said the answers came when L&I’s occupational nurse Deirdre Staudt started talking to his staff about how light duty could help both Pen and Seattle Tarp. 

Through the Stay at Work Program, Seattle Tarp could get reimbursed for half of Pen’s light-duty wages (up to 66 days and $10,000), along with costs for training, equipment, tools, and any clothing needed for the light-duty work.

“This is a phenomenal program,” said Perlatti. “I wish we had known about it before one of our workers got injured.”

Changing Workers’ Compensation

“Instead of writing a check to the worker to replace some of their wages while they stay at home to recover, we’re reimbursing employers to help workers return to work as soon as medically possible,” said Kennedy, adding that the workplace connection offers financial, social and psychological support that a worker needs to improve recovery times.   

Return-to-work initiatives like the Stay at Work Program, efforts to ensure quality medical care, and other improvements in the workers’ compensation system are helping an estimated 560 injured workers each year avoid possible long-term disability. 

Together, these efforts have saved $700 million in estimated wage replacement, disability and medical costs to Washington employers, workers, and the workers’ compensation system. More importantly, these efforts are helping injured workers heal and return to productive lives. 

L&I encourages employers to establish return-to-work programs at their worksites. Employers can start by creating light-duty job descriptions and using the Stay at Work incentives to offset costs associated with workplace injuries.

There’s more information online about the Stay at Work Program (Lni.wa.gov/StayAtWork).

 Photo credit: kenmainr via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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The High Cost of Fat

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

We have reported regularly on the impact of obesity on workers’ compensation (see WFW October 2005 “Diabetes and Work Injuries” Alan B. King, M.D. and WFW Winter 2009 “The Rising Impact of Obesity on Workers’ Compensation” book review).

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in September 2016 reported that obese and overweight workers are more likely to result in higher costs related to workers’ compensation claims, especially for major injuries.

In a study analyzing 2,300 workers in Louisiana, Dr. Edward Bernacki of the University of Texas—Austin found that workers’ compensation costs and outcomes for obese workers (defined as a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher) incurred higher costs related to their workers’ compensation claim. This study noted that after three years about 10% of claims for significant injuries were still open, meaning the worker had not yet returned to work. Obesity and overweight did not play a role in the delayed return to work. However, for workers with major injuries, overweight was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs. In the group with the higher Body Mass Index, costs averaged about $470,000 for obese workers, $270,000 for overweight workers compared to $180,000 for normal weight workers (with a Body Mass Index between 25 and 30). The study made adjustments for other factors including the high cost of spinal surgeries and injections and, after making the adjustment for these factors, obese or overweight workers with major injuries were twice as likely to incur costs of $100,000 or more. Significantly, Body Mass Index had no effect at all on costs for closed claims or less severe injuries.

Previous studies (including a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2015 linked obesity to a higher rate of workplace injuries and a longer time off. However, the cost effects were not studied until this recent assessment. The new results indicate obesity is a significant risk factor for higher costs in major workers’ compensation injuries.

One significant finding in the study was that more than three-fourths of the workers’ compensation claimants were overweight or obese. Further studies are planned. Previous studies include those from the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) “How Obesity Increases the Risk of Disabling Workplace InjuriesEditor’s Note:  According to most studies, there is a strong correlation between Body Mass Index and injuries such as ankle fracture severity and increase risk of osteoarthritis. For workers’ compensation practitioners, one wonders whether these studies are a prelude to an assault on the “as is” doctrine. Each of us in our own practice can recognize some of the wide-ranging effects in costs of obesity, from special procedures for hospital treatment of obese patients such as open MRIs and more extensive surgical procedures to a reduced fuel economy in commercial vehicles due to fat drivers. Additionally, the cost of treatment for obese patients with work-related injuries increases the work-related injury potential to medical staff (lifting, transferring, etc.). Increasing admissions of severely obese patients leads to a corresponding increase in medical workplace injuries related to lifting and maneuvering obese patients. Workers’ compensation practitioners may see obesity as yet another “pre-existing condition” to surmount in future causation and extent of disability battles.

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Tell Your Boeing Story!

One Company, Many Stories

Be a part of the Boeing centennial celebration and ensure your story is captured for posterity — through your own words. 

Share your Boeing story

So many people have been part of Boeing’s history and have contributed to its success. We want to hear from you — employees, retirees, family members, customers, aerospace enthusiasts, travelers, suppliers, community partners and everyone in between.

The Boeing Company’s online story-sharing site is more than a place to reflect on stories of joy, challenge, triumph and humor. It also serves as a lasting reminder of our shared history with people around the world: All stories will become a permanent part of the Boeing Archives.

View stories — or tell yours — here.

 

Photo credit: ke9tv via Foter.com / CC BY

States Will #RaiseTheWage for More Than 2 Million Workers

By  on November 10, 2016 – –

It has been almost four years since President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage. While Congress has refused to take action, this hasn’t dissuaded states and localities from stepping up and giving American workers the raises they need and deserve. Election Day was no exception. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington cast their ballots to ensure that hard work is rewarded with a fair wage.

The resounding win for minimum wage ballot initiatives in these states will collectively result in nearly 2.2 million workers getting a raise.*

  • In Arizona, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 779,000 workers. Flagstaff passed an even bigger raise − $15 by 2021.
  • In Colorado, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 477,000 workers.
  • In Maine, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 181,000 workers.
  • In Washington, the minimum wage will be raised to $13.50 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 730,000 workers.

The Election Day results are another reminder that for most Americans, raising the minimum wage isn’t a partisan issue but rather a commonsense decision. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia – home to 61 percent of all U.S. workers − have minimum wage rates above the federal rate of $7.25.

Voters and policymakers in these states understand what labor economists have spent decades researching and confirming: minimum wage increases have caused little to no significant job loss, but they have reduced employee turnover, strengthened families’ finances, and ultimately helped grow our economy. As our economy continues to recover from the greatest economic crisis in generations, we should all share in the prosperity we are building. And there is no easier way to do that than by raising the minimum wage.

By casting their ballots for a fair wage, the residents of Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington renewed President Obama’s call to take action. It’s time raise the minimum wage for all workers in America.

Dr. Heidi Shierholz is the department’s chief economist.

*Source: The Economic Policy Institute.

Note: In Arizona and Washington, the approved minimum wage ballot initiatives also require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Expanding access to paid sick leavehas been another top priority of the Obama administration, and these ballot victories will help thousands more workers be able to address their health needs without putting their or their families’ economic security at risk.

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Minimum wage in Washington to increase 6 cents in 2017

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced today that the state’s minimum wage will increase 6 cents in 2017. The wage will rise to $9.53 an hour on Jan. 1.

L&I is responsible for calculating the state’s minimum wage each year in September as required under Initiative 688, which voters approved in 1998. The new wage is up from the 2016 minimum wage of $9.47 per hour. Some jurisdictions have approved local minimum wages that are higher than the state’s, including Seattle, Sea-Tac, and Tacoma.

The change reflects a 0.7 percent increase in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced the change this month. The index represents a “shopping basket” of goods needed for everyday living, including groceries, gas, and clothing.

The increase in the minimum wage is expected to affect nearly 51,000 workers, based on full-time equivalent jobs, according to theWashington State Employment Security Department.

The minimum wage applies to all jobs, including those in agriculture. Workers under 16 can be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage, or $8.10 an hour, in 2017.

L&I provides materials to help employers inform workers about minimum wage and their rights as workers. Employers are required to post a “Your Rights as a Worker” poster in the workplace, which supplies general information about employment issues. An optional minimum wage poster is also available for employers. Both are free from L&I.

L&I enforces the state’s wage-and-hour laws. The agency investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information on Washington’s minimum wage is available on L&I’s wages webpage. Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

 

Photo credit: Denis Bocquet via Foter.com / CC BY

50-State Survey Finds Slower Growth in Total Medicaid Spending Nationally in FY 2016 and Projected for FY 2017 as Earlier Increases from the Affordable Care Act’s Coverage Expansions Taper Off

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from kff.org

After record increases in fiscal year 2015, growth in Medicaid enrollment and total Medicaid spending nationally slowed substantially in FY 2016 and are projected to continue to slow in FY 2017 as the initial surge of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions tapered off, according to the 16th annual 50-state Medicaid Budget Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Despite recent trends, Medicaid officials identified high cost and specialty drugs as an upward pressure on total Medicaid spending.

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The Kaiser survey also shows an increase in state Medicaid spending growth in FY 2017 tied to the requirement for the 32 Medicaid expansion states (including Washington, DC) to start paying a five percent share of expansion costs beginning January 1, 2017. The federal government paid 100 percent of the expansion costs in 2014-2016.

Among expansion states, the median growth in state Medicaid spending is projected to be 5.9 percent in FY 2017 (higher than the national average of 4.4%), up from 1.9 percent in FY 2016 (lower than the national average of 2.9%). For non-expansion states, state Medicaid spending is projected to increase by 4 percent in FY 2017 (just below the national average), compared to 3.9 percent in FY 2016 (above the national average). Total Medicaid spending and enrollment growth in expansion states outpaced growth in non-expansion states in FY 2016 and are projected to do so again in FY…

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Workers’ Compensation ‘Reform,’ Profits: What NCCI Shared

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Workers’ compensation laws are under constant attack by “reformers” from industry, insurance and self-insureds. NCCI is the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a group that participates in many aspects of workers’ compensation, including setting premiums. The NCCI recently released presentations regarding big issues in workers’ compensation, including information about prescription drug cost-control (listed first below) and an insurance industry financial review (listed last below). These presentations were part of the NCCI’s 2016 Annual Issues Symposium. 

These presentations are interesting. I recommend reviewing them for a snapshot of our current workers’ compensation system in America. The financial review link (“Shape of Things to Come … ” above) shows  high net income for the  insurance industry. Is the constant pressure to “reform” workers’ compensation law fair and reasonable? Is maximizing profit for the insurance industry more important than fair compensation of worker injury and death?

Published by Causey Law Firm