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Workers' Memorial Week Events 2016

Events listed alphabetically by state.

 

Los Angeles, California: Various times and locations. Events sponsored by SoCalCOSH.

April 25, 5pm. Screening of "A Day's Work." UCLA James West Alumni Center.

April 27, Time and location TBA. Rally in Support of Permanent Overtime Pay for the Domestic Workers Alliance and CSUDH 8th Annual Labor, Social and Economic Justice Fair, 1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson.

April 28, 10am-11:30am. Workers Memorial Day Rally and Press Conference.

May 1, noon. May Day Health and Safety contingent at May Day March, Olympic & Figueroa.

Oakland, California: April 28, 4:30pm. Lake Merritt/Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.

"Reclaim Labor, Reclaim Lives." Join Worksafe, Centro Legal de la Raza, and Street Level Health Project/Oakland Workers' Collective for an evening of remembrance. At 4:30, meet at the Lake Merritt Ampitheatre, located between 12th Street and 1st Avenue on Lake Merritt Boulevard, and march to City Hall (1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza) for a 5:30pm rally. Flyers in English and Spanish.

Los Angeles, California. April 25, 5pm. UCLA James West Alumni Center, 325 Westwood Plaza.

UCLA LOSH presents the Los Angeles premiere of the award-winning documentary "A Day's Work." This free screening will be followed by a panel of local experts who can answer your questions about what temporary worker issues look like in Southern California and how you can get involved.

San Francisco, California. April 28, 7pm. ILWU Local 34, 801 2nd Street.

The Injured Workers National Network hosts. Speakers include Brenda Barros of SEIU 1021, Dr. Larry Rose (Past Medical Director of CAL-OSHA), Daryle Washington of IBT 350, and Daniel Berman (author of "Death on the Job."

Ukiah, California: April 28, 5:30pm. Clubhouse, 107 S. Oak Street.

Honoring workers from Mendocino County who have been killed or injured on the job.

Hartford, Connecticut. April 28, 5pm. State Capitol, 210 Capitol Avenue. 

Following the ceremony at the Capitol, wreathes will be laid at the Workers Memorial in Bushnell Park. Sponsored by the Connecticut AFL-CIO and the Health & Safety Committee.

Lake Park, Florida. April 28, 6pm-8:30pm. The Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Avenue.

The ceremony will include Presentation of Colors by the Palm Beach County Firefighters Pipes & Drums and Honor Guard, Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem by Young Singers of the Palm Beaches, Invocation and Prayer for the Fallen, Special Guest Speakers including State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Vergie Bain (OSHA), County Commissioner Shelley Vana and more. This event is free to all who attend. Appetizer buffet and cash bar. Sponsored by the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO. 

Miami, Florida. April 28, 11:45am. Port Miami-Seamen's Center, 1015 N. America Way.

RSVP for event.

Temple Terrace, Florida. April 28, 3pm. Council Chambers, 11250 N. 56th Street.

Join the USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Programs and USF OSHA Training Institute Education Center as we honor those workers, acknowledge their suffering families and recognize affected communities.

Bloomington, Illinois. April 28, 6am. Law and Justice Center, 104 E. Front Street.

This year’s commemoration is dedicated to John Hoeniges, a McLean County employee, who perished in a fall on May 26, 2015. Besides honoring Hoeniges, names of over 200 local workers who have lost their lives on the job will be read.

Decatur, Illinois: April 28, 5:30pm. Northwest corner of the Macon County Courthouse lawn, 253 W. Wood St.

Decatur Trades and Labor Assembly Workers’ Memorial Day Service.

Peoria, Illinois. April 28, 5pm. Peoria Labor Temple, 400 NE Jefferson Avenue.

The Labor Council of West Central Illinois hosts a march to the Workers' Memorial Monument at City Hall. For more info, email Mikeverett34@gmail.com

Rockford, Illinois: April 28, 5pm. E.J. ‘Zeke’ Giorgi Building, 200 South Wyman Street.

The Rockford United Labor Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony.

Springfield, Illinois. April 28, 5:30pm. Illinois State Library Atrium, 200 S. 2nd Street.

Commemoration hosted by the Springfield & Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council.

Lafayette, Indiana. April 28, 4:515pm-6:15pm.  Plumbers & Steamftters Union Hall 2555 South 30th Street.

Candlelight Vigil.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: April 28, 5:30pm. IBEW 405 Hall, 1211 Wiley Blvd SW.

Hawkeye Labor Council hosts this observance.

Clinton, Iowa. April 28, 1pm. Clinton River Front, 130 3rd Avenue South.

The Clinton Labor Congress will have a memorial ceremony open to the public.

Iowa City, Iowa. April 26, 2016, 7:00pm-9:00pm. University of Iowa, Callaghan Auditorium, College of Public Health Building,145 North Riverside Drive.

Screening of "A Day's Work," followed by discussion. Sponsored by the University of Iowa, the Heartland Center for Occupational Health & Safety, and TemporaryEmployees.org.

Waterloo, Iowa. April 28, 5:30pm. Black Hawk Labor Temple, 1695 Burton Avenue.

The Black Hawk Union Council will have a short program with speakers and a light meal. For more info, email john.padget@cvuw.org.

Cumberland, Maryland: April 28, noon. City Hall Plaza, 57 N. Liberty Street.

 Observance with speakers.

Boston, Massachusetts. April 28, Noon-1:15pm. In front of State House, 24 Beacon Street.

Commemoration. We encourage families to bring enlarged photos of your loved one orsend a photo to MassCOSH and they will enlarge it. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and Greater Boston Labor Council. For rain location, please call 617-825-7233 x14.

Duluth, Minnesota: April 25, 7am. Wellstone Hall -- Duluth Labor Temple, 2002 London Road.

The annual AFL-CIO Worker's Memorial pancake breakfast will be served from 7-9am with welcoming statements by the City of Duluth Mayor and Central Labor Body President t 8:30am. At 9:15am a tree planting ceremony will take place outside on the grounds of the Duluth AFL-CIO Labor Temple.

St. Cloud, Minnesota. April 28, 11am. 4150 2nd Street South.

The Greater Minnesota Worker Center hosts a commemoration/press event.

St. Paul, Minnesota. April 28, 1pm. Workers Memorial Garden, Capitol grounds, 12th and Cedar Street.

Minnesota Building and Construction Trades hosts a commemoration.

St. Louis, Missouri. May 1, 2016, 9:00 am. Shrine of St. Joseph, 1220 N. 11th Street.

Commemoration sponsored by St. Louis Labor Council.

Lincoln, Nebraska: April 28, 7pm. State Capitol, 1445 K Street.

7th Annual Candlelight Vigil sponsored by United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF). There will also be a Nebraska's 5th Annual Safety Training, April 28-29, 9am-3pm, at Country Inn & Suites, at the Airport Exit off of I-90.

Concord, New Hampshire: April 28, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. Red River Theatre, 11 South Main Street.

 Screening of film "A Day's Work," followed by a panel discussion following featuring the film maker, temp workers, and worker advocates. Event co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, New Hampshire AFL-CIO, BDB Health Promotions, UNH Occupational Health Surveillance Program.

Hookset, New Hampshire: April 26, 5:50 pm - 8:30 pm. Plumbers & Steamfitters Hall, 161 Londonderry Turnpike.

Annual Dinner and Memorial Presentation. co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.  Buffet Dinner and Speakers. We add the names of workers killed in 2015 to our memorial plaque.

New Brunswick, New Jersey. April 24, 2016, 3pm. Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, 222 Livingston Avenue.

NJ Work Environment Council and New Labor Rally and March.

Amherst, New York. May 10. UAW Region #9, 35 George Karl Boulevard.

WNYCOSH hosts a screening of "A Day's Work" at the Buffalo Central Labor Council monthly meeting.

Binghamton, New York. April 29, 6pm-8pm. Bundy Museum of History and Art, 129 Main Street.

In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized state-wide screenings of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work." This screening is co-sponsored by the Broome Tioga Green Party, People's Press, Student-Labor Alliance, and the Workers Center of the Southern Tier. The museum's film series in commemoration of Workers' Memorial Day continues on May 12, 6pm, with the film "Who Needs Sleep," about the sweatshop hours worked by film crews.

There will also be an observance hosted by the Central New York Labor Federation on April 30 at noon, at the Binghamton Factory Fire Commemorative Plaque (on Wall Street, near the Martin Luther King statue on the River Trail.)

Ithaca, New York. May 1, 4:30pm-6:30pm. Cinemapolis, 120 E. Green Street. 

In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized state-wide screenings of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work."This screening is co-sponsored by the Tompkins County Workers Center and Midstate COSH. Suggested donation of $10 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Massena, New York. April 30, 11am-1pm. Massena Central High School, 84 Nightengale Avenue.

In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized s tate-wide screenings of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work."  This screening is co-sponsored by the Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties Central Trades and Labor Council, PEF Region 7, People Project, and Workforce Development Institute.

New York, New York. April 28, 11:30am. 46th Street and 8th Avenue.

Join NYCOSH, the Central Labor Council, and other labor partners as we commemoratethose we have lost and work to create safer working conditions. We'll meet at the location a worker, Christian Ginesi, died in a preventable construction incident last May.

Plattsburgh, New York. May 4, Time and location TBA.

In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized state-wide screenings of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work." This screening is co-sponsored by the Northeast Central Trades and Labor Council, PEF Region 7, and the Workforce Development Institute.

Potsdam, New York. May 5, 4pm - 6pm. SUNY Potsdam, 104 Kellas Hall, 44 Pierrepont Avenue.

In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized state-wide screenings of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work." This screening is co-sponsored by PEF Region 7, SUNY Potsdam Department of Sociology, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton.

Rochester, New York: April 28, 5:00pm. Highland Park Workers Memorial Monument, 180 Reservoir Avenue.

Observance hosted by the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation.

In addition, there will be a May 2nd screening of "A Day's Work," co-sponsored by the Occupational Health Clinical Centers, and People Organizing for Worker Empowerment and Respect. Time and location TBA.

Syracuse, New York. April 29, 8am-10am. Pensabene's Casa Grande, 135 State Fair Boulevard.

Unity Breakfast. Ticket information here. Flyer is here. Co-sponsored by Central New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Greater Syracuse Labor Council, Occupational Health Clinical Centers, Workers' Center of CNY, Greater Syracuse County Occupational Safety & Health, Workforce Development Institute (WDI).

In addition, on May 3 at 6pm, In honor of Workers' Memorial Day and May Day, the Occupational Health Clinical Centers has organized a screening of the award-winning documentary film "A Day's Work" at the NYSUT Office, 4983 Brittonfield Parkway.  This screening is co-sponsored by the Central New York Area Labor Federation.

Akron, Ohio. April 28, 11am. Outside ICWU Workers Memorial area, 1655 W. Macket Street.

Event will include presentation of Colors by color guard, National Anthem, invocation, various speakers, placing of wreath, taps, rifle salute, moment of silence, benefiction.

Canton, Ohio. April 28, 2016, 10:00am. Hall of Fame Central Labor Council, 1329 Market Avenue North.

Workers' Memorial Day event.

Cincinnati, Ohio. April 28, 5:30pm. UAW Local 547 Union Hall, 10020 Reading Road.

Cincinnati AFL-CIO and United Auto Workers (UAW) are co-sponsoring the 11th Annual Workers' Memorial Day Ceremony. Including regional speakers and a cookout. For more info, email Pmclinden@cincinnatiaflcio.org

Columbus, Ohio. New Memorial Park, May 21, 2016. 25 Marcon Boulevard. 

Honoring Worker Memorial Day. A joint effort of the Columbus-Franklin County AFL-CIO, the Buckeye Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the City of Columbus, Workers Memorial honors Franklin County workers who have died on the job since 1992.

Lima, Ohio. April 26, 6:30pm. Rose Marie Duffy Lodge, 1870 Robb Avenue.

Dinner program with speakers. For more info, email wescentralclc@gmail.com

Newark, Ohio. April 28, 6:30pm. Licking-Knox CLC/GMP Union Hall, 350 Hudson Avenue.

RSVP for commemoration.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: April 28, 7:00pm-8:00pm. Floor Rotunda, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln.

Candlelight Vigil sponsored by Oklahoma AFL-CIO.  On April 1, 8am-5pm, the Oklahoma Safety Council and ASSE Oklahoma City is having a volunteer day to make wooden silhouettes of the fallen to be displayed on April 28 

Portland, Oregon. April 25, 7pm. IBEW Union Hall, 15937 NE Airport Way.

The Northwest Oregon Labor Council hosts a commemoration

Salem, Oregon. April 28, noon. Oregon State Capitol Mall, outside the Labor and Industry Building, 350 Winter Street, NE.

Commemoration hosted by Oregon AFL-CIO.

Coatesville, Pennsylvania. April 28, 8:00am. Steelworkers Memorial Iron and Steel Museum• 50 South 1st Avenue.

Ceremony includes steel beam recovered at the World Trade Center.

Erie, Pennsylvania: April 28, 6pm - 7pm. Erie City Council Chambers, City Hall, 626 State St, Room 400.

Erie-Crawford Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO 30th Annual Workers’ Memorial Service. Prayer service, speaker program, reading of names and placing of memorial wreath at the Workers’ Monument in Perry Square.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. April 28, 8am - 10am. Passage to India Restaurant, 525 S. Front Street.

Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council Workers’ Memorial Day Breakfast and Memorial Observance. Observance held at the Monument in Labor's Grove, a short distance from the restaurant.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 29, 8:30am. Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 1301 S. Columbus Blvd.

PHILAPOSH will have a breakfast program. A reading of names of those who died from work-related injuries and illnesses in the Tri-State area in 2016 will take place followed by a casting of flowers into the Delaware river, reaffirming our commitment to prevent injury, illness and death on the job. Accompanied by Brian Wydlitz on the bagpipes, playing "Amazing Grace." Participants should register and pay for breakfast.

Reading, Pennsylvania. April 30, noon. Heritage Park, 6th and Canal Streets.

Join the United Labor Council of Reading Berks for a lineup of local speakers and light refreshments.Bring your own chair.

Providence, Rhode Island. April 27, 3pm-5:30pm. Occupational and Environmental Health Center, 410 South Main Street, 3rd Floor.

Program on OSHA's Construction Confined Space Rule. Pre-registration is requested. Sponsored by Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

Knoxville, Tennessee. April 30, 2016, noon. Knoxville-Oak Ridge Area Central Labor Council, 1522 Bill Williams Ave.

Observance and release of Knox Area Workers' Memorial Day Committee Workers Memorial Day report. Co-sponsored by the Central Labor Council, Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee, and the Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee. Email for more information. 

Nashville, Tennessee. April 28, 7pm. UAW 737 Hall, 6207 Centennial Boulevard.

The Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee hosts thiscommemoration.

Corpus Christi, Texas. April 28, noon. IBEW Local Union 278, 2301 Saratoga.

A BBQ Sandwich Lunch to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs. Guest Speakers will be Marianne McGee, OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist; Travis Clark, OSH AREA Director; and Becky Moeller, Retired Texas AFL-CIO President. Hosted by the Coastal Bend Labor Council.

Houston, Texas. April 28, 6pm. Various locations.

USW Local 6000 hosts a commemoration at the IBEW Local Union 716, 1475 North Loop West, Suite 400.

Fe y Justicia hosts a vigil. Email for more information.

Bellingham, Washington: April 28, noon. Bellingham Library lawn, 210 Central Ave.

Observance sponsored by Northwest Washington CLC.

Seattle, Washington. April 27, 11:30am, Lyceum Room, Husky Union Building, University of Washington. 

 Memorial sponsored by Martin Luther King County Labor Council. 

Morgantown, West Virginia. April 28, 6pm. Public Safety Building, 200 Spruce Street.

Commemoration sponsored by the West Virginia AFL-CIO.

Menomonie, Wisconsin. April 28, 4:30pm. Dean and Sue Bar and Grill, 2002 Midway Road.

The Greater West Central Labor Council (Wisconsin) is hosting a Workers Memorial Day event. A free supper will be provided from 4:30-6:30 followed by a program from 6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Please bring a dessert to pass. For more info, email gwcalc@gmail.com.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. April 28, 5pm. Carl F. Zeidler Union Square.

Join WisCOSH to commemorate lives lost in the last year.

Rhinelander, Wisconsin. April 30, 11:00am. Pioneer Park, Kemp Street and Oneida Avenue.

The memorial rock nests in the pines on the right upon entering the Park. All workers and their families are invited to the tribute to those who have given their lives to earn a living. Keynote Speaker: Father Dean Einerson, Saint Augustine's Church.

Jackson, Wyoming. April 29, 10am. Town Council Chambers, 150 E. Pearl Avenue.

Join WYCOSH and allies for this commemoration.

 

SOURCE: http://coshnetwork.org/wmw16#IN

 

 

PLEASE also join our workers' memorial day group to add events and stories -

https://naidw.org/groups/viewgroup/282-workers-memorial-day

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11 Haunting Photos of Child Labor From America's Past

by Sahid Fawaz

Anti-union, anti-regulation types always speak about the utopia that allegedly exists in a free market. Well, over a hundred years ago an unregulated workplace existed in America and it wasn't pretty. And children were among the most innocent of victims of free market greed run amok. These eleven pictures capture that era when children were often sent to work as young 5 years old, with many never getting a chance at education or a normal childhood. It's a good thing that unions and progressives were around to champion the interests of those who couldn't stand up for themselves and finally put an end to child labor for those under 12 years old with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. 

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SOURCE: http://labor411.org/index.php/411-blog/598-11-haunting-photos-of-child-labor-from-america-s-past

 

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Report of 10,000 severe workplace injuries might be only half the problem

Next time you order sliced turkey or ham at a supermarket or restaurant, make sure you also don’t get the butcher’s fingertip.

Shortly after a federal rule requiring employers to report severe work related injuries was implemented, Labor Department staffers in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Atlanta office noticed a disturbing and surprising trend – “numerous reports of fingertip amputations among workers using food slicers.”

That’s one finding in an OSHA document released Thursday about the 10,388 severe work-related injuries reported in 2015, the first full year of a federal reporting requirement. Injuries resulting in eye loss, amputation or hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours.  Included were 2,644 amputations and 7,636 hospitalizations. Employers were already required to report fatalities within eight hours.

Until the severe injury reporting requirement, OSHA officials didn’t have a full grasp of the situation. “Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace,” the report says. “Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”

Even with the new requirement, officials still don’t have a complete accounting of severe injuries. OSHA knows the reported number is an under-count.

“We think the actual number might be twice as high,” Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said by telephone.

Here is some of what OSHA said the reporting requirement revealed:

  • A woman’s arm was badly mangled in Chicago when “a conveyor loaded with liquid chocolate suddenly started up as a worker was cleaning a roller.”
  • A sanitation worker in a Missouri meat processing plant lost both lower arms when cleaning a mechanized blender that abruptly began operating.
  • A truck driver loading creamer in Idaho lost a fingertip when a valve cover snapped shut on his hand.
  • A worker’s arm was amputated after he tried to clear a conveyor jam in an Idaho sawmill.

While these examples are from the private sector, the U.S. Postal Service also ranks high on the list, number five out of 25, of industry groups reporting severe injuries.

That reporting, however, is largely self-reporting.

There are simply too few inspectors for the number of workplaces for every job to get a personal touch from a government official. Michaels said the agency uses 2,500 inspectors, including those with state agencies partnering with federal officials, but there are 7 million to 8 million workplaces.

“We can’t get to every workplace,” he said.

So, it tells the companies to inspect themselves.

In 62 percent of the incidents, OSHA said it responded “not by sending inspectors to the scene but by asking employers to conduct their own incident investigations and propose remedies to prevent future injuries.”

That sounds like asking the fox to report on security at the hen house. This is especially so considering “even after experiencing horrific employee injuries,” some employers continue placing workers at risk, OSHA said, adding: “Some have gone to great lengths to try to hide hazards in order to avoid fixing them.”

Yet, self-reporting seems to be working and has the backing of the AFL-CIO, which represents millions of workers across the country.

“The OSHA report shows that the OSHA Severe Injury Reporting rule issued last year is a common sense regulation that [is] helping to target dangerous workplaces and to spot emerging safety and health problems that pose a wider threat,” said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO safety and health director.

No matter how many inspectors, some companies will try to beat the system. That can be hazardous to workers’ health.

“In one stunning example,” OSHA reported, “a manufacturer tried to conceal an entire production line from OSHA inspectors after a staffing agency reported the amputation of a worker’s finger. When inspectors arrived, the employer closed interior doors and parked forklifts in front of them, then turned off the lights and told workers to be quiet. Inspectors who uncovered the back room found a row of machinery with exposed parts that could have caused other workers to lose their fingers.”

This case, however, isn’t representative of the whole.

“Most importantly,” said Seminario, “this rule is helping to get hazardous conditions fixed to keep other workers from being injured or killed.”

SOURCE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/03/18/report-of-10000-severe-workplace-injuries-might-be-only-half-the-problem/?tid=ss_tw
Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.
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A Broken Compensation System Is Leaving the Most Vulnerable Workers in Pain

construction-worker

A new report reveals the gradual erosion of employer liability requirements that have left workers alone to shoulder the costs of workplace injury.

 

In the toughest industries, the cardinal rule of prevention, “safety first,” often gets papered over by an unspoken law of the workplace: the most dangerous jobs are done by those who can’t afford safety. The hidden cost of the extra risks they bear quietly—the broken bones, severed thumbs and stained lungs—place an underlying drag on the most vulnerable segments of the economy. An analysis by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows the toll society pays for employers’ and regulators’ malign neglect.Changes in state-based workers’ compensation insurance programs have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits…to which they are entitled.… This cost-shift has forced injured workers, their families and taxpayers to subsidize the vast majority of the lost income and medical care costs generated by these conditions.

The double injustice of paying for the physical suffering imposed by your employer is no accident; it’s calculated cruelty. The Workers’ Compensation system has been gradually eroded to limit employer liability, while disenfranchised, precarious workers often have little choice but to accept an inadequate award or none at all.

Guadalupe González struggled just to force her employer to recognize her injury, after she twisted her ankle badly while working her custodial job with the multinational contractor Sodexo in 2011. Though she had been injured on a cleaning shift while traversing the campus at Lasell College in Massachusetts and eventually needed surgery, she recalls, “The manager denied it, as well as the insurance company.… The manager was just saying that I was always complaining about something, and that’s how he tried to get out of it.”

González had to “complain” for months just to recover part of her lost income, but many injured workers have no one even to complain to. The rise of “outsourced” labor—temp work, independent contracting and other contingent jobs—and the misclassification of blue-collar workers as “independent contractors” has placed countless workers in an unregulated zone, cut off from benefits and full legal recourse against managers who aren’t officially employers.

With about “three million serious occupational injuries and illnesses” recorded annually, official estimates put “the cost of fatal and non-fatal work injuries at $198 billion” in 2012. Meanwhile countless injuries go unreported, and the impacts are often hidden and chronic, resulting in long-term sickness and death not attributed directly to work (try suing a company over cancer linked to decades-old asbestos exposures). Past workplace exposures to hazardous materials lead to an estimated 50,000 deaths each year.

Workers’ Compensation generally covers just one-fifth of occupational injury costs. Workers, their families and the public pay the rest: roughly 50 percent is paid out of pocket, private insurance covers 13 percent and underfunded welfare and care programs that make up the “safety net” absorb the remainder of the burden of unsafe jobs.

To handle the cost of injury efficiently, the Workers’ Compensation system was designed to offer a “no fault” insurance system to cover medical care and lost wages outside the courts. But the program’s regulations, which vary by state, have become increasingly byzantine and exclusionary, leaving many with heavily damaged bodies and little to no recompense. About 40 percent of eligible workers never even apply for Workers’ Compensation. One study cited in the report showed that “one-third of workers with employer recorded carpal-tunnel syndrome had not received workers’ compensation.” And lest you think their injuries simply weren’t serious enough, zero benefits went to the same proportion of workers with amputations. A study of workers in New Mexico shows that even those with benefits lost some 15 percent of projected income in the ten years following an injury, or about $30,000.


This cost-shifting trend means that employers are not only less financially responsible for safety but are also losing incentive to protect it. Developers may find it less “cost effective,” for example, to pay to provide adequate protective gear at construction sites. Because Workers’ Compensation rules assign higher premiums to employers with worse safety records, OSHA reports that employers are perversely incentivized to avoid liability by “assigning workers employed by a staffing agency to the most dangerous tasks…to avoid higher premiums.”Corporations have for years steadily chipped away at safety liabilities.According to ProPublica: “Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed workers’ comp laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult for those with certain injuries and diseases to qualify for them. Florida has cut benefits to its most severely disabled workers by 65 percent since 1994.”

For workers, low pay and high risk go hand in hand: the poverty wages prevalent in unsafe jobs lead to more working hours, and “long work days lead to worker fatigue and increase the risk of both work-related and non-work-related injuries, as well as of motor vehicle crashes.” Moreover, the risk inherent in being an undocumented immigrant can lead workers to avoid reporting injuries for fear of exposure to law enforcement.

Despite improvements in risk reduction over time, OSHA notes, some industries are growing relatively more dangerous on a global scale: “the work fatality rate in the United Kingdom is about one-third the rate of the United States and the rate in construction is about one-quarter the U.S. rate. While the rates in both countries are decreasing, the difference between the rates has grown substantially since the 1990s.”

Though González managed to win compensation, it ultimately covered just 60 percent of her original income of about $10.80 an hour. And all that took months of legal wrangling, working with advocates at Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health. Pressured to return to work, she ended up hurting her back when she stumbled on a stairwell. Though the second injury was caused by the first, she recalls, “the insurance company was just insisting that I was just making this up and that maybe I just deliberately fell on my back.”

Now in physical therapy and struggling to support her household, González says she’s unsure when she’ll return to work, and the company has lost its contract with the campus—so she might have to start all over in any case. For workers like her, the road to recovery keeps going in circles.

 

SOURCE: http://www.thenation.com/article/broken-compensation-system-leaving-most-vulnerable-workers-pain/

 

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What Will Happen to My Disability Benefits When I Turn 65?

The first thing to realize with Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and retirement is that “full retirement age” is not always 65. In fact, 65 is only considered the age of retirement for those born in 1937 or earlier, so chances are that you will be among those who hit full retirement age at a later date. In any event, you will still want to know how your SSD benefits will be affected by hitting what is considered retirement age by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for someone in your age demographic.

When is Full Retirement Age for Me?

Over the years, the SSA has periodically adjusted the age of full retirement. There are several designations of full retirement age according to the SSA and each is defined by your date of birth. The breakdown is as follows:

Date of Birth Full Retirement Age
1937 or before 65
1938 65 +2 months
1939 65 +4 months
1940 65 +6 months
1941 65 +8 months
1942 65 +10 months
1943 to 1954 66
1955 66 +2 months
1956 66 +4 months
1957 66 +6 months
1958 66 +8 months
1959 66 +10 months
1960 or after 67

 

For the majority of current SSD beneficiaries, the age of full retirement is 67, which means you may have at least a couple more years before you need to be concerned with how hitting retirement age will affect your benefits; however, it’s good to understand the process in advance so there are no surprises when you do reach 67.

What Happens with My SSD When I Hit Full Retirement Age?

There are two major changes that take affect when you reach full retirement age. The first is that your benefits will no longer be paid through SSD. Instead, you will transition to the SSA’s “Old Age” or retirement program instead. Your benefits will not be interrupted with this transition and the benefit payment will be processed as usual. It will simply come in from a different Social Security fund rather than SSD, but you won’t even notice the difference.

The second change that comes with reaching full retirement age is that your benefits are no longer subject earning limits that were in place with your SSD benefits. In other words, you can increase your earnings from a part time job or other income source without losing dollars in your monthly benefit check.

Will Full Retirement Age Change My Benefit Amount?

Standard full retirement benefits from the SSA are calculated on what a worker contributed to the Social Security system over the course of their employment. Disability benefits are as well, so the amount of your monthly benefit payment is not affected by the transition from SSD to retirement benefits.

What’s Required for Me to Make the Transition?

SSD beneficiaries don’t have to do anything when they hit the age of full retirement. The SSA automatically transitions your benefits to the retirement fund without requiring you to complete new applications or other forms.

What about SSD and Early Retirement?

The SSA does currently allow people to apply for and begin receiving early retirement benefits at the age of 62; however, if you are disabled and have been receiving SSD benefits, then hitting early retirement age is not applicable for you. Instead, you would simply continue to receive SSD benefit until you reach the age of full retirement, at which time you would be transitioned from SSD to retirement benefits automatically by the SSA.

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Who Gets the Most in Disability Pay? 8 Key Social Security Facts

Who Gets the Most in Disability Pay? 8 Key Social Security Facts

The Social Security Disability Insurance program dodged a bullet late last year when Congress approved a temporary patch to keep the program from running low on cash.

With as many as 11 million Americans facing a 19 percent reduction in their disability insurance benefits, Congress and the White House agreed to shift funding from the much larger Social Security retirement account to keep the program going with full benefits through 2022.

 

However, the long-term prognosis for the $150 billion annual disability insurance trust fund is cloudy for now. And before lawmakers agree to extend it again, there is likely to be a tough reexamination of the program to find ways to reduce costs, crack down on fraud and move more people off the roles and back to work.

“I think with any program like this there are always going to be challenges to it in terms of people questioning whether it should exist at all,” Jonathan Schwabish, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute and an expert on disability insurance, said in an interview Thursday. “On the other side there are people questioning whether it provides the support that people who are disabled need.”

The program was designed to assist the physically and mentally disabled and their families, although over the years it has been expanded to provide assistance to more people with physical problems, especially women. While the program frequently has come under criticism for being overly generous, benefits average $1,165 per month, or roughly $14,000 a year.

Both the Social Security retirement trust fund and the companion disability insurance program are on shaky financial ground in the long term and their funding will have to be addressed by Congress in the coming years to avert a crisis. The retirement fund itself is anticipated to run out of cash by 2035, according to a trustees’ report. And there may be increased pressure on the retirement program as a result of Congress shifting funds from it to the disability program.

However, in many ways, the disability insurance program will be much harder to fix, according to Schwabish, because of the wide range of disabilities that are covered and the types of judgments that are made to allow people into the program or to remove them. Congress ordered a number of pilot projects to experiment with ways to wean more beneficiaries off the program, but past efforts at this have been generally unsuccessful.

The percentage of disabled workers as a share of all workers has more than tripled since 1970, according to Schwabish. The disability insurance program provided benefits to nearly 9 million disabled workers in 2013, nearly six times the 1.5 million disabled workers who received benefits in 1970.

Schwabish and the Urban Institute this week published an important primer on the disability insurance program, including how it operates and who it benefits. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The share of workers receiving disability has more than tripled from 1.6 percent in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2013. There are many reasons for this increase, including the rapid aging of the population, declining employment prospects during the recession and new, more liberal eligibility criteria.

  • The state-by-state distribution of people receiving disability insurance varies greatly.  For instance, Maine and New Hampshire have the highest rates of mental illness in the country. Southern states like Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia have the highest rates of circulatory disease.  

  • Southerners are most likely to receive disability benefits. West Virginia had the highest rate of residents receiving disability in 2014 at 8.9 percent. That was followed by Alabama at 8.5 percent, Arkansas and Kentucky both at 8.4 percent, and Mississippi at 7.9 percent.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders are among the most common problem. People receiving disability for disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, neck and lower back increased by an extraordinary 65 percent between 1996 and 2014.

  • The number of people joining the program each year per 1,000 people has remained relatively flat since 1991. The “incident rate” of being placed in the program has ranged overall between 4.7 and 6.4 per 1,000 disability-insured Americans, depending on the state of the economy.

  • More than half of women and a third of men receive DI benefits below $1,000 per month.As women’s rates of labor-force participation and earnings approach those of men, women’s DI benefits should begin to approach those of men.

  • DI benefits disproportionately go to low-income people. In 2010, slightly less than half of DI beneficiaries ages 31 to 49 fell into the bottom income quintile.

  • Few people leave DI. Once disabled people have been accepted into the program, they rarely leave it unless they retire and begin drawing Social Security retirement benefits or they die. The number of people who are removed from DI per 1,000 existing beneficiaries went from 174 in 1970 to just 76 in 2003. Since then, the number of beneficiaries per 1,000 removed every year rose slightly, to 87.
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Injured workers wait — and wait — for benefits

Some wait years for help as backlog in Social Security disability system grows.

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Daniel Boda, partner at Mitchell + Pencheff, Fraley, Catalano & Boda Law Firm. SUBMITTED

By Chris Stewart

Staff Writer

More than a million Americans — including 40,000 Ohioans — are caught in the federal government’s biggest traffic jam: the line of people appealing denied Social Security disability claims.

The system is overwhelmed with cases that grow by the minute.

Claims of waste and abuse are rampant. So are the tales of real suffering.

Some people die before their cases are heard. Others with serious physical or mental disabilities are are left to live in squalid conditions or, in some cases, on the streets.

There’s “no question” the wait times are too long, said Daniel Boda, a partner at Mitchell + Pencheff, Fraley, Catalano & Boda Law Firm, which has an office in Springfield.

Boda represents about 75 clients each year in Social Security disability cases.

Many claimants already wait half a year or more for an initial determination of their eligibility, Boda said. Then the clock starts ticking again if a denied claimant requests a hearing with a judge.

“Given time between a denial and filing for the next level of appeal, you may be six or seven months into it before you even file for a hearing,” he said. “Then on top of that it’s about 16-18 months now.”

That long wait typically ends in a small government conference room with a 45 to 60-minute hearing in front of a judge. Also in the room are a court reporter, a vocational expert and the claimant’s attorney. Sometimes a neutral medical expert is present, but rarely, Boda said.

He said some of his clients have spouses with jobs and are able to weather the wait while others get to the point of homelessness. He said a couple of his clients have died waiting.

“It actually surprises me I haven’t had more,” said Boda, who has been practicing 40 years.

Backlog grows

The Social Security Administration started falling behind on processing appeals when Gerald Ford was president in the 1970s. By 2007, with the backlog up to 743,800 cases, a plan was launched to greatly reduce processing times, which had ballooned to 512 days.

The 38 initiatives in the plan included hiring more administrative law judges and increasing efficiency through automation and improved business processes.

A goal was set of reducing the number of pending cases to 466,000 by the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Instead, the backlog went in the other direction, even as processing times improved slightly. Last September, the Office of the Inspector General reported: “As of March 2015, SSA had over 1 million claims awaiting a decision.”

It was the highest number ever recorded within the Social Security Administration and the biggest backlog in the federal government.

By the end of January, the queue had grown even longer with 1,103,830 Americans waiting to have their day in front of a Social Security Administration judge.

‘Disaster for due process’

Not every claimant is found deserving of disability benefits. Historically, fewer than a quarter of disability claims are approved on the initial application, which leads each year to hundreds of thousands of Americans entering a four-stage appeals process that applicants find excruciatingly slow and judges who hear the cases say is antiquated.

“This is a disaster for due process. This is disaster for the American people,” Judge D. Randall Frye said while testifying in front of federal lawmakers in 2010. Frye was then president of the Association of Administration Law Judges.

Part of the reason for the bottleneck is the sheer number of people seeking disability each year, which has risen by 66 percent to 2.5 million over the past 15 years.

Experts attribute the increase to population growth, aging Baby Boomers, the increase of women in the workforce and a rise in the age for full Social Security retirement from 65-66.

Frye said the resources needed to handle the increased case load did not keep pace. As a result, he testified, judges were pressured to cut corners, which meant not reviewing all the evidence on individual cases.

“We are terribly concerned,” he told a joint House-Senate congressional committee. “There is a finite number that judges can do and do accurately.”

Doug Nguyen, a Social Security Administration spokesman, said the biggest reasons for the backlog are the lack of resources to handle the workload and the crush of hearing requests.

Nguyen said the administration hopes to have up to 1,900 administrative law judges seated by 2018, an increase of about 200 over the 1,697 that are in place now.

“The American public deserves timely, high quality hearing and appeal decisions,” he said. “Currently the wait for a hearing decision on a disability benefit is too long. Resolving this public service challenge is one of our highest priorities.”

Huge money at stake

Claimants who are approved draw payments from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, which is supported by all workers and their employers. Each pays in 6.2 percent of the first $118,500 in earnings. Self-employed individuals pay 12.4 percent which can be offset by income tax provisions, according to the Social Security administration. A separate trust fund covers retired workers, dependents and survivors.

The amount of money at stake is mind-blowing. Each case approved can cost the trust fund $300,000 over a lifetime.

Cases that crawl through the appeals process are often complex and labor-intensive, requiring multiple sources of information. And that’s part of the problem, those involved in the system say.

“We don’t have the experts — the medical experts that we need. We don’t have lawyers working for us to assist us. We’re kind of in a do-it-yourself operation,” said Judge Linda Stagno, a ranking official with the Association of Administrative Law Judges. “We’ve given the agency many, many suggestions on how to tighten up the process.”

Stagno said some of those recommendations include tightening procedural rules, adding clerical staff and highly-trained paralegals with a medical background, and bringing in medical experts to assist on complicated cases.

“We are not doctors but we have to make medical judgments,” Stagno said. “Some of the law is 30 and 40 years old; it hasn’t changed over time.”

Judge Marilyn Zahm, the association’s president, said each case is a very labor intensive process that requires judges to weigh the evidence and determine the extent of physical or mental functional limitations involved with each claimant and provide a detailed written decision required by federal courts.

“Every case is somebody’s life and you do want to do a careful, thorough job in making a determination,” Zahm said. “They sometimes have as many as five to 10 impairments. You need to make findings on all of them.”

Zahm said the size of the case files has exploded in recent years, particularly as new regulations have been added. As a result, up to 30 percent of the files now contain more than 1,000 pages of medical evidence, she said.

“Do you have any idea how long it takes to review 1,000 pages of medical evidence?” said Zahm. “We are the only adjudicatory body that I’m aware of that allows such loose requirements for representatives.”

A work analysis study commissioned by the Association of Administrative Law Judges in 2014 found it would take a judge more than seven hours to process and render a legally sufficient decision on a case containing 652 pages, the national average for that year.

But with an expected quota of at least 500 dispositions a year, a judge would have available only 2.5 hours per case, the study found.

As one fix, the association recommended removing the reconsideration phase, which it says prolongs a claimant’s wait, wastes government resources and results in a different decision in only about 2 percent of the cases.

“That does not serve the American people,” Frye said in his 2010 testimony. “It is not fair to make them wait nine more months for a reconsideration level when they could get to a hearing more quickly.”

Antiquated job listings

Ultimately, judges must decide if the claimant before them can hold any kind of job, and that process too is flawed.

The federal guidebook judges are instructed to use is the decades-old Dictionary of Occupational Titles first published in 1938 and updated last in 1991.

The dictionary includes jobs like four-horse hitch driver and gas-station attendant, but the words online or Internet aren’t found in the nearly 30,000 listings. Likewise, the judges and vocational experts can find Sousaphone maker, station telegrapher and phone book deliverer in the antiquated reference book, but no jobs dealing with smart phones.

“There’s not one computer-related job in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles that we use,” Stagno said.

The administration has started testing a new Occupational Information System to replace the Dictionary of Occupational Titles but it is not yet operational.

A number of other reforms have launched, including establishing five regional hearing centers that do teleconferencing to speed the process for hearing claims.

Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin also rolled out a plan in January called CARES that is intended to address the growing wait times and number of pending hearings. The plan calls for additional funding to hire more administrative judges to reduce the wait time for a hearing to 270 days by 2020.

“High quality decisions are at the heart of our initiatives to reduce wait times and better serve the American public,” Nguyen said.

Still waiting

Rainey Cowgill of Middletown once played linebacker in high school and spent most of his adult life working in concrete construction. But chest pain sent him to the emergency room in December 2013, and the next day he underwent triple bypass surgery.

His doctor told him his days of physical labor were over.

No one told him what a difficult time he would have getting disability benefits.

Cowgill’s first application for Social Security disability benefits was denied. A second review also was turned down. Last April he filed an appeal to have his case heard by an administrative law judge. He finally heard last week — more than two years after he fell ill — that a date in front of a judge has been scheduled for May.

He has no idea when, or even if, he’ll get benefits.

“I feel helpless. I can’t work,” he said. “I’ve got no income coming in.

“Some days I just sit here and cry because I don’t know what to do. I’m sick of worrying about how I’m going to make it from one day to the next.”


Applying for Social Security disability in Ohio

• Complete application online at www.socialsecurity.gov, select “Apply online for disability benefits.”

Or:

• Contact Ohio’s Rehabilitation Services Commission, Division of Disability Determination toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.

• Call or visit your local Social Security office.

Stages of a Social Security disability claim appeal

If a claim is denied, claimants can take steps to appeal.

• Reconsideration

Claimants have 60 days to file. The review is by the same state office that handled the the initial request, but is reviewed by another examiner.

• Hearing by an administrative law judge

If the decision is denied during reconsideration, the claimant can appeal and appear in front of an administrative law judge with representation. The hearings are held via teleconference or at an office typically within 75 miles of a claimant’s home.

• Review by the Appeals Council

A claimant may further appeal a decision to an appeals council located in Falls Church, Va. The Appeals Council may choose not to review the administrative law judge’s decision, rule one way or another on the case, or return the case to another administrative law judge.

• Federal Court review

A claimant not satisfied with the Appeals Council decision may file a lawsuit in federal district court.

By the numbers

1,103,830: Backlog of Social Security disability claims.

493 days: Average processing time per claim.

2.5 million: Number of people who applied for disability last year.

1,697: Number of administrative law judges hearing appeals.

63: Percentage of cases that are denied for medical or technical reasons.

Source: Social Security Administration

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10 Things to Know before Traveling


Disability Connection Newsletter. This section has four photographs from left to right. A woman, who has spina bifida and a learning disability, stands next to her scooter. A young man, who has Costello Syndrome, bags groceries in a supermarket. A Veteran who is blind sits in a chair at his office. A woman, who has a Spinal Cord Injury, advocates for people with multiple disabilities.

10 Things to Know before Traveling

  1. Flying the Friendly Skies. Whether it’s for an important business trip or your next family vacation, here’s what you need to know to ensure a smooth flight. The Air Carrier Access Act requires that all domestic and international flights with a U.S. destination or departure point provide certain free accommodations to people with disabilities. Fliers with disabilities aren’t required to travel with another person (unless it’s for safety reasons) or notify an airline about their disability. For more information about your rights as an air passenger with a disability, read the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) air travelers with disabilities There are also guides specifically forpassengers with developmental disabilities and those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. All passengers, including those with disabilities, must be screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. If you have questions or concerns about the process, contact TSA Cares by email or phone at 1-855-787-2227, or speak with a TSA officer beforehand. You may want to provide the officer with a TSA disability notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition. If you experience disability-related air travel service problems, call DOT’s Air Travelers with Disabilities hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (TTY: 1-800-455-9880) or file a complaint online.
  1. Public Transportation. Public transportation is crucial for people with disabilities to have access to employment, education, health care and activities in their community. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect people with disabilities from discrimination in public transportation services and facilities. The ADA also requires public transit agencies to provide free paratransitservices (also called “dial-a-ride”) for people who cannot use regular (“fixed-route”) services because of a disability. Your public transportation provider may provide “travel training” programs to help you learn your way around the system. Check with your local public transportation provider for information about paratransit services in your area. Other transportation choices include accessible taxis or “share-a-ride” programs that use volunteer drivers. If you’ve experience problems with using public transportation services or facilities, call the Federal Transit Administration’s ADA Assistance Line at 1-888-446-4511or email ADAAssistance@dot.gov. You can alsofile a complaintonline. Visit Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation or download Easter Seal’s “Everyday Travel Guide” to find tips for public transportation riders with disabilities. For more information about transportation services and reduced fare programs for people with disabilities and seniors, visit the American Public Transportation Association or call the National Transit Hotline at 1-800-527-8279.
  1. Riding the Rails. Railway transit can be a convenient, fast and cost-effective option for many people. For people with disabilities, there are some important things to know when traveling by train. First, you may be eligible for certain discounts. Also, if you need an accommodation while in a train station or on a train, you should contact your rail carrier before your trip to let them know. Amtrak offers information for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, portable oxygen equipment or service animals. It’s important to remember that rail providers may have different rules for emotional support animals and pets than for service animals.
  1. Winter Weather Travel. When winter storms hit, it’s important to put safety first, which means travel plans may need to be cancelled or postponed. As winter weather approaches, think of SNOW: “Stay off the roads, Not Out in the Weather.” However, even in the midst of the coldest winter weather, some travel must go on. If driving somewhere in the cold or snow, plan ahead by preparing your car for winter weather. Be sure to follow thesewinter driving tips, including keeping the gasoline tank at least half full at all times to avoid gas-line freeze up, and driving slowly during inclement weather. In case of an emergency while driving, be sure to keep a winter emergency kit in your car with items including a flashlight, food, water and warm clothing. Public transportation is often still an option during winter weather, but be careful when taking a train or a bus by following safety guidelines and dressing warmly. If you’re planning to travel by air during winter weather, check for flight delays or cancellations and take the proper steps in the event that a flight is cancelled.
  1. Adaptive Driving and Vehicle Modifications. Learning to drive, or re-learning after a disability or injury, can mean greater independence. You might take an adapted driver training course with a driver rehabilitation specialist or add specialized equipment to your vehicle. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists’ (ADED) fact sheets explain how types of disabilities or health conditions may affect a person’s ability to drive and what changes can be made. Use ADED’s Driver Rehabilitation Provider and Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialistsearch tools to find nearby adaptive driving programs. Check out United Spinal Association’s adaptive driving guide for information on driver training programs, adapting a vehicle and paying for vehicle modifications. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a helpful guide to Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities. Find a dealership for adapted vehicles with ADED’s Mobility Equipment Dealer search tool. When it’s time to purchase an adapted vehicle or pay for modifications, many options for financial assistance are available. State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies may help fund certain modifications if they’re necessary for the driver to get to work. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Automobile and Special Adaptive Equipment Grants help Veterans with certain service-connected disabilities buy an adapted vehicle or modify one. You may also wish to check with your state’s Assistive Technology Reuse program to see if they have adaptive equipment that works for you. For more information, read these tips on funding vehicle modificationsor visit the Vehicle Modifications section of Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation.
  1. Organizations That Can Help. Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation in Our Nation) is a program run by Easter Seals and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration. Project ACTION promotes access to transportation for people with disabilities, and provides aresource library on accessible transportation topics. Travelers with disabilities can get information on how to find and use accessible transportation, and transportation providers can get guidance on legal requirements and best practices to accommodate riders with disabilities. Recently, Easter Seals and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging created the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC), which will promote transportation options for seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers and communities through technical assistance, information and referral and community grants. The NADTC website is currently under construction, but you can visit their Facebook page and Twitter feed or call 1-866-983-3222 to learn more.
  1. Pedestrian Safety. Sidewalks and street crossings can be challenging for pedestrians with disabilities, especially when obstacles like illegally parked cars are in the way. During the winter, snow banks add to the problem, sometimes blocking ramps and curb cuts and forcing pedestrians with disabilities into the street. These barriers make it difficult and even unsafe for people to get around. The U.S. Access Board is developing guidelines for “public rights-of-way” that address issues related to accessible signals for pedestrians who are blind, parkingfor people with physical disabilities and accessibility of streets and sidewalks. The Federal Highway Administration’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program offers a guide on how to design accessible sidewalks and trails. Accessible Design for the Blind works to make travel safer for pedestrians with visual disabilities by providing information on travel training and detectable warnings. Read “A Safety Guide for Pedestrians with Disabilities” and use mobile apps like AXS Map to find accessible routes in your area. Learn how to make your community safer for all pedestrians at America Walks. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Civic Accessworks to ensure that all counties, cities, towns and villages comply with accessibility requirements of the ADA. You can report pedestrian accessibility issues in your area by filing an ADA complaint.
  1. Help Paying for Transportation. Paying for transportation can be difficult on a fixed income. Programs such asCharity Motors, Ways to Work and Working Cars for Working Families help low-income individuals and families buy a car or pay for automobile repairs. Many of them are state-based, so contact your localIndependent Living Center (ILC) to find nearby help. Paratransit is also a good option for people who cannot use “fixed route” public transportation services because of a disability. Check with your local public transportation provider to find paratransit services in your area. Some local organizations offer free or low cost transportation programs that help people with disabilities and seniors get to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and community events. Check with your local ILC, Aging and Disability Resource Center or Area Agency on Agingto learn more about programs near you. State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs provide temporary financial help to low-income families, including assistance paying for transportation to work or job training programs. People with disabilities can save money for disability-related expenses, including transportation, through an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. Watch this video to learn more about ABLE accounts.
  1. Around the World. International travel presents its own set of considerations for people with disabilities. All U.S. travelers leaving the country should prepare for their trip, understand passport requirements and know how to manage their health while abroad. Students with disabilities who are interested in studying abroad can use the State Department’s students aboard checklists to stay safe and enjoy their international experiences. Once you’re in a new country, accessibility standards might be very different and an unfamiliar landscape can mean challenges to getting around. Wheelchair users may have a variety of concerns, including old city structures, lack of curb cuts and limited or no accessible transportation options. People who are blind will have to learn how to navigate new areas and find new ways of communicating direction. In addition, disability may be viewed negatively or differently because of existing stigma in a particular country. You can downloadLonely Planet’s “Accessible Travel Guide” for free from the European Network for Accessible Tourism website to find accessible hotels, restaurants and tourist activities around the world. The “Comprehensive Guide to Traveling with a Disability” offers additional information. The U.S. Department of State’s National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange works to increase opportunities for people with disabilities in all types of travel; read the brochure to learn more.
  1. Rides to Your Appointments. Getting to and from medical appointments is a critical part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Medicaid funds Non-Emergency Medical Transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to learn more. Veterans with disabilities can use the nationwide volunteer transportation network provided by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for transportation to VA medical facilities for doctors’ appointments, medical tests and treatment. Use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to find contact information for your local program. Often, rural areas have limited public transportation options. Contact your state 2-1-1, Community Action Agency or local public transportation service to find information about rural transportation programs in your community. You can also use theEldercare Locator or talk to one of the site’s information specialists toll-free at 1-800-677-1116.Your state’sDepartment of Transportation or Department of Health & Human Services may offer information about local transportation services for people with disabilities and seniors, as well as programs that can help low-income individuals and families pay for their transportation needs. For additional information, visit Disability.gov’s Finding a Ride & Paratransit Services section.

SOURCE: disability.gov

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Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

Image result for student loans

If you are totally and permanently disabled, you may qualify for a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge of your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation. If you receive a TPD discharge, you will no longer be required to repay your loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation. This section explains more about TPD discharge.

 

Total and Permanent Discharge (TPD) 101

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information on this site has been updated to reflect changes to the total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge process that were made by final regulations issued on November 1, 2012 (PDF, Text). These changes apply to all TPD discharge applications received on or after July 1, 2013.

If your TPD discharge application was received before July 1, 2013, your application will continue to be processed in accordance with the procedures that were in effect prior to the regulatory changes. Those procedures are described on the application that you completed.

Who Assists The Department With TPD Discharge?

The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer assists the U.S. Department of Education (called “the Department” throughout this site) in administering the TPD discharge process. Nelnet manages this site and communicates with borrowers on behalf of the Department concerning TPD discharge requests.

The terms "borrower," “you,” and “your” are used throughout this site to refer to any TPD discharge applicant, including individuals who are applying for discharge of a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program service obligation. The terms “we,” “us,” and “our” are used to refer to the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer.

What Is TPD Discharge?

A TPD discharge relieves you from having to repay a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, and/or Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan or complete a TEACH Grant service obligation on the basis of your total and permanent disability. Before your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation can be discharged, you must provide information to the Department to show that you are totally and permanently disabled. The Department will evaluate the information and determine if you qualify for a TPD discharge.

If you think you might qualify and want to apply for a TPD discharge, you must provide the information the Department needs to make a determination by completing a TPD discharge application and gathering supporting documentation that shows you are totally and permanently disabled. Depending on your situation, you will either attach the supporting documentation to your application or have your physician complete Section 4 of your application. Once everything is complete, you’ll mail the discharge application and, if required, the supporting documentation to us.

The following sections outline the qualifications for TPD discharge and explain what will happen when the Department makes its determination.

How Do I Show That I’m Totally And Permanently Disabled?

You can show that you are totally and permanently disabled in one of the following three ways:

1 – If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability;

2 – If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can submit a Social Security Administration (SSA) notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; or

3 – You can submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:

  • Can be expected to result in death;
  • Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
  • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

Each option for showing that you are totally and permanently disabled has specific requirements for the supporting documentation that you must submit with your TPD discharge application. To review the supporting documentation requirements, click here.

What Should I Do If I Want To Apply For A TPD Discharge?

You should let us know that you want to apply. You can do this by phone or email. Call us seven days a week at 888.303.7818 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) or email us at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net. Another way to let us know that you want to apply is to start your TPD discharge application online. If you want to start your application online, click here.

When you let us know that you want to apply for a TPD discharge, we will take the following actions:

  • First, we will provide you with the information you need to apply for a TPD discharge.
  • Second, we will review our records and identify your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation that may qualify for a TPD discharge.
  • Finally, we will contact your loan holders and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans for a period of up to 120 days. This means that during the 120-day period you will not be required to make payments on your loans.

The suspension of collection activity will give you time to complete the TPD discharge application and return it to us for processing. If we do not receive your application within the 120-day period, your loan holders will resume collection activity on your loans, and you will again be required to make payments.

Can My Representative Apply On My Behalf And Help Me Throughout The Process?

Yes, your representative can complete and submit your TPD discharge application on your behalf, and assist you throughout the discharge process. However, you and your representative must complete an Applicant Representative Designation form. We must receive and process this form before we can work with your representative. You must submit this form even if you have a power of attorney for your representative.

To download and/or print the Applicant Representative Designation form, click here.

What Happens After I Apply?

After we receive your TPD discharge application, we will take the following actions:

  • First, we’ll contact the holders of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans while we determine your eligibility for discharge. This means that you will not be required to make payments on your loans while we evaluate your discharge application.
  • Second, we will review the TPD discharge application that you submit along with any supporting documentation to ensure that the application is complete, and that it includes information that indicates you may qualify for a discharge.
  • Finally, once we have received all required documentation and have determined that you appear to meet the eligibility requirements for a TPD discharge, we will forward your request on to the Department for a final decision.

What Happens If I Apply Based On VA Determination Of Unemployability Due To Service-Connected Disability?

The Department will evaluate the required documentation you submit and either approve or deny your TPD discharge request.

Approval

If the Department approves your discharge request, we will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval. We will also instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received on or after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the effective date of the VA’s determination that you were unemployable due to a service-connected disability.

After being notified that the Department has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will discharge your loans.

Denial

If the Department denies your discharge request, we will notify you of the denial by mail. We will also instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans. The letter that we send will include the reason for the denial and information on how you may request a re-evaluation of your application by submitting additional documentation from the VA.

What Happens If I Apply Based On SSA Documentation Or Physician’s Certification?

The Department will evaluate the required documentation you submit and either approve or deny your TPD discharge request.

Approval

If the Department approves your TPD discharge request, the following will occur:

  • We will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.
  • We will instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the date we received the documentation of your SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits, or the date the physician certified your discharge application, depending on the type of documentation you provided to show that you are totally and permanently disabled.
  • After being notified that the Department has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will transfer your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation to us for discharge. You will then be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period that begins on the date the discharge is approved. There are requirements that you must meet during the post-discharge monitoring period. Click here for detailed information regarding the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements.
  • We will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loans or complete your discharged TEACH Grant service obligation if at any time during the 3-year monitoring period you do not meet the requirements of the post-discharge monitoring period.

Denial

If the Department denies your TPD discharge request, we will notify you of the denial by mail. We will also instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans. The letter that we send will include the reason for the denial and instructions on what you can do if you have questions about the basis of the decision or believe there is other information that the Department should consider.

Note: If you receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant before the Department grants a discharge, the Department will deny your discharge request and instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.

Will I Be Eligible For New Loans Or Teach Grants?

If the Department grants a TPD discharge of your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation, you will not be eligible to receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant in the future unless:

  • You obtain a certification from a physician that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity; and
  • You sign a statement acknowledging that the new loan or TEACH Grant service obligation cannot be discharged in the future on the basis of any injury or illness present at the time the new loan or TEACH Grant is made, unless your condition substantially deteriorates so that you are again totally and permanently disabled.

In addition, if your discharge was granted based on documentation from the SSA or a physician’s certification and you request a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant during the 3‑year post‑discharge monitoring period described earlier, you must resume repayment on the previously discharged loans or acknowledge that you are once again subject to the terms of your TEACH Grant service obligation before you can receive the new loan or TEACH Grant.

Are There Tax Implications After Approval And Discharge Of My Loan Balances?

The Department reports the discharge of any loan debt totaling $600.00 or more to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the year that the loan was discharged. If your loans are discharged, we will send you an IRS Form 1099-C that will identify the total amount of your discharged debt. The amount of the discharged debt will be considered income for federal tax purposes and possibly for state tax purposes. You may want to consult with a tax professional to determine how this may affect your personal taxes.

How Do I Apply?

For information about TPD discharge application options, click here.

If you are ready to start your TPD discharge application online, click here.

 

SOURCE: www.disabilitydischarge.com

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J&J Must Pay $72 Million for Cancer Death Linked to Talcum Powder

Products made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado in this file photo dated April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Products made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado in this file photo dated April 14, 2009.

 

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) was ordered by a Missouri state jury to pay $72 million of damages to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company's talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for several decades.

In a verdict announced late Monday night, jurors in the circuit court of St. Louis awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $10 million of actual damages and $62 million of punitive damages, according to the family's lawyers and court records.

The verdict is the first by a U.S. jury to award damages over the claims, the lawyers said.

Johnson & Johnson faces claims that it, in an effort to boost sales, failed for decades to warn consumers that its talc-based products could cause cancer. About 1,000 cases have been filed in Missouri state court, and another 200 in New Jersey.

Fox, who lived in Birmingham, Alabama, claimed she used Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene for more than 35 years before being diagnosed three years ago with ovarian cancer. She died in October at age 62.

Jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy, the family's lawyers said. Deliberations lasted four hours, following a three-week trial.

Jere Beasley, a lawyer for Fox's family, said Johnson & Johnson "knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk," and yet resorted to "lying to the public, lying to the regulatory agencies." He spoke on a conference call with journalists.

Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said: "We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathize with the plaintiff's family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence."

Trials in several other talc lawsuits have been set for later this year, according to Danielle Mason, who also represented Fox's family at trial.

In October 2013, a federal jury in Sioux Falls, South Dakota found that plaintiff Deane Berg's use of Johnson & Johnson's body powder products was a factor in her developing ovarian cancer. Nevertheless, it awarded no damages, court records show.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO) now owns the Shower to Shower brand but was not a defendant in the Fox case.

The case is Hogans et al v. Johnson & Johnson et al, Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, No. 1422-CC09012.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Additional reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Alan Crosby)

SOURCE: reuters.com

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Anxiety. Depression. Bankruptcy. One family’s battle with workplace injury.

Advocates complain of WSIB’s “systematic disregard” for professional medical advice

Sherry Harrison is about to lose her Brampton home, seen here, because of her son's fight with the WSIB. Her son Matthew suffered a hand injury in construction six years ago and has been fighting over compensation ever since.

RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR 

Sherry Harrison is about to lose her Brampton home, seen here, because of her son's fight with the WSIB. Her son Matthew suffered a hand injury in construction six years ago and has been fighting over compensation ever since.

In 2010, Matthew Harrison was just a regular young man with his life ahead of him: he was building up his work credentials, saving up for a car and speakers, sometimes juggling up to four jobs at once.

It took just one workplace blip, a seemingly minor injury he thought he could push through. And it all unravelled.

“You’d think it would be so drastic. But it was so simple,” Harrison says.

Six years later, he says he struggles with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, has tried to end his life and his mother has declared bankruptcy. He says they have just been served with an eviction notice from their modest Brampton home.

But far from helping, Harrison and his mother say the system meant to protect them — the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board — has driven them to the edge of despair.

“They just kept brushing me off and brushing me off,” Harrison says.

In a statement to the Star, WSIB said it could not comment on individual claims but it was “aware of Mr. Harrison’s concerns” and was “working directly with him to address them.” The Star reviewed 60 pages of Harrison’s medical files and correspondence with WSIB, in which the board says that Harrison fully healed from his injury, and that his ongoing symptoms were partly related to a pre-existing condition — a too-long forearm. It also says he undertook operations that were unnecessary and unauthorized by WSIB.

Harrison says his experiences reflect the findings of a recent report to the Ontario Ombudsman, which demanded that WSIB be investigated for systematically ignoring medical advice from injured workers’ treating doctors and for unfairly cutting off benefits. For Harrison, that ordeal began in 2010, when he was placed at an Orangeville construction company through a temp agency. Six weeks into the job, he ran over a piece of concrete on a pump truck. The jolt tore a ligament in his dominant hand.

Harrison’s medical records show that the board’s doctor, who was the director of the WSIB Hand Specialty Program, approved Harrison for surgery following his injury, and recommended a bone-shortening operation. He was told his prognosis was good and that he would fully recover.

But after returning to work following the operation, Harrison, now 29, says the pain persisted; his records show continual complaints both to WSIB and his personal physician following his initial operation.

In 2013, his own doctor recommended he undergo surgical examination. The procedure found that Harrison had two tears in his ligaments, which were subsequently operated on. But according to Harrison, WSIB has never acknowledged that his first surgery didn’t work or that he required another operation to fix the problem.

His followup reports with WSIB doctors say that “overall,” he had shown “some improvement” following his initial surgery. His case file also says Harrison “took it upon himself” to obtain further, unauthorized treatment.

His WSIB case file also notes he has been unable to maintain work because of ongoing wrist pain. It cites evidence from his personal doctor that he now has permanent nerve impairment following his surgeries and that his painful symptoms will not go away.

Although his own doctor recommended extensive physical therapy to heal, amounting to around $4,500, Harrison says he received a cheque for just $45 from WSIB to cover those expenses.

“It would be in his best interest to be retrained for a less physical job and it will likely cause him less pain as there is significant activity related pain here though it will not abolish his symptoms,” his orthopedic surgeon wrote in one letter.

In an assessment, Harrison says the board told him he could work as a cashier or in sales — but that he was not deemed eligible for a workplace retraining program.

Harrison says he continued to pick up a variety of manual labour jobs to pay the bills, and because he says he hated the feeling of doing nothing. But he says the pain in his hand continued to be unbearable and eventually made it impossible to work.

Last year, five years after his initial injury, Harrison received $8,500 in a permanent disability award from WSIB, and four cheques for lost earnings. His entitlements are limited, because the board ruled that only 10 per cent of his impairment could be attributed to his accident. The board said his Harrison’s forearm was too long — a pre-existing condition that became “symptomatic” as a result of Harrison’s workplace injury.

Worker’s-rights advocates say that new WSIB guidelines introduced in November of 2014 have resulted in more and more injured workers being assessed for “pre-existing” medical conditions in an effort to limit the board’s financial obligation to them.

“Despite medical opinions to the contrary, the WSIB often attributes illness or injury to ‘pre-existing conditions,’ and refuses to fund benefits or care,” a recent report by the Ontario Federation of Labour says.

WSIB’s statement to the Star said it maintained a “network of highly specialized health care professionals who assess and treat workers.”

“Medical information about a worker’s injury from their treating health care professional is integral to WSIB decision making. To help us consider the medical information that is on file, we may request a medical consultant review in more complex situations.”

“WSIB decision-makers assess and weigh all relevant case facts and clinical information, including the medical consultant’s opinion, to make adjudicative decisions in a case,” the statement added.

Harrison says he developed severe anxiety and depression as a result of the whole experience; his doctor has prescribed a range of treatments for those conditions — including clonazepam, which is prescribed for panic disorders, and lorazepam, which treats anxiety disorders. He has since tried to cut back on those medications; in 2014, he swallowed bottle of anti-anxiety pills in a bid to end of his life because of frustration with his workplace and WSIB ordeals, he says.

“Who’s going to hire somebody like me? I’m a liability to them.”

His mother Sherry says she and Matthew used to do fine when he was pulling in good money. But paying the bills alone on her income — she clears around $2,600 a month in her job as an office manager — has been tough.

“We’ve eaten French fries for dinner and cookies because there’s no food in the house,” she says.

“Matthew and I don’t do anything because we have no money. We don’t go out unless we absolutely have to because we have to preserve our gas because Matthew has doctors’ appointment and I have to go to work.”

In August, Sherry says she had to declare bankruptcy. She’s had to tell her landlord she can’t afford this month’s rent, and is worried she’ll be forced to uproot.

“I just get up in the morning put a smile on my face and go to work. I wear the same clothes every day. Yeah,” she says, pausing for breath. “I guess you could say it’s taken its toll on me.”

“I didn’t mean to get injured,” her son adds. “I was told growing up when you get injured, they help you and you move on. I just know I’m getting angry, and nothing is working.”

SOURCE: thestar.com

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Avoidable Medical Errors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in America

 

“According to the report, published in the Journal of Patient Safety, ‘between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death,’ the study says. That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.” 

 

Source: Marshall Allen, “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals?” ProPublica, September 19, 2013, cited in CJ&D's Briefing Book: Medical Malpractice - By The Numbers (p. 77)

SOURCE: centerjd.org

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The Myth Of Workers' Compensation Fraud

This Frontline report documents the extent to which the insurance industry's focus on employee fraud has advanced workers' compensation reforms that cut benefits for injured workers. Responding to media reports that innacurately cite claimant fraud as the driving force behind rising costs, the report addresses the significantly higher rates of employer fraud within the system. 

Source: Cullen, Lisa. “The Myth of Workers’ Compensation Fraud.” Frontline:  A Dangerous Business. (January 9, 2003).

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  the myth of workers' compensation fraud by Lisa Cullen
 

In recent years, the insurance industry's focus on cheaters and malingerers helped push through national workers' compensation reform, a profitable cost-cutting campaign supported by outrage over alleged abuse of the system. The problem, however, is that the fraud image is false for the vast majority of workers' compensation cases. Studies show that only 1 to 2 percent of workers' compensation claims are fraudulent. 1 2 Certainly, the tens of thousands of workers killed every year were hardly aiming for a free ride on their employer's tab.

***

A national prime time television show aired a show on workers' compensation fraud, opening dramatically with footage of an old man working on a farm and a lawyer interviewing that same old man.

Announcer: This is DATELINE Monday, May 29th, 2000. Tonight. It's a crime that takes money out of your pocket, it starts with a lie.
Unidentified Lawyer: Are you able to lift anything?
Mr. Emil Mentel: A cup.
Lawyer: A cup?
Mr. Mentel: This is how I am.
Announcer: Think he's a broken old man? Here's what hidden cameras showed he was really doing while collecting money from you.
Mr. Manny Pageler: The man can grip. I see the legs working, I see the arms working.
John Larson reporting: When you first saw that videotape of him throwing that bale of hay, what was your reaction?
Mr. Pageler: I was mad.
Announcer: John Larson, with lies, ripoffs and videotape.3

Lisa Cullen has been an industrial hygienist for 15 years and holds certification by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. She is a volunteer for Families in Grief Hold Together (The FIGHT Project) and a contributing editor for Occupational Hazards Magazine. She has written for Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and the National Safety Council. The excerpt here is reprinted with permission from Cullen's book A Job to Die For: Why So Many Americans Are Killed, Injured or Made Ill at Work and What to Do About It (Common Courage Press, 2002).

 

One of the many incendiary messages in this show is in the announcer's very first line when the viewer is informed that "money is taken right out of their pocket." Seconds later, the announcer again informs viewers that the supposedly injured man was throwing hay bales "while collecting money from you."

Money does not mysteriously float out of viewer's pockets as portrayed by the sensationalized lead into this segment. First, money paid to workers' compensation claims, including fraudulent ones, comes directly from insurance industry profits. Only after dipping into insurer profits does the cost get passed onto employers purchasing workers' compensation insurance. Then, the costs are spread over the entire group of policyholders; costs are not charged back to each employer dollar for dollar with their injuries. If employer rates do increase, the employer pays for it by one or more of the following ways: taking it out of the company profits; reducing wages; and passing it on to consumers. For the smaller number of companies that choose to self-insure, they pay the claims directly rather than pay premiums for workers' compensation insurance. Then, and only then, does it come out of the general public's pocket IF the public chooses to purchase the specific products made by companies with high workers' compensation rates. In neither case does money flow out of unsuspecting people's pockets as portrayed by the insurance industry. ...

The show neglected to mention that in 1998, workers' compensation costs were only 1.35% of payroll down from a peak of 2.17% in 1993. It also failed to explain that between 1992 and 1998, workers' compensation costs to employers decreased 38% as a percentage of payroll while benefits to workers declined 35%.4

Instead, in the middle of the segment, reporter John Larson asserts, "After all, workers' compensation fraud is quite common. The industry estimates it adds up to $5 billion a year."5 The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations6 (AFL-CIO) has heard this $5 billion claim before. The union's workers' compensation newsletter explained, "These allegations have absolutely no relationship to fact but are based on 'attitudes' about fraud (when respondents say they 'know' of someone supposedly on workers' comp even though he or she might be capable of working). A similar claim put workers' compensation fraud at 20 percent of the total of all claims in California in 1996; the truth was that suspected fraud that year, according to the state's Department of Insurance, was three-tenths of one percent!"7

In the summer of 2000, an independent team of experts -- J. Paul Leigh, Ph.D., Steven Markowitz, M.D., Marianne Fahs, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Philip Landrigan, M.D. -- published a book titled, "Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses." In it, they estimated the national price tag for fraudulent claims to be 1.2 billion dollars, roughly one-fourth of the insurance industry estimate. Conceding that $1.2 billion is still a lot of money, the Leigh team put it into perspective by explaining that it was only about two-percent of all workers' compensation dollars spent in their sample year of 199[2].8 Whether the true fraud rate is less than one-percent or as high as two-percent, it is hardly "quite common."

The Dateline show provoked a response from the AFL-CIO Department of Occupational Health and Safety, which wrote:

On May 29th NBC Nightly News and its program Dateline chose again to focus on an instance of worker fraud in workers' compensation. Despite the fact that studies show that claimant fraud in this system is minimal -- in California, worker fraud is less than 3 tenths of 1 percent of all claims; and in Wisconsin, it is less than 1 tenth of 1 percent of all claims, these exposés, encouraged by irresponsible allegations from the insurance industry, feed the myth that workers injured on the job are frauds, cheats, and malingerers.9

From the opposite side of the country, Robert Stern of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO also sent a letter to Dateline reporter Tom Brokaw. He received no response.

Dear Mr. Brokaw:

Approximately a week and a half ago, you broadcast a report on fraud by an injured worker in California. I frankly do not know whether or not this worker in fact committed fraud. I have no sympathy for workers who defraud the Industrial Insurance system. What is astonishing to me is that your report focused on what is acknowledged by the vast majority of academic experts to be, by far, the source of the lowest amount of fraud in the Industrial Insurance system. In every study that has been done on fraud in Workers' Compensation, employer, insurer, and provider fraud are found to be a dramatically greater problem than claimant fraud. At a time when injured workers throughout this nation are suffering enormously from "deform" of the system driven primarily by insurance providers, your report gave a seriously skewed presentation on the problems with the system.

I do not believe you have a serious interest in what is happening to injured workers, but if by chance you do, I urge you to take a look at the recommendations that were made by the National Commission on Workers' Compensation during the Nixon administration (an administration not particularly sympathetic to workers), then have your staff compare those recommendations to today's reality for injured workers. We should be ashamed of what we are doing to injured workers throughout this nation.

I wish I did not feel cynical about sending you this e-mail. I am sorry that you have bitten the insurance industry bait, hook, line and sinker.10

-- Robert Stern, Special Assistant to the President,
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

In the 1970s, benefits to injured workers sunk so low that President Nixon appointed the National Commission on State Workmen's Compensation Laws to study the issue. It recommended that all states pay totally disabled workers at least two-thirds of their salary up to a maximum of the state's average weekly wage. Still, 17 states have not complied with the Commission's recommended standard wage.11

Studies support Stern's assertion that employer fraud is much greater than claimant fraud. In Florida, a 1995-1996 compliance audit found that of 22,758 employers contacted, 13.1% were operating without legally required workers' compensation insurance. In just the next year, the auditors found the rate grew another half percent.12 Stating that 13.6% is probably an underestimate, the audit report explained that in addition to the large number of employers making no attempt to buy the insurance, still others cheat the system by intentionally under-reporting or misclassifying its payroll and by falsely representing employees as independent contractors.13

In a 1997 press release, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development stated that workers' compensation fraud in the state was less than six-tenths of one percent.14 As recently as November 1, 2000, the same department reported on fraud from 1994 to 1999 concluding, "The public perception of workers' compensation fraud is exaggerated," and "The documented level of workers' compensation fraud in Wisconsin is minimal."15

A few months after the Dateline show aired, the LA Times printed, "Anti-Fraud Drive Proves Costly for Employees," and found, "Over the last decade, employers and insurance carriers have saved billions of dollars as legislatures in many states rolled back benefits, more narrowly defined workplace injuries and introduced impediments to collecting for them."16

And the J. Paul Leigh team concluded, "The dollar amount of fraudulent workers' compensation claims submitted by workers pales in comparison to the amount for claims never filed and, more importantly, the overall small amount of total costs paid by workers' compensation systems. Moreover, fraud committed by insurance companies at workers' expense is likely to be significant."17

The Leigh team further estimated that workers' compensation covers only 27 percent of all occupational illness and injury costs and that taxpayers bear a financial burden of 28.5 billion dollars -- close to six times the estimate of workers' compensation fraud -- through Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Further, they discovered that costs were borne by injured workers and their families, by all workers through lower wages, by employers with lower profits and by consumers with higher prices. Specifically, they estimated that injured and ill workers and their families absorbed about 44% of the costs.18 Now that is an injustice worthy of outrage. ...

 EXCLUSIVE REMEDY

Workers' compensation is hardly the gold mine insurers portray it as. Fat lawsuits and big settlements are usually completely out of the question.

"When I tell distraught families who just lost someone in a workplace fatality that they cannot sue the employer, they are shocked. Sometimes it takes attorneys to tell them the same thing until they believe it," says Ron Hayes, founder of Families in Grief Hold Together (The FIGHT Project). "I've had families go to three or four attorneys until they would accept it. It depends on how angry they are."

The National Academy of Social Insurance, a private non-profit, non-partisan resource center explains the workers' compensation arrangement this way:

Under the exclusive remedy concept, the worker accepts workers' compensation as payment in full, without recourse to an additional tort suit. Employers are responsible for benefit payments as prescribed by workers' compensation laws, thereby ending their liability.32

In other words, exclusive remedy safeguards employers from large punitive awards but impedes justice in the many cases that might be better served in court. The bottom line is that in all but the most willfully negligent circumstances, injured and ill workers cannot sue their employer for making them injured or ill.

Discussing exclusive remedy in an online article, the law firm of Boxer & Gerson explained a California case this way:

The survivors of three workers killed by the Tosco refinery explosion were awarded a total of $21 million in damages. The workers were not employees of Tosco but of a subcontractor at the site; thus they had the right to sue Tosco for negligence. In contrast, Steve Duncan was a Tosco employee. He survived by jumping off the tower while ablaze from the blast. His sole remedy is workers' compensation. As a result of falling some 60 feet, Duncan broke almost every bone in his body. He has had 24 surgeries to date, numerous skin grafts, and amputation of his fingers and a thumb on one hand. He is confined to a wheelchair; and has numerous metal pins sticking out from his knee and thigh.

He was earning more than $1,000 per week. Now, he gets $490 a week in temporary disability benefits. Even if he is totally, permanently disabled, this is the most he will ever get -- no cost of living raise and no lump sum payment. If he is found to be less than 100% permanently disabled -- even if marginally less, such as 99.75% disabled -- he will receive just $230 per week in permanent disability benefits -- and not for life, but for a finite period of time.33

Hayes explains, "In a handful of states, there are certain exceptions that let people sue, such as when a person behaves criminally. But usually, they cannot sue their direct employer. Instead, they have to sue other employers that were involved (like on a multi-employer construction site) or they can sue under product liability, like when someone killed by a drill rig sues the manufacturer of the equipment rather than the employer who did not maintain it or train workers on it."

"But," cautions Ron, "what people don't realize is that if they win these lawsuits, they then have to return all money received under workers' compensation because winning the suit will actually prove someone else was at fault. So here are these families that fight to win in court and then they discover that of any award they received, they have to pay the lawyers 30-40% off the top, return any workers' compensation they have received back to the insurance company (sometimes a lump sum of $20,000 or more) and they won't receive any more payments under workers' compensation. The employer's insurance company actually ends up getting their money back." Ron describes the whole mess, saying "It's like the lawyers need to hire economists to figure out if the families will end up with anything." ...

The flip side of the exclusive remedy coin is that workers are paid even if an injury was partially their fault. If a person missteps and falls off a ladder, for instance, he or she is still compensated. The exclusive remedy trade-off works for many short duration injuries and illnesses where the system achieves the goal of prompt compensation without lawsuits. For most seriously injured and ill workers, however, the system does not work fairly.

After lengthy investigation, Executive Director Greg Tarpinian from Labor Reseach Associates concludes, "The presumption of widespread malingering and dishonesty undercuts any meaningful discussion of the adequacy of benefits and provides a convenient response for those opposed to the benefit increases that are so critically needed in many states. Until the misplaced focus on claimant fraud is overcome, district attorneys will continue to fry the small fish while the big fish go free, and the voting public will remain distracted by anecdotes. The emphasis on fraud and costs also distracts the public and lawmakers from the workplace hazards and flagrant safety violations that are the real cause of the problem of worker injuries and workers' compensation costs."35

LINKS AND READINGS


 FOOTNOTES

1. Rohrlich, Ted and Evelyn Larrubia, "Anti-Fraud Drive Proves Costly for Employees." Los Angeles Times. Aug. 7, 2000.

2. Leigh, J. Paul et al. Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. pg. 195-197.

3. National Broadcasting Company, Inc. Dateline, NBC, May 29, 2000. Burrelle's Information Services, Burrelle's Transcripts, No. 1124. pg. 1.

4. National Academy of Social Insurance. "Workers' Compensation: Benefits, Coverage and Costs, 1997-1998 New Estimates." May 2000.http://www.nasi.org/publications2763/publications_
show.htm?doc_id=53221&name=Workers%27%20Compensation
. pg. 1

5. National Broadcasting Company, Inc. Dateline, NBC, May 29, 2000. Burrelle's Information Services, Burrelle's Transcripts, No. 1124, pg. 3.

6. While the AFL-CIO is actually a federation of many different unions, it is referred to as a union to simplify the reference.

7. AFL-CIO. "Fraud, Fraud and More Fraud." Workers' Compensation Notes; Issue 2, 1998.

8. Leigh, J. Paul et al. Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. pg. 195.

9. Workers' Compensation Notes, AFL-CIO Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Issue 3-00, May/June 2000. pg. 1.

10. Stern, Robert. Personal communication, reprint permission given.

11. Harris, Marlys. "Workers Comp: Falling Down on the Job." Consumer Reports. February 2000. pg. 29. (Since workers' compensation is not taxed, theoretically, workers don't need their full wages; hence the Commission's two-thirds pay recommendation.)

12. Supreme Court of the State of Florida. Case Number 90,703: Report of the Fourteenth Statewide Grand Jury. Report of Workers' Compensation Fraud, Findings Section (IV)(A)(1). July Term, 1997.

13. Supreme Court of the State of Florida. Case Number 90,703: Report of the Fourteenth Statewide Grand Jury. Report of Workers' Compensation Fraud, Findings Section (IV)(A)(4). July Term, 1997.

14. State of Wisconsin, Department of Workforce Development. "Workers' Compensation Fraud is Low." Press Release, November 26, 1997.

15. State of Wisconsin, Department of Workforce Development. "Allegation of Workers' Compensation Fraud." November 1, 2000.

16. Rohrlich, Ted and Evelyn Larrubia, "Anti-Fraud Drive Proves Costly for Employees." Los Angeles Times. Aug. 7, 2000.

17. Leigh, J. Paul et al. Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. pg. 12-13.

18. Leigh, J. Paul et al. Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. pg. 2 and 11.

32. National Academy of Social Insurance. "Workers' Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 1997-1998 New Estimates." May 2000.http://www.nasi.org/publications2763/publications_
show.htm?doc_id=53221&name=Workers%27%20Compensation

33. Young, Julius. "Workers' Compensation Reform: Why Is It Needed?" Boxer & Gerson, 171-12th Street, Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 835-8870. (Article text taken from a white paper prepared by Doug Kim for the California Applicant's Attorney Association. Mr. Duncan testified before the SB 996 Conference Committee hearing on Temporary and Permanent Disability Benefits, on May 8, 2000 at the State Capitol, Sacrament, CA.) http://www.boxerlaw.com/bg04024b.htm

35. Tarpinian, Greg. Labor Research Council, "Workers' Compensation Fraud: The Real Story," June 1998. http://www.laborresearch.org/ind_temps/work_comp_fraud._rpt.html

 

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7 Celebrities Who Manage Life With Chronic Pain

These celebs show that chronic pain isn’t a deal breaker for living your best life. Click through to find out how they’re coping—and speaking out for solutions.

By 

Stars, they hurt just like us

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Chronic pain can be debilitating and frustrating—but these celebrities show that it can also be inspiring. Here we show how these seven stars make choices every day to live fully, balancing treatments and pain management while inspiring the rest of us to live our best lives.

Sinead O’Connor

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The controversial Irish rocker stepped away from the limelight in 2003, in large part because she suffered from fibromyalgia. Two years later, she was back, saying, “Fibromyalgia is not curable. But it’s manageable. You get to know your patterns and limits, so you can work and plan around it.” O’Connor, who also has bipolar disorder, manages to juggle her career and raising four children—noting that her high pain threshold and ability to lower her expectations that her life be “perfect” help take the pressure off herself to feel good all the time.

Jillian Michaels

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The Biggest Loser trainer, Jillian Michaels, kept her diagnosis of endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) to herself for years, worried that it would damage her “beacon of health” reputation. The conditions can cause pain—in endometriosis, cells from the uterine lining can grow on other organs and tissue in the body; PCOS indicates a hormonal imbalance that leads to irregular menstrual cycles and small cysts in the ovaries. Michaels came forward about the conditions after a reporter’s questions about her plans to adopt prompted her to say she wouldn’t put herself through the physical challenge of pregnancy. She later clarified that since her condition can cause infertility and pregnancy may require her to have surgical procedures, she felt more comfortable adopting. She has said that while she used to suffer from debilitating abdominal pain, she found that eating a diet that includes, among other things, organic foods and nonprocessed soy and exercising regularly have helped alleviate her symptoms.

 

Cynthia McFadden

When she was in college in 1977, the future ABC News/Nightline anchor was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Her coping mechanisms ranged from humor—she and her friends called it George to avoid having to discuss the specifics of her condition—to growing her fingernails long so she could dig them into the skin on her arm to distract her from intestinal pain that would leave her doubled over. McFadden has been in remission since having 15 feet of intestine removed in 1979, but it’s clear she can also credit her own steely determination with managing the disease: “I decided a long time ago, I wasn’t going to live my life around George.” Her successful career as a news anchor is proof positive of that attitude. 

Kathleen Turner

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The actress was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the soft tissue and joints—in 1992, though she’d experienced symptoms for about a year before that. A blood test confirmed the diagnosis, which, in turn, gave the actress a healthy dose of perspective. “Suddenly all that stuff about having good looks and being sexy took secondary position to being able to walk without pain,” she has said. After abusing alcohol to cope with the pain, she got sober and set herself on a path to not only find a cutting-edge medication that placed her disease in remission, but to speak out about the disease. She went on a crusade to raise funds and awareness for RA (at least 1.3 million Americans suffer from it), earning a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work from the Massachusetts Arthritis Foundation. “It is important to me that people know they have options so they can get some relief from this debilitating disease,” she has said, noting that early treatment is key to managing the disease. 

Montel Williams

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Millions of Americans remember the suave and successful host of The Montel Williams Show announcing that he had multiple sclerosis in 1999, a year after he received the diagnosis that put an end to 10 years of misdiagnoses for his chronic pain, but for which there had been other symptoms dating back to his late teens. Williams says he chose to view the diagnosis, ultimately, as a “call to action.” He went public with his diagnosis, largely to create a sense of urgency to find a cure. Today, he heads the Montel Williams Foundation, which, for 11 years, has raised funds for research toward a cure. Williams is also the author of eight books, including Body Change, which outlines the exercise regimen he uses to stay strong and keep additional symptoms at bay. He has said he exercises for 75 minutes a day.

 

George Clooney

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The actor who is as famous for his anti-genocide activism (and his love life) as his movie roles suffered a debilitating back injury while filming the 2005 thriller Syriana. Hitting his head on the floor during an intensely violent scene, he tore the dura—the wrap around the spine that holds in spinal fluid—and told reporters that, prior to a number of corrective surgeries, the pain was so bad that he thought “ending it all” seemed like a viable option. Despite undergoing surgery to reinforce his spine with bolts, Clooney says the injury has never completely healed, forcing the 50-year-old star to drop out of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s version of the 1960s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.According to Eonline.com, “He said he just can’t do the action and stunt scenes,” revealed an U.N.C.L.E. source who’s familiar with the actor’s health situation. “In fact, I think he’s planning on having another operation during the time he would have been filming.”

Jennifer Grey

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The 2010 Dancing with the Stars champ suffered chronic pain for years after a neck injury from a 1987 car accident. Managing the pain mainly with “Advil and ice packs,” she focused her energy not on her career, but on becoming a wife and mom—eventually marrying actor Clark Gregg and having daughter Stella, now 9. When she joinedDancing’s 11th season, she did it largely because she wanted to push herself after a surgery to insert a plate in her neck (to ease pain and prevent further damage) led doctors to discover cancerous tumors on her thyroid. The cancer had not spread, her thyroid was removed, and no chemotherapy or radiation was needed. “I wondered, what if I took more risks?” She danced without knowing whether she could complete her final dance—the night before the finale, she ruptured a disc in her lower back. But even her doctor, who supervised her carefully, said, “People are better off moving around than sitting around.” Surgery to repair the disc has left her “pain free.”

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The Long-Term Effects of Untreated Chronic Pain

The Long-Term Effects of Untreated Chronic Pain

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Being in pain is quite uncomfortable for most people. Even minor pain, such as a stubbed toe or a paper cut, is unpleasant but that pain fades relatively quickly. Imagine being in pain that never fades, or that fades only to come back a few hours later. What would that do to a person? This is what people with chronic pain have to deal with every day.

Chronic pain, a diagnosis including arthritis, back pain, and recurring migraines, can have a profound effect on a person’s day to day life when it goes untreated. People dealing with ongoing or long-term pain can become irritable, short-tempered, and impatient, and with good reason. Constant pain raises the focus threshold for basic functioning, which leaves the pained person with a greatly reduced ability to find solutions or workarounds to even relatively mundane problems. Something like a traffic jam, which most people would be mildly annoyed by but ultimately take in stride, could seriously throw off the rhythm of someone who is putting forth so much effort just to get through the day.

Upper Back pain

After a while, pain wears a person down, draining their energy and sapping their motivation. They sometimes attempt to limit social contact in an effort to reduce stress and to decrease the amount of energy they have to spend reacting to their environment. Eventually, many people with chronic pain develop depression-like symptoms: lack of interpersonal interaction, difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, and the desire to simplify their life as much as possible, which often manifests as seeking isolation and quiet. Sleeping often makes the pain less intrusive, and that combined with the exhaustion that pain induces means that it isn’t uncommon for a person to start sleeping upwards of ten hours a day.

Some recent studies have also shown that chronic pain can actually affect a person’s brain chemistry and even change the wiring of the nervous system. Cells in the spinal cord and brain of a person with chronic pain, especially in the section of the brain that processes emotion, deteriorate more quickly than normal, exacerbating many of the depression-like symptoms. It becomes physically more difficult for people with chronic pain to process multiple things at once and react to ongoing changes in their environment, limiting their ability to focus even more. Sleep also becomes difficult, because the section of the brain that regulates sense-data also regulates the sleep cycle. This regulator becomes smaller from reacting to the pain, making falling asleep more difficult for people with chronic pain.

In addition to making some symptoms more profound, the change in brain chemistry can, create new ones, as well. The most pronounced of these are anxiety and depression. After enough recurring pain, the brain rewires itself to anticipate future bouts, which makes patients constantly wary and causes significant anxiety related to pain. Because chronic pain often mimics depression by altering how a person’s brain reacts to discomfort and pain, chronic pain often biologically creates a feeling of hopelessness and makes it more difficult to process future pain in a healthy way. In fact, roughly one third of patients with chronic pain develop depression at some point during their lifetime.

Untreated pain creates a downward spiral of chronic pain symptoms, so it is always best to treat pain early and avoid chronic pain. This is why multidisciplinary pain clinics should be involved for accurate diagnosis and effective intervention early in the course of a painful illness – as soon as the primary care provider runs out of options that they can do themselves such as physical therapy or medications. However, even if the effects of chronic pain have set in, effective interdisciplinary treatment may significantly reduce the consequences of pain in their lives. There are any number of common treatments, which include exercise, physical therapy, a balanced diet, and prescription pain medication. Ultimately, effective treatment depends on the individual person and the specific source of the pain. One thing is very clear, however: the earlier a person begins effective treatment, the less the pain will affect their day-to-day life.

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West Virginia allows painkiller addicts to sue prescribing doctors.

By JIM AXELROD, ASHLEY VELIE CBS NEWS January 6, 2016, 7:04 PM

 

WEST VIRGINIA -- About two million Americans are hooked on prescription painkillers. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written -- that's one bottle for every American adult. CBS News went to West Virginia, a state that is attempting a drastic solution: allowing addicts to sue the doctors who got them hooked.

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Willis Duncan

 CBS NEWS

Seventeen years ago, Willis Duncan's life changed forever when a coal mining accident left him with a crushed sternum and broken ribs.

"If I didn't have ten pain pills, I wouldn't go to work. Bottom line," said Duncan.

He developed a life-long addiction to painkillerswhen his doctor's only "treatment" was a never-ending supply of pills.

Duncan said he would go in to get a check up, but the exam wasn't done by a doctor. "The only time you went in to see a doctor was to get your pills raised."

He would wait for hours to be seen at a clinic for just a few minutes, where 150 patients lined up every day.

Duncan said he never told a doctor he needed help. "Never. Because you'd get used to them, and you didn't know how to function without them," he explained.

The cash-only operation allowed doctors to clear as much as $100,000 a week. The clinic was raided and shut down in 2010.

Exam rooms were filled with piles of trash and files, loose prescription pads, syringes and starving birds stuck in roach-infested cages.

Hundreds of patient records were seized with thousands of undated and pre-signed prescriptions for addictive pain medications like Vicodin, Xanax and Lortab. The doctor in charge went to jail for six months for negligence.

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The inside of an exam room at a West Virginia pain clinic

"We are talking in a certain sense drug traffickers. They are doing nothing but writing and cranking out prescription after prescription after prescription," said DEA agent Gary Newman.

Newman is part of a team currently investigating dozens of doctors, pharmacies and distributors throughout the state of West Virginia.

West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation. Each year doctors write the equivalent of one painkiller prescription for every man, woman and child in this state of 1.8 million people.

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Dr. Michael Kostenko

In the last year, the West Virginia Department of Health inspected 19 pain clinics. Twelve were told to shut down.

One is run by doctor Michael Kostenko. He's written more than 40,000 pain pill prescriptions over the last two years at his Coal Country Clinic. Kostenko was among those ordered to stop operating as a pain clinic, but remains open.

After weeks of trying to reach Kostenko, CBS News drove out to Coal Country Clinic at the end of a narrow two-mile logging road. Instead of finding the doctor, the team came face to face with a Rottweiler.

Shutting down these clinics can often take years because these are licensed doctors writing legal prescriptions.

"Therein lies the problem. You have to be able to prove in court that their prescribing was for a non-medical necessity, or in such an egregious amount that it was negligent," Newman explained.

Among the 30 West Virginians now suing their doctors and pharmacies for enabling there addiction is Willis Duncan.

"They hurt a lot of people. I mean its a bad deal all the way around. I have nothing for them. Nothing for none of them."

As for Dr. Kostenko, on Friday the state begins the process of seeking to shut him down permanently. His clinic is currently still operating. The state could also set a precedent by going after not just the doctors and pharmacies, but also the wholesale drug distributors in court.

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Discriminated Against by NY State Workers Compensation

Discriminated Against by NY State Workers Compensation

Hello NAIDW people. My name is Michael, and i'm a 911 first responder that was discriminated against by the NY State workers compensation board for uncovering an insurance fraud link between NY State, crooked doctors, crooked lawyers & the insurance company. When I reported the doctor to the judge, he became abusive, started yelling, trying to intimidate me, slamming his palm & fist on the bench & acted like he was going to get up & run around the bench. I actually felt threatened because I had a blood clot in my leg & was unable to defend myself. I continued to file complaints against the judge for refusing to follow up on my complaints, for screaming at me, for refusing to let me speak or submit evidence. Then the workers comp board started to send letters back trying to shmooze it over & I kept writing to our Governor, Assembly Woman, the POTUS etc.. This made them angrier & they tried to silence me. Then finally during the deposition the SAME POS judge who I filed complaints against continued to raise his voice & attempt to intimidate me. So I protested the case on record & he became angrier. Then he ruled against me after a yelling match & I was suffering from a blood clot at the time that made it to my guy from my ankle that day. Then after he ruled against me, I filed multiple complaints against him & protested the ruling & appealed. The decision came back appeal denied & even though we sent in overwhelming medical evidence proving I was telling the truth, NONE of that evidence made it into the computer. We appealed to the NY Supreme Court & then found out that the evidence wasn't scanned in or documented properly. When we asked about it, they said "what evidence?" I showed them registered return receipts & dates & signatures since we sent it EXPRESS & documented EVERYTHING. They then changed their story to "Oh, that evidence, we sent it back to you". They didn't have any tracking numbers, phone numbers or even a name of the "alleged" courier. So I called them a liar. Then the blood clot finally made it to my heart where I dropped dead in my house, they revived me & rushed me to a hospital. A quick CT Scan showed the clot reached my heart & blocked off BOTH legs this time. After 13 surgeries they took the right leg. So, I have been in the hospital for 16 months so far starting from Aug 18th 2014 till now January 4th 2016. It's time to expose these criminals & try to get them to pay any way I can. FK them & their families. =) Here's a video we just made showing some of what happened to me. Here's the kicker. I received an anonymous call froma woman that said "Mr. Di Pippo, you & I never spoke before, but I think this would be of interest to you. Google Michael J Katz with the keywords "perjury & fraud" & see what you get. I did & they finally caught him committing perjury in the NY State Supreme Court doing the same exact thing to another injured claimant. I'll save you the search. Here's the google results. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=michael%20j%20katz%2C%20perjury & finally my video explaining a little about what happened to me. Hopefully by August of 2017 http://WorkersompensationSCAM.com will be fully developed so you can tell your story about how you were scammed by your State by insurance fraud or workers compensation, or a lying IME doctor etc. https://youtu.be/rC_0ceIBsyM

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A DOCTOR’S VIEW OF PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC PAIN DISEASE

As scary and frustrating as it can be to have a chronic disease, especially chronic pain, it is often equally frightening and concerning for the providers who care for such patients. One practitioner offers his viewpoints on what it is like to care for patients with chronic disorders and offers some helpful and practical advice for patients to follow. There also is much for healthcare providers to learn from this as well.

The following compassionate “Letter to Patients” is reprinted below in its entirety from the blog, “Musings of a Distractible Mind (Thoughts of an odd, but not harmful primary care physician)” written by Rob Lamberts, MD, who practices in Georgia [learn more about him here]. It is reproduced by permission under a Creative Commons Copyright License agreement.

We have never before reproduced another blogpost in this way. However, when it was first written, on July 14, 2010 and posted [here], this article stirred tremendous interest among readers (more than 400 comments) and it seems worth bringing to the attention of our UPDATES audience of professionals and patients. We also want to thank Bob Twillman, PhD (of the American Academy of Pain Management) for alerting us to this letter via Twitter.

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Dear Patients:

You have it very hard, much harder than most people understand. Having sat for 16 years listening to the stories, seeing the tiredness in your eyes, hearing you try to describe the indescribable, I have come to understand that I too can’t understand what your lives are like.

How do you answer the question, “how do you feel?” when you’ve forgotten what “normal” feels like? How do you deal with all of the people who think you are exaggerating your pain, your emotions, your fatigue? How do you decide when to believe them or when to trust your own body? How do you cope with living a life that won’t let you forget about your frailty, your limits, your mortality? I can’t imagine.

But I do bring something to the table that you may not know. I do have information that you can’t really understand because of your unique perspective, your battered world. There is something that you need to understand that, while it won’t undo your pain, make your fatigue go away, or lift your emotions, it will help you. It’s information without which you bring yourself more pain than you need suffer; it’s a truth that is a key to getting the help you need much easier than you have in the past. It may not seem important, but trust me, it is.

You scare doctors.

No, I am not talking about the fear of disease, pain, or death. I am not talking about doctors being afraid of the limits of their knowledge. I am talking about your understanding of a fact that everyone else seems to miss, a fact that many doctors hide from: we are normal, fallible people who happen to doctor for a job.

We are not special. In fact, many of us are very insecure, wanting to feel the affirmation of people who get better, hearing the praise of those we help. We want to cure disease, to save lives, to be the helping hand, the right person in the right place at the right time.

But chronic unsolvable disease stands square in our way. You don’t get better, and it makes many of us frustrated, and it makes some of us mad at you. We don’t want to face things we can’t fix because it shows our limits. We want the miraculous, and you deny us that chance.

And since this is the perspective you have when you see doctors, your view of them is quite different. You see us getting frustrated. You see us when we feel like giving up. When we take care of you, we have to leave behind the illusion of control, of power over disease. We get angry, feel insecure, and want to move on to a patient who we can fix, save, or impress. You are the rock that proves how easily the ship can be sunk. So your view of doctors is quite different.

Then there is the fact that you also possess something that is usually our domain: knowledge. You know more about your disease than many of us do — most of us do. Your MS, rheumatoid arthritis, end-stage kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, bipolar disorder, chronic pain disorder, brittle diabetes, or disabling psychiatric disorder — your defining pain — is something most of us don’t regularly encounter. It’s something most of us try to avoid.

So you possess deep understanding of something that many doctors don’t possess. Even doctors who specialize in your disorder don’t share the kind of knowledge you can only get through living with a disease. It’s like a parent’s knowledge of their child versus that of a pediatrician. They may have breadth of knowledge, but you have depth of knowledge that no doctor can possess.

So when you approach a doctor — especially one you’ve never met before — you come with a knowledge of your disease that they don’t have, and a knowledge of the doctor’s limitations that few other patients have. You see why you scare doctors?

It’s not your fault that you do, but ignoring this fact will limit the help you can only get from them. I know this because, just like you know your disease better than any doctor, I know what being a doctor feels like more than any patient could ever understand. You encounter doctors intermittently (more than you wish, perhaps); I live as a doctor continuously.

So let me be so bold as to give you advice on dealing with doctors. There are some things you can do to make things easier, and others that can sabotage any hope of a good relationship:

  1. Don’t come on too strong — yes, you have to advocate for yourself, but remember that doctors are used to being in control. All of the other patients come into the room with immediate respect, but your understanding has torn down the doctor-god illusion. That’s a good thing in the long-run, but few doctors want to be greeted with that reality from the start. Your goal with any doctor is to build a partnership of trust that goes both ways, and coming on too strong at the start can hurt your chances of ever having that.
  2. Show respect — I say this one carefully, because there are certainly some doctors who don’t treat patients with respect – especially ones like you with chronic disease. These doctors should be avoided. But most of us are not like that; we really want to help people and try to treat them well. But we have worked very hard to earn our position; it was not bestowed by fiat or family tree. Just as you want to be listened to, so do we.
  3. Keep your eggs in only a few baskets — find a good primary care doctor and a couple of specialists you trust. Don’t expect a new doctor to figure things out quickly. It takes me years of repeated visits to really understand many of my chronic disease patients. The best care happens when a doctor understands the patient and the patient understands the doctor. This can only happen over time. Heck, I struggle even seeing the chronically sick patients for other doctors in my practice. There is something very powerful in having understanding built over time.
  4. Use the ER only when absolutely needed — Emergency room physicians will always struggle with you. Just expect that. Their job is to decide if you need to be hospitalized, if you need emergency treatment, or if you can go home. They might not fix your pain, and certainly won’t try to fully understand you. That’s not their job. They went into their specialty to fix problems quickly and move on, not manage chronic disease. The same goes for any doctor you see for a short time: they will try to get done with you as quickly as possible.
  5. Don’t avoid doctors — one of the most frustrating things for me is when a complicated patient comes in after a long absence with a huge list of problems they want me to address. I can’t work that way, and I don’t think many doctors can. Each visit should address only a few problems at a time, otherwise things get confused and more mistakes are made. It’s OK to keep a list of your own problems so things don’t get left out — I actually like getting those lists, as long as people don’t expect me to handle all of the problems. It helps me to prioritize with them.
  6. Don’t put up with the jerks — unless you have no choice (in the ER, for example), you should keep looking until you find the right doctor(s) for you. Some docs are not cut out for chronic disease, while some of us like the long-term relationship. Don’t feel you have to put up with docs who don’t listen or minimize your problems. At the minimum, you should be able to find a doctor who doesn’t totally stink.
  7. Forgive us — Sometimes I forget about important things in my patients’ lives. Sometimes I don’t know you’ve had surgery or that your sister comes to see me as well. Sometimes I avoid people because I don’t want to admit my limitations. Be patient with me — I usually know when I’ve messed up, and if you know me well I don’t mind being reminded. Well, maybe I mind it a little.

You know better than anyone that we docs are just people — with all the stupidity, inconsistency, and fallibility that goes with that — who happen to doctor for a living. I hope this helps, and I really hope you get the help you need. It does stink that you have your problem; I just hope this perhaps decreases that suckishness a little bit.

Sincerely,
Dr. Rob

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Thank you..

Good read! Thanks for sharing Dr. Rob
Monday, 21 December 2015 19:17
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Why Did ‘Disabled’ Replace ‘Handicapped’ As the Preferred Term?

Why Did ‘Disabled’ Replace ‘Handicapped’ As the Preferred Term?

December 13, 2015

Handicapped, as used to describe people with disabilities, is a term that rose and fell with the 20th century. It arrived on the scene in the late 1800s as a way to talk about a range of disadvantages — one could be economically, socially or even morally handicapped by circumstances.

The term was borrowed from the racetrack, where a horse that was stronger, faster, or otherwise superior in some way could be given a handicap (a weight, a longer distance, a later start) to equalize the chances of the competitors. Initially, parties to such matches agreed to the conditions of the handicap by placing their hands into a cap and either pulling out or leaving cash stakes they had placed there. This idea of “hand in cap” is where the word first came from.

Handicap began to be applied to physical and mental differences in the early 1900s, when the new fields of sociology and social work started looking at people in terms of their place in society as a whole. What had been seen before as individual failings or flaws were recast as disadvantages with respect to larger contexts. If life was a horse race, a person with a physical disability couldn’t compete as well because of the burden they had been handed, not because they were defective by nature. Over the next decades, old words that cast disabilities as personal flaws—crippled, lame, imbecile, invalid etc.—became increasingly offensive sounding, and by the 1970s, handicapped had become the term of choice in social services and legislation.

Things started to change at just that time with the birth of the disability rights movement. A community of people fighting for more independence and self-determination rejected the term handicapped in favor of disabled. This seems counterintuitive, since, at first glance,handicapped looks like the more enlightened choice. It replaced other terms that had accumulated centuries’ worth of terrible connotations. And disabled might appear to be one of those terrible terms. Its etymological form means “rendered incapable,” not a very liberating sentiment, and it had a history of being used to describe disabled people going back 200 years before handicapped came on the scene. But for activists looking for a way to refer to their new campaigns and organizations, disability seemed the better choice.

For some, the word handicapped evoked the idea of a beggar with cap in hand, though this was not the original source of the word. And disabled at that time was attractive for its rather cold, clinical connotation, meaning that it lacked euphemism or patronizing attitude, things that were also a problem for terms like special or differently-abled. The main problem withhandicapped, though, was simply that it had not been chosen by the people it was supposed to describe.

As journalist and disability scholar Jack A. Nelson wrote, though handicapped appeared to be “in keeping with the disability rights movement’s analysis of the situation—that the individual is okay but society has put him or her at a disadvantage—the term was nonetheless rejected when disabled people began wresting the power of the programs that controlled their lives from social workers and began to run their own programs…if for no other reason that it was a term imposed on them by agencies.”

By the time the American with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, the term handicapped had already become fusty and awkward. It was the activists who had fought for the act, and decided for themselves what language to use, who ushered it off the stage as the century drew to a close.

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Your information is safe and secure!

Your information is safe and secure!
At the NAIDW.org community, we understand that your injury, illness, sickness, chronic pain disorder, and disability can, and are often very sensitive and private matters to you and your family. Below you will find different privacy settings to choose from. 

You can choose from our four different privacy level settings:

*Private (No one can see) 
*Friends Only (Only Your NAIDW Friends)
*Friends of Friends (Friends of Other NAIDW Members)
*Open to the public (Visible to All Visitors and Members)

These adjustable settings enable you, our members to control who and what you share your information with, who can see their profile and status updates, and much more.

Your information is secure!

As added security NAIDW.org uses SSL, 256-bit encryption and user authentication to secure its content over the Internet. Your personal profile and health information is protected by SSL encryption, and will not be redistributed or resold.

What is SSL stand for? 

(Secure Sockets Layer) is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client—typically a web server (website) and a browser; or a mail server and a mail client.

What is the function of an SSL Certificate? 

SSL provides 256-bit Encryption on all NAIDW.org sites data. SSL allows sensitive information (credit card numbers, social security numbers, login credentials, documents, and much more) to be transmitted securely. Normally, data sent between browsers and web servers is sent in plain text—leaving you vulnerable to eavesdropping. For example, if an attacker is able to intercept all data being sent between a browser and a web server thy can see and use that information.

 

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