Corrections Officer Entitled to On-Duty Disability Retirement Benefits

MDASR served as counsel to a corrections officer in a successful appeal this week concerning disability retirement benefits. As reported in the New York law Journal on March 17, the case concerned a corrections officer who was injured in an altercation with an unruly inmate. The New York State Appellate Division of the Third Judicial Department reversed the decision of the comptroller’s office and held that the corrections officer was entitled to duty-related disability benefits because even if the injuries arose after the struggle with the inmate, they still had a causal connection with that event.

The duties of corrections officers come with inherent perils and dangers which were contemplated by legislature and imposed under Retirement and Social Security Law §607-c. The provision relates the risks faced by corrections officers and the protections provided regarding on-duty disability retirement if a guard must succumb to those risks. In this case, the Presiding Justice Karen Peters cited to the legislative intent of the statute and was joined by Justices William McCartney, Elizabeth Garry and Robert Rose in the ruling.

Many occupations come with a daily risk of danger. If you are injured while on-duty, make sure your rights are protected and you are fairly compensated by contacting an experienced New York State worker’s compensation attorney. Contact the Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866) 557-7500.

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NPR Reports Insurers Gaining Control in the California Worker’s Compensation System

According to a recent report by NPR, the California Worker’s Compensation System is giving too much control regarding medical decisions to employers and insurers. The State Compensation Insurance Fund, a quasi-governmental agency, employs anonymous independent medical reviewers. The reviewers, who are not required to be licensed in the state, have the power to make decisions regarding treatments without ever examining the worker. Many believe that too much deference is given to the reviewers, who side with the insurance companies 90% of the time.

In the case of a worker who was injured in a work accident in 1997, reforms made to the California worker’s compensation system have denied her the continuation of effective treatment which included pain medications and a home aide. This worker might never be able to use her feet again, and suffers from what is known as chronic or complex regional pain syndrome. After the State Compensation Fund reviewed only the worker’s medical paperwork, and not her actual injuries, the reviewer determined that the medication and the home aide were not helping her recover and thus, denied her request.

Because the reviewers are anonymous, it is impossible to override their decisions or even depose them for trial purposes.

In another heartbreaking case, a worker who suffered from job related injuries which resulted in paralysis is unable to live at home because his request for modifications to his home for wheelchair access were denied. Even though his doctor prescribed $170,000 in home modifications, an independent medical reviewer employed by the California Insurance Guarantee Association rejected the prescribed modifications. However, after NBC4 News in Los Angeles featured the story, the CIGA approved the modifications and publicly announced that the claim was not handled properly.

Click here to read the full NPR story.

If you have suffered from a workplace injury, contact an experienced worker’s compensation attorney who will fight for your rights. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Recent Report Exposes the Injured System of Worker’s Compensation Benefits

A recent report by ProPublica and National Public Radio exposed how states, including New York, have implemented cuts to worker’s compensation benefits which has resulted in shifting the costs of workplace accidents away from the employers and to the taxpayers. Employers are paying the lowest premium rates on workers’ compensation since the 1970’s. Both the risk of injury is increasing due to changing trends in the labor market, as well as the financial hardships suffered by employees who cannot work due to work related disabilities. Due to implementing cost saving strategies, insurance companies are seeing an 18% return in profits while workers are not getting the compensation they deserve. In many instances, the workers who suffer injury are forced into poverty as a result of being unable to return to their job, in addition to paying extraordinary medical expenses.

In New York, medical treatment guidelines were implemented in 2010 which lowered worker’s compensation costs for employers while limiting adequate treatment available to many workers. According to the ProPublica report, in 1988, the average rate for worker’s compensation insurance in New York was $2.98 per $100 of the worker’s wages. Last year, it was $2.85.

In a report published this month by OSHA entitled “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job,” OSHA analyzed the economic burdens that work injuries place on families and the trickle-down effect low worker’s compensation pay out rates have on society. The injuries suffered by many workers affect their entire family structure. In many cases, a worker’s spouse will need to cut back on their own hours of employment in order to care for their disabled family member. In other cases, the non-disabled spouse may take on an extra job or extra hours to support their family. Such long days causes workers to run the risk of fatigue and illness which causes a 61% increase in both work related injuries and motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, because workers cannot sue their employers, they largely rely on paying out of pocket for their medical expenses.

It is also interesting to note the price tags attached to injuries regarding worker’s compensation benefits. For example, in New York, the maximum compensation for loss of an arm is $252,299. In many jobs that involve labor, a worker will be unable to return to his previous duty without a limb. In many cases, the worker will have to support a family in addition to paying medical expenses out of the amount provided. Nevertheless, New York’s worker’s compensation benefits are still higher for most body parts than the national average.

OSHA has asserted that the “acceptable number of work injuries, especially fatal work injuries is zero.” In order to accomplish this, employers must take preventative measures to eliminate dangerous conditions. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Executive Seeks Fund Reallocation to Address Social Security Disability

The United States Social Security Disability Insurance program, which provides benefits to over 11 million Americans, could be cut by nearly 20 percent. According to reports from the Social Security Administration Board of Trustees released in July 2014, the Social Security trust fund, which finances the federal program, is projected to be depleted by the end of 2016.

To address potential shortfalls in the past, Congress has reallocated payroll taxes from Social Security’s Old Age and Survivors Insurance fund to the disability trust. Similarly, while recognizing the need for a congressionally crafted long-term solution, the White House has proposed reallocating payroll taxes from the social security retirement fund to the social security disability trust fund to prevent the looming depletion.

Specifically, the White House’s proposal would shift $330 billion from retirement accounts over the next five years. However, according to the White House, the proposed reallocation will not affect the overall health of the retirement and disability trust funds on a combined basis. It is important to note that it is still unclear whether such measures will be adopted.

If you or a loved one have any questions regarding your Workers’ Compensation, social security, or New York State disability benefits, contact our experienced attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Bus Drivers Face High Risk of On-the-Job Injury

Public transportation drivers have an especially important role to play in society- they are entrusted with delivering thousands of people every day safely to their destinations. In fact, in 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation and half (5.4 billion) of those trips were rides in a bus. Therefore, when a bus driver suffers from an injury or illness, there is a trickle down effect. A recent survey was published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reflecting the kinds of hazards bus drivers face on a daily basis. Due to the nature of their employment, bus drivers spend a great deal of time on the road and as a result, 42% of work related injuries in 2013 were related to transportation incidents. However, these incidents were second to physical overexertion in 2012, which accounted for 34% of cases. In 2013, overexertion constituted 22%.

In addition to vehicle accidents and bodily reactions, bus drivers also are exposed to the elements of nature as a condition of their job, and thus, slips and falls accounted for 14% of injuries in 2013- a decrease from 20% in 2011. The remainder 35% of accidents faced by bus drivers in 2013 fell into the categories of contact with objects/equipment, violence by people or animals, and exposure to harmful substances.

Bus drivers can often face long hours, and both physically and mentally stressful conditions. To be entrusted with the safety of so many passengers each day is a very serious undertaking. If you are a bus driver, or a loved one is, who has been injured while on duty, contact an experienced attorney who can assist you with your Worker’s Compensation claim. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Nurses Face Increased Risk of Workplace Violence

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has estimated that 2 million Americans a year are subjected to workplace violence. Specifically, there has been new light shed on the violence that many health care providers face on a daily basis. Nurses are most likely to experience workplace violence, with up to 82% of emergency room nurses reporting that they have been the subject of physical violence, and 100% claiming they had been subjected to verbal violence, according to a survey conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association.

Last month, the issue of workplace violence for nurses rose to the forefront when a cardiologist was shot at a Boston hospital, allegedly upset over his mother’s death. Although shootings at hospitals are not common, violent crimes in hospitals have been increasing as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Emergency room nurses and nurses who work in psychiatric wards are among those employed by the profession that faces the highest risks of injury resulting from violence in their workplace. Many of those who attack nurses are under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, or suffer from mental illness. Last year, a 70 year old nurse went into a coma and suffered brain damage as a result of a patient repeatedly kicking her in the head at a New York hospital. OSHA found that particular hospital had 40 incidents within 3 months, failing to take proper measures to prevent such scenarios from occurring.

As well as violence causing injury in the workplace, nurses also face a number of other job related injuries and illnesses that are prevalent in the profession. Back injuries, slip and falls, exposure to chemicals and diseases, and the injuries that may arise from a patient’s violent episode can all contribute toward a Worker’s Compensation claim if you have to miss work due to your condition.

If you are a nurse who has been the victim of workplace violence or suffered injury as a result of performing your job, you are eligible to file a NYS worker’s compensation claim. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will work aggressively to secure full and appropriate compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Potential 2015 Workers’ Compensation Legislation

Last year, 2014, the state of New York enacted several Workers’ Compensation bills, including the New York State Commercial Goods Industry Fair Play Act and the NYCERS and WCB Mandatory Exchange of information. To refresh, the New York State Commercial Goods Industry Fair Play Act, in part, established a standard to prevent the misclassification of trucker drivers as independent contractors. This simply means that truck drivers may be eligible for workers’ compensation if they were to suffer an on-the-job injury.

The NYCERS and WCB Mandatory Exchange of information, among other things, mandated the exchange of information between the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) and the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) in an effort to implement pension plan offsets for the workers’ compensation benefits a retiree receives for the same injury.

This year, 2015, several previously proposed pro-labor workers’ compensation bills are likely to be reintroduced at the state legislature. Among them includes a bill which would require a presumption of permanent total disability if an individual is approved for social security disability benefits; a bill which would allow claimants to choose their own pharmacy; a bill that would allow death benefits to continue if a spouse remarries; a bill which would require medical treatment guidelines for all body parts and medical conditions; and a bill prohibiting the retroactive application of the medical treatment guidelines. While it remains unclear whether these proposals will be adopted, it is important that New York workers remain informed of potential rights and protections.

If you have suffered a work related injury, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and other damages. An injury on the job can occur in a number of ways and can jeopardize your ability to provide for you and your family. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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ABLE Creates Long Term Planning Solution for Disabled Americans

In order to qualify for federal programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a person can’t have more than $2,000 in cash savings or other assets. As a result, many disabled Americans are discouraged from working or setting aside money for long term expenses, since they don’t want to put their benefits at risk.

A traditional planning solution that many permanently disabled individuals have as means to provide for long term care beyond government benefits, has been to create a special-needs trust. However, many people receiving Medicaid and SSI benefits, do not have the extra money to hire the necessary legal services to produce a trust.

This past December, however, congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, more concisely referred to as ABLE. Essentially, ABLE creates a lower-cost of means for the disabled and their families to save for long-term needs without jeopardizing their federal benefits.
According to the New York Times, disabled people and families with children who have special needs can pay into the accounts. So long as the money is spent on pre-approved categories of expenditures for the beneficiary, withdrawals from the accounts will not be taxed. Such pre-approved expenditures include, housing, education, transportation, health care and rehabilitation.

ABLE accounts have an annual contribution limit of $14,000 and can grow to $100,000 without effecting S.S.I. benefits. To qualify you must have been disabled before age 26. While specific regulatory are still emerging, anyone eligible for S.S.I. benefits will likely be eligible for ABLE.
Additionally, if you or a loved one have any questions regarding your workers benefits, social security, or disability benefits contact our experienced attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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Revised OSHA Regulations Call for More Employer Transparency

Starting January 1, 2015, companies will be required to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and eye losses within 24 hours of the incident. This comes as an update to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s current record-keeping requirements.

Currently, OSHA requires that employers report in-patient hospitalizations only if three or more employees are affected. Furthermore, amputations and eye losses were previously not required to be reported. Both the revised regulation and the previous regulation requirement that employers report work-related fatalities within eight hours. The new regulations reflect an effort on the part of OSHA to broaden its safety-reporting requirements.

Many employers, however, are not convinced that stricter federal requirements on reporting workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses will significantly improve workplace safety. Employers further argue that the new implementation will require that time and money be spent on compliance, even though there is little evidence that such a regulation revision will improve workplace safety.

Indeed, OSHA estimates it will take about 30 minutes, per incident, to gather and report the required information. OSHA officials estimate that if 120,000 additional reports are submitted nationally, and if the person making the report makes about $40 an hour, the reports could cost employers about $2.6 million nationwide. At present, OSHA receives an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 reports per year for fatalities and catastrophes resulting in three or more employees being hospitalized.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration aims to help employers and employees reduce on-the-job injuries, illnesses and deaths by directing national compliance initiatives in occupational safety and health.

If you have been injured during the course of your employment you may qualify for workers compensation. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

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Can a Company Require an Employee to Provide Notification Before Seeking Medical Treatment?

In short, no. Employers cannot required employees to give notification before seeking medical treatment. The issue arose in court after a FedEx employee alleged that he was fired for such a lack of notification. In the September 24, 2014 decision, a federal judge ruled the policy was effectively illegal.

According to reports, the employee had notified supervisor that he was suffering from back discomfort. As a result, the employee was scheduled for “light duty” for the duration of week. The employee subsequently scheduled an appointment with a physician’s assistant, who provided him with a note requesting his employer, FedEx, keep him on light duty until he could receive a complete evaluation. However upon receiving the note, FedEx fired the individual.
Although FedEx claimed that the then-employee violated company policy by not notifying his supervisor ahead of time that he was seeking medical treatment, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division determined that the company’s policy violated the employee’s right to seek medical treatment without interference.

As the Court opined, “[By] definition, imposing any prerequisite an employee must satisfy before seeking medical treatment ‘interferes’ with the employee’s right to seek and obtain medical treatment and therefore runs afoul of the [state] Workers’ Compensation Act.”

In New York State, workers’ compensation laws cover nearly all New York employees. If you are injured on the job, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention as soon as possible. While you are not required to notify your employer that you are seeking medical attention, New York workers’ compensation law does require the injured employee to notify their employer about the injury and the way in which it occurred within 30 days of the accident causing the injury.

The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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