Arizona considers change to workers comp for sports teams

Arizona legislators have proposed a bill that would end the ability for professional athletes in Arizona to file workers’ compensation claims out-of-state, even if that is where an injury occurred.

Legislation approved early in March by the House Commerce Committee would require that any claim for medical care or lost wages by athletes employed by Arizona-based sports teams to be filed in Arizona. This is cause for concern because the claims would have to adhere to Arizona laws which are less generous than many other states.

The driving force behind the proposed law is the two major sports teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Cardinals, who are trying the limit the liability of former athletes claiming degenerative injuries from their time of the court and field.

Republican Senator John McComish, said that SB1148, which has already been approved by the Senate, was brought to him by the sports teams.

An attorney for the Arizona Diamondbacks said that the team has been ravaged by many claims filed in California by former athletes who believe they should receive benefits. The Diamondbacks are currently dealing with 30 claims filed in California but only two in Arizona.

An attorney for the NFL Players Association has argued against bill stating that his members need to retain the ability to file claims in California because the football industry has a “100 percent injury rate”. The issue is not what happens during the athlete’s time with the professional team but the lifelong effects of the stressful occupation.

Arizona law requires that claims need to be filed within a year of the injury of the claim will be forfeited.

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Posted in Worker's Compensation
Disability Fraud Calls for Reform

Disability fraud has always existed in some capacity, a basic truth despite the average workplace becoming safer since 1960. Somehow a 900% increase in disability claims since then tells a different story, a story that suggests some serious reform to disability claims is necessary.

Statistics indicate the US has added 8.8 million nonfarm jobs in the last 15 years. In this same stretch of time, nearly 4 million people have been added to disability rolls. Throughout the 8.6 million total on federal disability, nearly half that number receive benefits due to “mood disorders” or back pain according to research conducted by the American Enterprise Institute.

Another concerning figure is that entitlements have jumped the federal spending from 28% to 66% since 1960. These entitlements are distributed across a varied network, many times the claims proving to be false. Now lawmakers are pushing for hefty reform in disability that could potentially impact the approval process.

While there’s little question over the need for a certain disability reform, many questions will inevitably arise for those who have legitimate claims to disability benefits. Some worry that the approval process could be altered in such a way that their benefits won’t be available when needed.

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Posted in Disability
NYC police officer who toured with band charged with disability fraud.

A Port Authority police officer was charged Tuesday with mail fraud for allegedly collecting disability benefits for over two years while touring and performing as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band, “Cousin Sleaze”.

Christopher Inserra, an officer with the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, is the lead singer of the hard rock group, “Cousin Sleaze”, which went on the “Miles of Mayhem” tour just last year. During the tour Inserra traveled to Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia.

Inserra was arrested on charges of mail fraud after undercover Port Authority investigators witnessed the former officer on stage with his band flailing his arms around during a performance. Authorities are saying Inserra falsely claimed his right arm was injured while on duty at the World Trade Center in 2010. He has collected disability checks for the past two years- accepting his full $90,000 salary.

The two years that Inserra collected checks were filled with regular visits to doctors, where he insisted that he suffered from “excruciating” persistent pain that limited his mobility.

The officer returned to his post in March of 2012 but continued to take sick days claiming pain in  his right arm, according to investigators. However, on many of these sick days Inserra could be seen rocking out at various Brooklyn clubs “flailing both if of his arms in a back and forth motion”

Brooklyn U.S. Attorny Loretta Lynch said, “This officer dishonored himself and his department by sliding down the slippery slope of deception and fraud,”

Inserra was formally charged with mail fraud and could spend up to 20 years in prison and pay a $250,000 if he is convicted. He would also be required to repay the money gained illegally.

Inserra was released on $25,000 bail and was ordered by a judge to surrender his passport and to not leave the New York-New Jersey area. He was also stripped of his badge and guns.

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Posted in Disability
Social Security Disability Benefits Now for Fibromyalgia

Although some healthcare providers may not cover fibromyalgia, Social Security has recently concluded that the syndrome is a medically determinable disability. Although it can be tricky to receive Social Security Disability Insurance, with a firm understanding of the process and a good attorney, you may be eligible for receiving benefits.  The five step process includes these components:

1. If you are working, and earning more than $1,040 dollars a month you may not quality for SSDI.

2. The fibromyalgia must be so severe that it impairs your ability to perform basic activities needed to hold a job. Some of these disability indicators include difficulty walking, sitting, speaking, seeing, hearing, and handling or carrying objects. If you have trouble understanding others, remembering things, responding, or coping with changes, these are also acceptable reasons why you might be eligible for benefits.

3. The illness must be medically determinable, which means that you must provide adequate proof that your pain has existed for at least three months. The pain on palpation must be present on at least 11 of the 18 tender point sites, and there must also be evidence of stiffness upon awakening and after sitting.

4. The Social Security office will then look into the person’s ability to perform work-related tasks despite their pain, if they can still perform at a sufficient level, the SSA may deny their claim. However, if they conclude that he or she is unfit to work they will then proceed to the last step of the process.

5. To see whether or not another job could be suitable for them, the SSA reviews their health, age, education, and work experience to see if there is another job alternative which will be easier on their body. There are a list of age parameters on the Social Security website which might be beneficial to you or a loved one.

 

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Posted in Filing for SSDI/SSI
Avoiding Narcotic Related Injuries

When someone is on a strong painkiller from a workplace injury, they often receive opioids like morphine, oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl. This can often result in narcotic abuse from the highly addictive qualities in the drug.

Some of the things you can do to avoid workplace drug abuse include having a say in the person’s medical provider. You can pre-screen these medical professionals and make sure that they are not too quick to prescribe pills or keep them on the narcotics for the long term by interviewing them or researching.  Make sure to find a doctor who tries alternatives to painkillers as well, such as physical therapy, neural blocks, acupuncture, or exercise. If you cannot select your employee’s medical provider, it may be helpful to instead provide a list of suggested physicians.

If your work has not implemented a drug-free policy, it may be time to make some changes. People who screen for illicit drugs at employment and random occasion are less likely to experience workplace injuries. Workers who take drugs when they are first hired are more likely to try and obtain more drugs by exaggerating or faking an injury.

When someone has been injured and is prescribed an opioid, it may be helpful to have a nurse case manager (NCM) to watch over the case. This NCM can assess the pain and make sure that there are no other alternatives to drugs. This person can also review their findings with a pain management specialist as a peer review, and discuss the options.

Narcotics abuse is becoming an epidemic, but with the right steps and policies you and your company can help minimize the chances of more workplace injuries, while keeping people safe.

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Posted in Worker's Compensation
Social Security Disability Denials More Common in Past 10 years

According to a study from the Social Security Administration the percentage of Social Security Disability claims that were awarded fell from 56% in 1999 to 34.8% in 2010.

These statistics provide evidence to support the common view that it is becoming more difficult to receive Social Security Disability Benefits. Although some political commentators are calling for a reform to Social Security to curb fraud and abuse, if you look at the statistics a large percentage of cases are actually initially denied. These denials often affect individuals who should have been awarded SSD.

The initial step is not the only hurdle that has become more difficult over time. In fact, approvals after requests for reconsideration have also declined during the same period. In 1999 13.5% of requests for reconsideration were approved, but by 2010 the percentage declined to a mere 6.3%. Further the percentage of medical denials shot up from 12.9% in 1999 to 17.4% in 2010.

An experiment with some of the SSA’s procedural methods may explain some of the decline in award rates. In 10 states the SSA has eliminated the request for reconsideration portion of the administrative appeals process. However, this does not account entirely for the increased denial rate.

New Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) hired after 2010 seem to deny disability claims at a higher rate than the more experienced judges. These ALJs deny disability claims at a noticeably higher rate, with about 4% fewer awards of disability claims.

The outcomes of these cases can mean a world of difference for people suffering from serious or permanent disabilities.

You can view the SSA’s study here.

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Posted in Social Security
Law allows Students with Disabilities to Participate in Sports

The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed the legal obligations for public school districts to provide access to sports programs for the students with disabilities.

The review concerns Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a law that outlines the right of disabled people who participate in activities that receive federal funding. The law states that a school district “is required to provide a qualified student with a disability an opportunity to benefit from the district’s program equal to that of a student without disabilities,” according to the education department.

Those who advocate for disabled athletes praised the clarification of the rules and have said that they hope that there will be a rise in the participation of disabled athletes. The Office of Civil Right or OCR, issued the clarification of the law in response to a 2010 study that found that students with disabilities were not participating in extracurricular activities at the same rate as their peers.

The law defines a student with disabilities as an individual who has impairments that would not directly affect athletic performance such as students with Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, autism, and other intellectual difference.

The OCR has recommended that school districts make “reasonable modifications” to sport by-laws to accommodate students with disabilities. Such as visual cues for deaf students in track and field and making exceptions to the two hand rule in swimming for students with only one hand.

For cases where modifying the sport would significantly change the sport, schools are required to provide a separate activity that is fully accessible to those students. For example, a basketball league within the district for students who are confined to wheel chairs.

Not everyone is pleased about the clarification of this law and the legal obligations that come with it. Some members of the GOP believe that the OCR’s reaffirmation of this law overreach into what they should be a policy decided by the individual school districts.

 

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Posted in Disability
Wind and Cold Weather Increase Chances of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Now that winter is here, many workplaces have sealed off normally ventilated areas to block the cold and wind. Unfortunately, this often leads to more deaths or injuries resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning, usually from fuel-burning equipment or tools.

People who are most at risk are welders, taxi drivers, firefighters, mechanics, and metal oxide reducers; as well as people who work in breweries, boiler rooms, or warehouses. Once carbon monoxide strikes, the person will eventually lose consciousness and start to suffocate. The oxygen in the blood becomes depleted, and is unable to reach the vital organs in order to sustain life.

The gas is hard to detect, since it is unable to be seen, smelled, or tasted but some of the initial side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and nausea. With increased exposure, these side effects will worsen into vomiting and eventually, collapse.  People susceptible to lung or heart problems may also experience sudden chest pains as well. The good news is that if it is caught in time, the side-effects may be reversed so as to prevent permanent damage or death.

There are simple steps for employers to protect workers from potential poisoning; some of these steps include installing a ventilation system, monitors, and alarms in case of carbon monoxide exposure. Also, making sure that each machine is in good working order and educating workers can lead to fewer complications.

If you have been the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning at the workplace, or have other work-related injuries, make sure to contact an attorney right away.

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Posted in Worker's Compensation
Concerns Over Traumatic Brain Injury in Football

Football is easily the most popular sport in American culture. The love for pigskin has even penetrated on a global scale, the recent Super Bowl drawing in viewership to the tune of 128 million worldwide. While football can be considered one of the most popular sports in the world, there is also perhaps no sport more dangerous.

The NFL has come under particular scrutiny in recent years in part to traumatic brain injuries. Concussions are a regular occurrence on the field of play, some seasons carrying just under 200 reported cases of head injury. It’s an alarming statistic that shows no sign of slowing, despite new rules and regulations in place designed to protect players.

Suicide is now permanently associated with traumatic brain injury. Junior Seau grabbed national headlines in 2012 after taking his own life. The former star had a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated blows to the head. Seau exhibited CTE at the time of his death.

Research is still being conducted in terms of traumatic brain injury yet the statistics seemingly tell the entire story. This concern over safety is relatively new for the NFL, a spectacle long carrying the reputation of a gladiator sport. Inevitable sanctions could dramatically change the game the biggest game in American culture.

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Posted in Worker's Compensation
Veteran’s Disability Claims Are Hot Topic in Congress

A shocking statistic: Nearly 53 veterans die each day in the US, waiting for their benefits to begin so they can get the adequate health care they need. This has been on the minds of not only those suffering, but also congress, which has proposed speeding up the time for veterans to receive disability compensation. Typically, the wait can be anywhere from six months to over a year in order to process the claim, by that time it is often too late for these men or women.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated that they are having difficulties trying to process each claim with the overabundance of those seeking help, which has made the waiting period for benefits even longer. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs set a tentative goal of reducing the waiting period of benefits to 125 days, maximum.

Although, some say that 125 days is still too long for people to go without treatment, as almost one million people go without having their claims processed a year. With the influx of veterans returning from the Middle East coming home with physical and mental ailments, it is putting more stress on the Veteran’s Affairs office each year.

Part of one of the new proposals to aid military vets is to also provide adequate mental health care, by possibly incorporating it into the Tricare system for active-duty personnel. With the increases in post-traumatic suicides and gun violence in the United States, congress is eager to curb some of these problems by making the VA step up and meet these challenges.

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Posted in Disability