Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kansas Woman Has Been Waiting 8 Years for Disability Benefits

Publicity over the Social Security Disability backlog continues to mount.

It’s no wonder that reporters are attracted to this story because there are so many heartbreaking cases of really sick, disabled people struggling financially while they play the waiting game for Social Security Disability benefits.

If you get sick or hurt so badly that you may never work again, your last, desperate wisp of a safety net — Social Security disability benefits — is horribly tattered.

Apply for benefits now and, if statistical averages hold for the Kansas City area, it may be December 2009 before you see a check. That is if you are among the estimated one in three applicants who gets any money at all.

Vicki Kindred’s story is particularly shocking. The 51-year-old Missouri woman has been trying since May 2000 to win disability benefits after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other ailments. She made some mistakes in her initial claim, which served to further prolong the process.

Now, Kindred’s husband, Larry, who had a stroke in 2004, is applying for Social Security disability benefits, as well.

You have to wonder whether either of them will ever receive a check.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lack of Insurance, Medical Care May Have Contributed to MS Patient’s Decline

The headline on a recent Wall Street Journal article says it all:

How Government Adds To Ranks of Uninsured

Providing coverage for the uninsured has became a key issue in the presidential race. But as the article explains, the federal government, which outsources service jobs, is adding to the numbers of uninsured in this country.

They are people like Fay Derricotte, a cashier in the cafeteria at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington. She worked for a private contractor that didn’t provide health insurance coverage, and her annual salary – only about $14,500, wasn’t enough for her to buy insurance on her one.

Derricotte, who was laid off from her job, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is now confined to a wheelchair. She is unable to work and is collecting Social Security disability benefits and other public assistance.

Her condition is dire, and doctors say that the rapid progression of her disease and the onset of her disability might have been slowed had Derricotte received earlier medical intervention and treatment.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Workers’ Comp Recipients Sometimes First to Go in Layoffs

It’s patently illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims.

But career expert and best-selling author Cynthia Shapiro says companies considering layoffs often target employees who have cost them money or caused an inconvenience.

In fact, that’s number 3 on her list of “danger signs” that employees should consider when trying to figure out if they’ll be among the next round of layoffs.
Are you expensive? Have you cost the company money or created an inconvenience? if you've filed a workers’ compensation claim, reported a sexual harassment issue, made a costly mistake, or went out on maternity or medical leave, you could be at the top of the list when layoffs come calling. Yes, this may be illegal, but it still
happens more often than we'd like to think. Layoffs provide what is often
perceived as a safe opportunity to remove employees who have cost the company
money or inconvenience. Some companies just can't pass up that opportunity.

Shapiro, the author Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You To Know - And What To Do About Them, gives more tips on predicting a layoff before it happens and preparing yourself in a blog at CollegeRecruiter.com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

8 Workers’ Comp Mistakes That Employers Make

We couldn’t agree more with the writers over at the Workers’ Comp Insider, the blog of Lynch Ryan, who say that workers’ compensation is a people issue, not a financial one.

That sentiment was in response to an American Printer article about the eight mistakes that many companies make when it comes to workers’ compensation.

1) Confusing lower premium rates with cost reductions
2) Becoming complacent
3) Focusing on direct costs only
4) Separating workers compensation from employee retention
5) Measuring the wrong thing
6) Thinking rates will stay low
7) Viewing workers’ comp as an expense
8) Devaluing your relationship with your insurance company or agency

The full article about workers’ compensation mistakes is available online.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Filing Suit For a Workplace Injury

Workers’ compensation provides for lost wages and medical care for injured workers.

But do people who are hurt at work have any other legal recourse?

In some cases, yes.

Even if an injured worker is collecting workers’ comp benefits, he or she may be able to file suit against a third party who is liable for the workplace injury or illness.

Say for example a worker is hurt while operating a piece of manufacturing equipment that malfunctions. That worker may be able to file a lawsuit against the maker of the faulty equipment.

Ditto if a person is injured while working offsite, say on a construction site owned by someone other than his employer. If there were unsafe working conditions, the property owner could be held liable.

In fact, such legal actions are quite common.

A Texas construction worker who was hurt after a safety lanyard failed is suing the maker of the safety gear, as well as the owner of the property where he was injured.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kansas Gets Two New Administrative Law Judges

The Social Security Administration has hired two new Administrative Law Judges to decide Social Security disability cases in Kansas.

Over the past several years, the number of Kansans waiting for the Social Security Administration to issue a decision grew to more than 14,000, in part due to a lack of judges. The hiring of new judges is one aspect of the organization’s plan to reduce the backlog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Social Security Administration Seeks to Hire New Administrative Law Judges to Meet Backlog

The Social Security Administration has made job offers to 144 new Administrative Law Judges in an effort to meet the severe backlog of Social security disability cases.

“The hiring of these new ALJs is a critical step in our plan to reduce the backlog of disability cases,” Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue said. “They represent one of the largest investments in ALJs this agency has ever made. When these ALJs are fully-trained, and combined with the other steps we are taking, we will be able for the first time in this decade to reduce the number of cases waiting for a disability hearing. I can hardly wait for them to start.”

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the number of backlogged disability claims doubled to about 576,000 cases between the 1997 and 2006 fiscal years.

Tags: Social Security disability, backlog, Government Accountability Office, Michael Astrue


Indiana, Michigan Residents See Lengthy Backlogs in Collecting Disability Payments

Tens of thousands of residents in Indiana and Michigan are seeing delays of nearly two years in collecting their Social Security Disability payments.

In Indiana, the average processing time to collect Social Security Disability is 694 days. In Michigan it's 698 days.

Indiana resident John Treash was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. He’s in remission now and willing and able to work. But employers won’t give him a job because of his health history.

"You can't find work because of your sickness, or people don't hire you because they hear you've got cancer. They don't want all your medical bills," he said.

However, Treash also has waited four years and still hasn’t received his Social Security disability payments.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GAO Study Finds Significant Backlog In Social Security Disability Cases

A Government Accountability Office study recently confirmed what many in the legal profession already knew—the Social Security Administration has gotten much slower in processing Social Security disability claims.

Between the 1997 and 2006 fiscal years, backlogged disability claims doubled to about 576,000 cases. The number of backlogged cases increased at almost every stage of the process; only the Appeals Council process processed cases more efficiently. Nearly three-quarters of the backlog is at the hearing level stage. The GAO blames substantial growth in the numbers of disability claims, staff losses and turnover, and management weaknesses for the increased in backlogged cases.

Monday, April 14, 2008

America’s Safest Companies Emphasize Safety, Injury Prevention Over All Else

While some companies think that on-the-job injuries are just a cost of doing business – Who would want to work at such a place? – others are committed to keeping their workplaces safe and their employees protected from harm.

Occupational Hazards, a publication about workplace safety, health and prevention, each year recognizes America's Safest Companies.

The most recent winners are:
BWXT Pantex
CH2M Hill
E. J. Ajax and Sons
Kroger Manufacturing
Louisiana-Pacific Corp.
M.B. Herzog Electric Inc.
Parker Drilling Co.
Rea Magnet Wire
Southern Ohio Medical Center
W.W. Grainger

How does a business make the list?
They emphasize safety always and they make it clear to all employees that injury-prevention is the number one goal. In every case, safety is part of the corporate culture. In fact, one of the safe companies follows four tenets: 1) nothing is worth getting injured over; 2) all injuries can be prevented; 3) safety will be managed; and 4) safe behavior is a condition of employment for all employees.

"Some companies still believe that on-the-job injuries and illnesses are a cost of doing business. Our honorees see things quite differently," said Stephen G. Minter, editorial director and publisher of Occupational Hazards. "They understand that work-related injuries and fatalities are a cost – in human and financial terms – that no company should expect to incur!"

"Although we are willing to place safety above the bottom line, the fact is that safety and profitability are not the polar opposites that some companies perceive them to be," says Erick Ajax, vice president, E.J. Ajax & Sons Inc. "E.J. Ajax has outlasted many competitors in a challenging manufacturing environment in part because of a workers’ compensation rate that saves the company more than $1,000 per year per employee in insurance premiums."

Companies such as these, which make safety a priority, save money on workers’ compensation claims and insurance costs. And they also save lives.

Reporter Bob Woodruff Plagued by Aphasia After Suffering Brain Injury in Iraq

Former ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff, who suffered a head injury in a roadside bombing in Iraq, still struggles with the effects of his traumatic brain injury.

Though Woodruff has been able to return to work as a reporter for ABC, he sometimes still struggles to come up with words for everyday objects, like "remote control." Other times, he might use the wrong word or a made-up one. It’s like a roadblock in his brain.

That’s just one of the scars left by the shrapnel that ripped into his skull caused.

The disorder that makes Woodruff forget words he once knew is "aphasia," and it affects about 1 million people in the United Sates, according to the National Aphasia Association. It happens when a stroke or brain injury affects the left side of the brain, which controls language.

Minnesota Lawmakers Push for Better Workers’ Comp for Cops, Public Servants

Here’s another story about how workers’ compensation and Social Security disability rules affect public employers, like police officers and government employees. This story takes place in Minnesota.

Police officer Dan Wulff suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training exercise, and it left him permanently disabled. However, because of the way the law is applied, he is only eligible for temporary disability payments.

Dan Wulff is literally caught in the middle. Had he been killed, his widow would be getting 100 percent of his salary. Had he been partially disabled, he'd still be getting 100 percent. However, because he's fully and permanently disabled, he gets only about two-thirds.

The problem is a quirk in federal and state law known as the windfall elimination provision. Originally intended to curb fraud, it caps permanent total disability at 66 percent of the workers’ wage at the time of injury.

The law affects not only cops, but firefighters, school teachers and millions of other federal, state and city workers. Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan says almost no one knows about the provision until it’s too late.

Wulff isn’t collecting workers’ compensation and obviously Social Security Disability isn’t providing him the coverage or benefits he deserves.

Some state and national lawmakers are trying to correct this loophole, which penalizes public servants like Wulff.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Philadelphia Lawyers and Experience

There may come a time when the choice of selecting a Philadelphia lawyer needs to be made. This choice, however, may prove difficult. After all, there are a multitude of excellent lawyers in the Philadelphia area and deciding which one is best for you might prove difficult. There are a number of different criteria you could use for your election but probably the one that trumps all would be experience. If a lawyer has extensive time in the field then they will have a leg up on an inexperienced lawyer. This is not a knock on "newbie" lawyers but experience is a quality that is irreplaceable and very valuable as it indicates a track record of success.

OSHA Warns Companies to Improve Safety, Reduce Injuries and Illnesses

More than 14,000 businesses nationwide are on notice from the federal government that their workplace injury and illness rates are too high.

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health sent warning letters that encouraged companies to take steps to improve safety and health conditions.

"A high injury and illness rate is costly to employees and employers in both personal and financial terms," said Assistant Secretary Edwin G. Foulke. "Our goal is to make them aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to focus on eliminating hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their employees."

According to OSHA surveys, the average U.S. workplace had 2.3 injuries resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time employees. But those that received the warning letters had at least 5.4 DART injuries for every 100 workers.

OSHA doesn’t include the names of these companies in its press release on the warning letters.