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(c) 2014 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Oklahoma: Gov. Fallin's picks for workers comp commission lack experience

Today's post is shared from Tulsworld.com

Gov. Mary Fallin's first two appointments to the state's new workers compensation system have no experience in workers compensation law.

And that's OK, says Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz.
"As a manager and a business leader, Troy Wilson is acutely aware of how workers compensation affects businesses," said Weintz. "As the former director of the Department of Commerce, Jonna Kirschner knows what an obstacle workers comp costs can be to businesses looking to locate here."

Wilson, named by Fallin to be the first chairman of the new Workers Compensation Commission, and Kirschner, who is expected to be one of the commission's first administrative law judges, get high marks all around for integrity and general ability.

But the enabling legislation creating the new system specifies that commissioners "must have been involved in the workers compensation field for at least three years."
Judges, the law says, "shall have not less than three years of workers compensation experience prior to appointment."

Wilson is a retired banker, businessman and Xerox executive who was retired comfortably in Florida at the time of his appointment.

Kirschner is an attorney who specialized in corporate law before joining the Commerce Department. She is also the daughter of state Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger, which could complicate the court's consideration of a lawsuit challenging the new system's constitutionality.

Weintz said questioning Wilson's...
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Will history of health hazards be repeated at new Wisconsin iron mine?

Today's post was shared from The Pump Handle....

The long-time residents of Iron County, Wisconsin who make up the Iron County Joint Impacts Mining Committee say the open-pit iron mine planned for the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin – a range that extends into Michigan where it’s known as the Gogebic Range – will bring much needed good jobs and economic development. Such jobs, the committee told a group of visiting journalists in August, have been lacking since the last Wisconsin iron mines in the area closed in the early and mid-1960s.

The jobs the mine would bring are the type needed to keep local communities’ young people from moving away, said committee members. Environmental advocates and other area residents, including many of the region’s tribal leaders, oppose the mine for what they say will be devastating impacts, particularly to the area’s waterways and wetlands.

The proposed mine made national news this summer after masked activists harassed mining company personnel and armed security guards were hired to patrol the property. There’s also been considerable controversy over a new law that was passed that will help facilitate the mine. What have not yet received much attention are the potential occupational health hazards of mining and processing the taconite ore the mine is expected to yield.

Now in the permitting and exploratory stage of development by Gogebic Taconite LLC – a subsidiary of a company called Foresight Energy that has coal mining operations in...
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Open for Business Tomorrow: Healthcare.gov

Tomorrow marks an historic day in US history. The Federal government launches insurance enrollment under The Affordable Care Act.

Visit Healthcare.gov for further information.

Take Someone to the Doctor with You

Today's post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Having a work injury is incredibly stressful. Sometimes when a worker is under stress, they won’t understand what a treating doctor is telling them, which leads to frustration and anger on the part of the worker directed toward the doctor. In turn, the worker’s attitude will lead many doctors to not cooperate in a worker’s case. This is especially true if the insurance company has a nurse case manager working on the claim.

One solution for an injured worker is to bring a trusted friend or family member to the doctor with them to medical appointments. I see at least two advantages to bringing in someone else:

1) another person would be able to help you describe symptoms and how the injury happened and

2) the other person can help you understand what the doctor is telling you.

But not every friend or family member is the right choice to go to an appointment with you. You should choose someone who is level headed so that they do not get into an argument with the doctor. You should remember that the doctor is taking down a record of your visit and that that written record will likely be looked at by the judge deciding your workers’ compensation case, should your case go to trial. If you or a friend or family member gets into an argument with a doctor, it will likely hurt your case.

Injured workers who are non-English speakers can present more challenges to effective medical treatment. Not only is there a language barrier but there is often a cultural barrier as well. The language barrier is often used to the advantage of the employer and insurer, because they will often provide interpreters to the doctor. Non-English speakers should try to bring along a fluent interpreter in their language. A bad interpreter can almost be as bad as no interpreter. However, the same rules about temperament and judgment apply for those who go to doctors with non-English speakers. Sometimes doctors get frustrated with language and cultural barriers of non-English speaking injured workers. Employers and insurers know this and use this to their advantage.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

BP Trial in 2nd Phase, to Set Amount of Oil Spilled

Post shared from the nytimes.com.

With billions of dollars in penalties at stake, the civil trial of the British oil company BP begins its second phase on Monday, which will set the amount of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches.

The government will argue that a total 4.2 million barrels of oil was discharged into the sea over 87 days, the equivalent of nearly one-quarter of all the oil that is consumed in the United States in a day. BP will counter that the number was closer to 2.45 million barrels. This phase of the trial will also determine if BP prepared adequately for a blowout and if it responded properly once the oil started flowing.

Both sides will present their case in Federal District Court in New Orleans using competing technical calculations over the next four weeks. Hanging in the balance are Clean Water Act fines that range from a maximum of $1,100 for every barrel spilled through simple negligence to as much as $4,300 a barrel if a company is found to have been grossly negligent.
“This will be largely a battle of experts,” Blaine G. LeCesne, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

The first phase of the trial, which took place over two months this year, centered on whether BP and its contractors were guilty of gross negligence — tantamount to wanton and reckless behavior — in causing the blowout of the Macondo well.
Judge Carl J....
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The Government Shutdown is a Kick-In-Gut to Workers' Compensation

Workers' Compensation programs will be impacted by a Government shutdown because of both the offset provisions of the Social Security Act and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP). Even The SMART Act, recently enacted to hopefully establish a more efficient collection process will be derailed.

As the US House of Representatives, under Republican leadership influenced by The Tea Party, likened in Aaron Sorkin's HBO program, The Newsroom, as "The American Taliban," passed legislation to shutdown the US Government this Tuesday, serious concern exists as to the consequences of the shutdown on workers' compensation programs throughout the nation. 

In many States, whether or not a reverse offset exists, it is essential to determine what a claimant's Average Current Earnings (ACE) are to calculate, and reach a final determination of temporary and permanent disability, in a state workers' compensation claim. The access to those numbers will become difficult to obtain because of administrative rollbacks, and anticipated further delays in claims processing. Even though Federal payments will be forthcoming under protective measures, the claims process will be derailed.

Likewise, the process to obtain conditional payment information will be delayed or non-existent. The provisions of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act mandating reimbursement to The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be put on hold. Similarly, reviews for future medical compromises embodied in the Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-aside Agreements (WCMSA) will be delayed just because of administrative cutbacks in the claims system, including the appeals process.

The recently enacted provisions of The SMART Act. long sought by a coalition of cottage industries, and compensation parties, to the reimbursement process itself, will face its first major challenge to implementation as the Internet web-portable becomes non-functional. Recently proposed final Rules will face delay in implementation as the exchange of comments under the rulemaking process become further delayed in the process of submission and response.

Overall, the workers who most need the system to function, and who waited the longest time, in waiting for final adjudication of their claims, will become victim of the process. No matter how long the shutdown extends, the Federal action will highlight the continued deterioration of the complex patchwork process know as workers' compensation. The now antiquated, and once expeditious and remedial insurance system, will have suffered yet another devastating blow in its attempt to survive in a radically changing economic and socio-political system.
....

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

World Trade Center Health Program; Addition of Prostate Cancer to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions

Recently the Federal Government approved benefits for prostate Cancer for those eligible for 9-11 Health Fund  Claims. The current deadline for some is October, 2013. See the links below the article to learn how to file a claim. Today's post was shared by Safe Healthy Workers and comes from www.federalregister.gov


This final rule is effective October 21, 2013.
Paul Middendorf, Senior Health Scientist, 1600 Clifton Rd. NE., MS: E-20,...
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Senior Care Workers Are Victims of Wage Violations

Today's post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.
By Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore
I found a recent story from California very troubling. The nation’s largest assisted living company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle claims for underpayment and mistreatment of the workers who take care of the elderly. Lack of proper overtime pay, lack of mandatory meal and rest periods, and improper payment of mandatory training are examples of the mistreatment. 
The victims were the least-paid workers who did the hardest physical labor, according to the story. These people who bathed, fed, and provided the most hands-on care for our frail, elderly loved ones were denied wages and overtime pay for 7 years, according to the terms of the settlement.

Care for the old, frail and disabled is big business. Nearly 750,000 people are receiving assisted living care, according to the ProPublica article. And the industry is just going to expand, as folks are sicker but have higher expectations for care, while also living longer, according to this article from NPR
Fair treatment of our elders’ caregivers is essential. The wages are low, as most difficult jobs often are. Violating employment rules and statutes for businesses to save money and make larger profits seems particularly offensive for these workers. And they are not often protected from or informed of the hazards of their jobs, many of which can have serious consequences for workers’ health and well being, according to these blog posts from respected colleague Jon Gelman, an attorney in New JerseyProtecting Healthcare Workers is a Goal of NIOSH and NIOSH Acts To Prevent Lifting Injuries For Home Healthcare Workers.

Congratulations to the workers and their representative who stood up to this very large employer that has around 500 facilities in the United States. It takes courage and tenacity to fight battles like this.

All of us who care about workers need to be aware that these are battle worth fighting. And that these battles can be won.


right

Judge Orders New Jersey to Allow Gay Marriage

Dependency benefits under the NJ workers' compensation system are going to expand.

A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, saying that not doing so deprives them of rights that were guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in June.
It is the first time a court has struck down a state’s refusal to legalize same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court ruling, and with lawsuits pending in other states, it could presage other successful challenges across the country.
The decision was a rebuff to Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature last year that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. His office said it would appeal to the state’s highest court. And he is likely to seek a stay preventing same-sex marriages from beginning on Oct. 21, as the judge ordered.
New Jersey was particularly ripe for a challenge after the Supreme Court ruling, because of a previous ruling by the state’s highest court in 2006. In that decision, in the case Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples were entitled to all of the rights and benefits of marriage. But the court stopped short of saying they had a fundamental right to marry, and in an unusual step instructed the Legislature to define how to confer equal protection.
“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” Judge Mary C. Jacobson of State...
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You Can Have Any Job You Want, as Long as It's Waitress

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from www.businessweek.com

You Can Have Any Job You Want, as Long as It's Waitress
Photograph by Marc Spector

It’s almost 6 p.m. on a Friday, and the tables near the bar at the Hamilton in downtown Washington are getting crowded. That means Victoria Honard is busy.
Honard, 22, who graduated from Syracuse University in May, works about 25 hours a week as a waitress at the restaurant while she looks for a public policy job. A dean’s-list student, she moved to Washington four days after graduation with the hope of finding a position at a think tank or policy-related organization. She’s applied to about 20 prospective employers.
“The response has been minimal,” says Honard, whose academic work was in education, health, and human services. “There are two ways of looking at it. I could be extremely frustrated and be bitter, or I can make the most of it, and I’m trying to take the latter approach.”
Unemployment data appear to show big advances for women. The jobless rate in August for females 20 years and older was 6.3 percent, the lowest since December 2008, compared with 7.1 percent for men. As recently as January, the rate was 7.3 percent for both genders, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The downside is that the gains for women have been largely in low-paying jobs such as waitressing, in-home health care, food preparation, and housekeeping. About 60 percent of the increase in women’s employment from 2009 to 2012 was in jobs that pay less than $10.10 an hour,...
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Workers ask President Obama to raise their wages

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from america.aljazeera.com


President Obama has also shown sympathy for the issues of low-wage workers, although the minimum wage increase he's expressly supported -- to $9 an hour -- is still less than what activists usually consider a "living wage."
"I think the president's heart in the right place," Ellison said. "We’ve just got to get his pen on the right place."
Federal contractors employ over a fifth of the American civilian workforce, and more than 560,000 of these workers earn $12 or less an hour, according to Demos, a liberal think tank. Many of them are cleaners and concession workers in federal buildings. If you include all the low-wage jobs funded by public dollars, including the 1.2 million paychecks underwritten by Medicare and Medicaid, the total, Demos found, surpasses the low-wage workforce of Walmart and McDonald’s combined.
Labor group Good Jobs Nation, backed by the Service Employees International Union, organized three smaller building-specific strikes earlier this year, as well as a city-wide labor action in May. It’s part of a larger strategy by unions and labor activists to push for higher wages in the largely non-unionized workforces of retail and fast food. Organizers called Wednesday's event the largest low-wage federal worker strike to date. Both Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave passionate speeches at the event.
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Bangladesh Deploys Paramilitary in Garment Zone After Protests

International Fashion Safety is becoming an international catalyst for change. Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from www.bloomberg.com


Bangladesh’s government deployedparamilitary troops in the industrial belt of Gazipur to deterfurther protests as garment factories reopened after five daysof violent demonstrations.
“The situation is now relatively calm,” MostafijurRahman, additional superintendent of police for Gazipurdistrict, said in a phone interview. Television footage showedthe troops patrolling streets where workers attacked factoriesand blocked traffic earlier this week to demand wage increases.
The government is acting after factory owners met HomeMinister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir yesterday to urge tightersecurity. Thousands of garment workers clashed with police thisweek in the industrial belt on the outskirts of Dhaka, forcingabout 400 factories that supply companies such as Wal-MartStores Inc. to close.
“Unrest in the garment sector will be firmly dealt with,”the minister told reporters, after the meeting.
The labor unrest came five months after the collapse of theeight-story Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,000people in the worst industrial accident in the South Asiancountry’s history. Low wages and production costs have helpedspawn the country’s $19 billion manufacturing industry thatsupplies global retailers with cheap clothes.
The protestors, some of whom pelted factories with bricksand blocked a highway, demanded a minimum monthly salary of8,114 taka ($104), up from 3,000 taka now. Retailers such asWal-Mart, Inditex SA, Gap Inc. and ...
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Building an Accountable Care Organization and Its Impact on Workers' Compensation

Medical cost containment is a universal problem for insurance companies and employers. For those states with fee schedules indexed to the Medicare system, limitations are in place. For those jurisdiction where fee limitations are not in place, ie. NJ,costs may continue to soar without containment. Today's post was shared by NEJM and comes from blogs.hbr.org

Suppose for a moment that you are an administrator in an organization that provides health care and your job is on the line for delivering both savings and improved care. Because you want to be part of the solution to the health-care-cost problem, you have signed contracts with payers that reward your institution or system for reducing the costs of care. These same contracts require you to pay a penalty if the costs of care go up more than inflation. What would be your first, second, and third move?

This is not a hypothetical question. More than 300 hundred administrators of accountable care organizations (ACOs) across the United States are facing it.

My team at Partners HealthCare in Boston is faced with this exciting (and daunting) challenge. Having signed shared-savings contracts with both commercial payers and Medicare, our CEO, Gary Gottlieb, established a Population Health Management unit. A major focus of our work is to achieve shared savings in our contracts. That means controlling costs for the populations cared for by our primary care physicians. Since doctors and hospitals within Partners bill for a majority of the care these patients receive, you could say our success depends on reducing the income of our colleagues. Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen has taught us this is not possible — that an organization will not cannibalize itself.

So when we go knocking on...
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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Impact and Echoes of the Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

This article is shared from propublica.

The post is shared from probulica.org.

Betty Dukes talks to the press on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the class action lawsuit Dukes v. Wal-Mart was argued before the court in Washington, March 29, 2011
(Photo: Reuters)
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes in June 2011, no one needed a Richter scale to know it was a Big One. In throwing out a mammoth lawsuit by women employees who claimed that they’d been systematically underpaid and underpromoted by the world’s biggest corporation, the ruling upended decades of employment discrimination law and raised serious barriers to future large-scale discrimination cases of every kind.

Employers rejoiced. Others predicted serious setbacks for women and minorities, especially in employment discrimination cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark law had opened the way to the use of the class-action lawsuit as a potent weapon for people who could not stand up for their rights on their own.
Two years later, it’s becoming clear just how much the ruling has reshaped the American legal landscape.

The Dukes decision has already been cited more than 1,200 times in rulings by federal and state courts, a figure seen by experts as remarkable. Jury verdicts have been overturned, settlements thrown out, and class actions rejected or decertified, in many instances undoing years of litigation. The rulings have come in every part of the country, in lawsuits involving all types of companies,...
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ARE YOU OVEREXPOSING YOURSELF IN SOCIAL MEDIA?

Today's post comes from guest author Laurel Anderson, from Causey Law Firm.
By Laurel Anderson from Causey Law Firm
     Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and other wildly popular social media websites have transformed how people both connect with each other and obtain information about other people. It has also created a change in the legal arena. For our clients who are currently applying for or receiving workers’ comp time loss benefits, or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, our advice is to keep in mind the importance of privacy settings for both written information and photos on their individual accounts. While a Washington State law went into effect this weekend barring employers from requesting access to Facebook passwords, if your privacy settings are not tight, curious parties can randomly obtain information about you.
While a Washington State law went into effect this weekend barring employers from requesting access to Facebook passwords, if your privacy settings are not tight, curious parties can randomly obtain information about you.
     From our experience, you can now assume that claims managers, employers, and defense attorneys will search for information on the internet regarding your personal life that can impact your claim for benefits. Please make sure that any outdated information regarding your activities is removed from your personal page. Do not use social media to vent about your employer or state agencies that are the decision-makers in your claim. You may be under the impression that only your friends can see your personal page, and that you have some right to privacy. However, be aware that all of the content on your walls, including photos and instant messaging, could be potentially discoverable by your employer or opposing counsel in a litigated case if the content is relevant to your claim for benefits.
     The risk is somewhat less in the SSDI arena since there actually is an agency directive to ALJs and DDS adjudicators that they are not to use social media to research claimants. We nevertheless warn our SSDI clients concerning social media, as we are not convinced that agency people are always playing by the rules, or that those rules may not soon change.
Photo credit: lindes / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA