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Friday, November 15, 2013

Lawyers resist Cuomo administration shutdown of workers comp hearing sites

ALBANY—A New York State Bar Association subcommittee is questioning a Cuomo administration plan to close eight workers compensation hearing sites, saying it would reduce access to an important legal process for sick and injured workers.

The letter is the latest example of agitation within New York's legal establishment over plans by the state Workers Compensation Board to shut down eight hearing sites, mostly in rural areas upstate, by the end of the month.

WCB officials say it will save taxpayer money without impacting potential claimants, who can phone into their hearings. But the letter, signed by eight lawyers comprising the NYSBA's special committee on the topic, says the closures are “especially disturbing” and are “not going to improve the administration of justice in the workers' compensation system.”

“While we appreciate every state agency is trying to reduce costs, the closing of these eight hearing points will create a tremendous hardship for the injured/disabled workers and their employers by requiring they travel extensive distances to attend workers' compensation hearings, resulting in increased time and travel expenses and ultimately shifting any cost savings from these closures from the Board to the injured workers and employers,” the lawyers write.

WCB spokeswoman Rachel McEneny said savings from the closures was approved in this year's budget, and is part of an ongoing effort. The goal is to save $300,000 a year,...

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