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The New York Disability Law Blog

Information and Help for Disabled Individuals with Workers' Compensation, Social Security Disability and Construction Accident Claims

9/11 WTC Compensation Fund to Issue New Zadroga Act Regulations Next Week

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Health Registry, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, 9/11 Zadroga Act, WTC Cancer, WTC Compensation Fund, WTC Health Program, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

Sept-11th-Victim-Comp-Fund-Turley-Hansen

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will issue an important new Final Rule on June 15, 2016 which will help clarify new procedures for filing claims under the James Zadroga Reauthorization Act.

Since the Zadroga Act was reauthorized, 9/11 WTC lawyers like Turley Hansen have not been able to file new claims while we awaited these new regulations and new claim forms.

In addition, the 9/11 VCF will begin making new Group B (claimants with loss determination awards dated after 12/17/15) award decisions by the end of June on a rolling basis.  This will be great news for the many 9/11  responders and victims who did not fit into the Group A category (VCF award determinations 12/17/15 or before).  Many of them have been waiting many years for their compensation awards and light is now at the end of the tunnel.

For Group B loss decisions that begin being issued in late June, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund expects to begin authorizing payments to claimants by the end of August.

The WTC Compensation Fund expects that a that a small percentage of Group B claim loss decisions will be monetarily smaller than Group A claims for the same conditions.  The rational behind this should become more clear after the new Rule is issued on June 15th.  We will post the new rule as soon as it becomes available on our 9/11 Zadroga Act Info site, zadrogaclaimsinfo.com and on our Zadroga Act Cancer Info Facebook page.

Important: Remember that you must “Register” with the Victim Compensation Fund within certain deadlines depending on your 9/11 related diagnosis. Unfortunately, every day we are hearing from more 9/11 responders and downtown Manhattan residents who have  succumbed to 9/11 WTC  cancers and other illnesses. You only have two (2) years to register your claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund if you have a 9/11 related cancer. See the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund registration deadline chart here.

For example, if you were diagnosed with 9/11 related lung cancer on August 1, 2014, you only have until August 1, 2016 to “register” your claim with the VCF.  Missed registration deadlines are some of the saddest situations we must deal with when we speak to clients each day. If you have a question on 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Registration Deadlines, call us today at 1-855-WTC-INFO (1-855-982-4636).

We will have more information for you on this important new Zadroga Act Rule when it is issued by the WTC Compensation Fund on June 15th. Until then, have a nice weekend and stay healthy.

 

 

Important New WTC Status Report from 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, 9/11 Zadroga Act, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

Sept-11th-Victim-Comp-Fund

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Special Master Sheila Birnbaum issued an important new report this week on the status of claims processing for first responders and other victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. See the key dates on the 911 Zadroga Act Reauthorization Timeline here. The Special Master highlighted the fact that the Fund has now paid out over $1 billion in the last five years, including many WTC 9/11 cancer claims. It is clear that the Victim Compensation Fund has ironed out almost all the kinks the fund had initially, and victims are now receiving timely loss determination awards. See the Special Master’s May 2016 9/11 Claim Status Report here.

The following are some important accomplishments and milestones passed by the VCF since the Reauthorization:

Group A Claims

  • Authorized full payments for expedited claims that do not have any issues preventing payment;
  • Authorized full payments for claimants who previously received a 10% payment and do not have any issues preventing payment;
  • Authorized 100% payments for claimants who have never received a VCF payment and do not have any issues preventing payment;
  • Authorized payments for claimants who previously received a loss determination letter that included a notice of missing information;
  • Group A payments completed (VCF activity complete) Department of Justice (DOJ) and Treasury Department finish processing Group A payments.

Group B Claims

  • Reviewed Group B claims received prior to December 18, 2015 for completeness from oldest to most recent; sent Missing Information letters as needed; received and reviewed responses to missing information requests; calculated preliminary loss based on draft regulations; Public comment period ends Release sample new hard copy forms Complete Government review; publish Interim Final Rule effective June 15 and begin public comment period.
  • Defined updated policies and procedures;
  • Drafted updated regulations (including required updates to loss calculation methodology);
  • Initiated official rule-making process – requires review and approval of regulations by various Government offices.

The new 9/11 VCF Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum clearly shows the impressive job the VCF is currently doing. I know many of you are  still waiting patiently to receive your the financial awards you deserve. However, assuming you or your attorney have submitted all the information required for the VCF to make a loss determination in your case, you should be seeing light at the end of the tunnel shortly.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us for a Free Claim Evaluation at 1-855-WTC-INFO (1-855-982-4636). Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

 

9/11 Firefighter Widow Wins $3 Million WTC Pension after Nine Year Court Fight

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, 9/11 Zadroga Act, Death Benefits, Disability Pensions, Firm News & Events, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

9_11 Firefighter

The New York Post has a great article today on the Court decision giving the widow of a hero 9/11 firefighter a $3 Million dollar WTC pension payout “The word ‘no’ is not in my vocabulary,”  the widow, Jackie Kaht Fernandez, 53, told The Post. What makes this story so sad is that the widow could have received the 9/11 WTC death benefits much sooner had the New York City Fire Department simply followed the World Trade Center Presumption Law. Way to go Jackie for not giving up! 

Instead, Supreme Court Justice Richard Velasquez excoriated the NYC Pension Board for “shocking and unconscionable” behavior and acting in “bad faith” in his decision.  The Pension Board had essentially ignored two prior court decisions overturning decisions of the Pension Medical Board which decides 9/11 WTC related cases. The decision noted:

“Her late husband, Lt. Cruz Fernandez, died suddenly on July 14, 2006 of a 9/11 related medical condition.  Lt. Fernandez was a “First Responder” who worked at Ground Zero from September 11, 2001 through the next 25 days, sometimes as often as 15 hours per day. Prior to his untimely death at age 52, Lt Fernandez had completed nine marathons”.

The NYC Fire Department Pension Board is required to use the 9/11 WTC Presumption. As the Court stated:

Once an applicant establishes that the 9/11 hero worked the requisite number of hours at Ground Zero, the “World Trade Center Presumption” places the burden on the New York City Fire Department Pension Board to show that the applicant’s qualifying injury was not incurred in the line of duty.

The 9/11 WTC presumption is not only important in the Fernandez firefighter pension case, but it is equally important in 9/11 WTC cancer cases. After all, how is a disabled 9/11 hero supposed to prove that 9/11 related cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, kidney cancer, lung cancer, mesothelioma, prostate cancer, melanoma cancer of the skin, colon cancer or bladder cancer?.

Congrats also to our partner, NYC Pension Attorney Chet Lukaszewski, who battled the City and overcame every legal hurdle thrown his client’s way.

Happy Holidays from the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco and Rosasco

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Social Security Disability, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

Merry Christmas Turley Redmond Rosasco Disability Lawyers

All the attorneys and staff of Turley, Redmond, Rosasco & Rosasco, LLP wish our clients and friends “Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men” during the Holiday Season!

Please celebrate with us the recent passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act.

Please mourn with us all workers and their families who lost loved ones on the job in the past year.

Please pray with us that 2016 brings good health and greater safety to all workers.

See you in the New Year!

A Time to Be Grateful – Remember 9/11 Hero Diane DiGiacomo

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Zadroga Act, Death Benefits, Health Info, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Uncategorized, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

Diane_ DiGiacomo_9_11_cancer_victim

As Thanksgiving 2015 approaches, some may wonder what we should be grateful for as our world copes with the barbaric actions of ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist groups.

However, the death from cancer last week of Diane DiGiacomo, an ASPCA  special investigator who helped rescue animals around Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, reminds us that those of us who are not victims of workplace illnesses and death indeed have much to be grateful for. Rest in peace Diane.

Just a week before the 54 year old DiGiacomo died of the multiple cancers that ravaged her body, a New York State Workers’ Compensation Board Judge denied DiGiacomo’s claim for 9/11 cancer.  While I have not yet seen the actual decision, Ms. DiGiacomo’s workers’ compensation lawyer publicly blasted the judge calling the decision “outrageous”.

With Paris burning and the re-authorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 law to protect  first responder cancer victims pending according to new House Speaker Paul Ryan,  Diane’s death brings the issue of workers’ compensation benefits for terrorism related first responders right to our professional and personal doorsteps.  The pictures in the newspaper of Diane just prior to her death are heart wrenching.

But Diane’s was not the first death of an injured worker in 2015.  Our office has handled other work related death claims this year that were never publicized, but were just as devastating to the families. Earlier this year, I handled a claim for a worker who is now a quadriplegic due to a tragic on-the-job related injury.  All workers’ compensation attorneys across the country are on the front lines seeing these tragedies almost every day.

In 2014, according to OSHA, fatal work related accidents and illnesses totaled 4,679, or almost 13 workers lives per day.  This was up from 4,585 in 2013.

So if you are looking for something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, please take a moment to reflect on the fact that you were not among the thousands who lost their lives so far in 2015 for no other reason than going to work.

 

 

 

 

 

New 9/11 Cancer Information Website provided by Zadroga Act Lawyers Turley Hansen and Partners

Posted in 9/11 Cancer Claim, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, 9/11 Zadroga Act, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

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Turley, Hansen & Partners is pleased to announce “9/11 Cancer Compensation Claims Info”, a new online informational resource  for those who have been diagnosed with 9/11 related cancers.  The website will provide the information needed to file a cancer claim with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and whether someone is eligible, according to Partner Troy Rosasco.

The site was previously called “Zadroga 9/11 Claims Info” and was originally launched in 2011 soon after the passage of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010.  Initially, claims for 9/11 related cancers were not covered under the law.  The site was renamed since the vast majority of new claims are being filed by those diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer.

The 9/11 Cancer Compensation Claims Info website has a special FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) section dedicated solely to addressing cancer claims from police officers, firefighters, first responders, volunteers and others who were sickened by the airborne toxins from Ground Zero. The section explains to the site’s visitors which 9/11-related cancers are eligible for treatment and compensation, where they can receive medical care, how much money they can expect to receive from the VCF, and whether they are eligible for funds from the VCF.

The site also explains the most common types of 9/11 cancer, the type of medical care offered through the World Trade Center Health Program, claims procedures and filing deadlines. In addition, the site is updated regularly with news, information and analysis on the current fight in Congress to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

On October 12, 2012, the WTC Health Program added certain cancers to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions.  The list was updated on October 21, 2013  with the addition of Prostate Cancer. On February 18, 2014  the definition of Rare Cancers was revised and examples of certain Rare Cancers meeting the definition were added.  See the current list of covered 9/11 related cancers here.

However, a cancer on the list of WTC-related health conditions does not necessarily mean that a cancer in an individual WTC responder or survivor will be determined to be WTC-related.  Each WTC responder and survivor enrolled in the Program will go through a physician’s determination and “Program certification” process to assess whether their individual cancer meets the statutory definition of a WTC-related health condition.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which is a separate agency from the World Trade Center Heath Program, determines financial awards for claimants with 9/11 cancers. The VCF will accept cancers that are certified for treatment by the WTC Health Program. Individuals who have been diagnosed with one of the specified cancers are eligible for compensation from the VCF provided the cancer is certified for treatment by the WTC Health Program and provided the claimant meets the VCF’s other eligibility criteria. You do not have to participate in the WTC Health Program in order to submit your claim to the VCF.

If you are being treated by another program or by another physician for a covered cancer, the VCF will provide you with specific forms and instructions to use to obtain information from that physician and will then seek guidance from the WTC Health Program as to whether your condition meets the standards adopted for certification.

“Unfortunately, 9/11 first responders, workers, volunteers and downtown residents are calling our office every day after being diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer,” Partner Daniel Hansen said. “With the recent expiration of the Zadroga Act — putting in jeopardy future health benefits (with funding running out by early next year) — these claimants need more information and guidance than ever. We hope this new informational website can give them a starting point to find answers to their questions.”

 

Walmart and McDonald’s Want to “Deform” Workers’ Comp and “Re-engineer Social Justice”

Posted in Health Info, Labor News, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Uncategorized

Last March the New York Disability Law Blog posted on the the “Demolition of Workers’ Comp”, an excellent piece of investigative journalism co-produced by NPR and ProPublica. At that time, we highlighted that employer workers’ compensation costs were at a 25 year low.  Despite employers paying less for workers’ comp, they still did awful things like deny an injured worker a prosthetic hand for the real one he lost on the job.  Instead, the employer offered him a metal hook!  I kid you not.

Now comes the second installment entitled “Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp” and the plight of injured workers seems bleaker than just six months ago.

A shrewd Texas corporate lawyer by the name of Bill Minick proudly proclaims “We’re talking about re-engineering one of the pillars of social justice…”(i.e.,Workers’ Compensation).  Mess with the “pillars of social justice”?! 

Really Bill? You may be the son of an evangelist, but you are not God!  

There is nothing wrong with trying to reduce employer workers’ comp costs (even if it at a 25 year low). There is nothing wrong with promoting employee safety and appropriate return to work. There is nothing wrong with eliminating both employer and employee fraud.  There is nothing wrong with elimination of inefficiencies in the system. Workers’ comp can always be improved.

But only a crazed zealot would attempt to tear down “one of the pillars of social justice” while making it all sound reasonable to legislatures and the public at large.  One need only look to recent history  to recognize the permanent harm crazed zealots can do. One need only look at the horrors workers’ comp “deform” has produced for injured workers so far.   Beware!

After reading the the almost inconceivable, anti-worker provisions in the “Opt-out workers’ compensation plans” Minick, Walmart and McDonald’s propose, one can only conclude that states such as Texas and Oklahoma are travelling backwards to the days of “robber barons” exploiting injured workers to gorge on ever increasing profits.  These are the types of abuses that the original workers’ compensation laws and “pillars of social justice” seeks to abolish.

Historic workplace tragedies such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and more recently, 9/11  are not forgotten.  Workplace shootings seem to be almost daily occurrences in the nightly news. Progressive workers’ compensation laws, first proposed by Theodore Roosevelt, still serve the remedial and humanitarian goals of protecting the economic interests of both workers and employers.

Thankfully, Congress is watching. See the below letter from prominent members of Congress who are watching this issue closely.

Congress Letter to DOL re workers comp oversight 10-20-15 (2)

 

Protective Legislation for Workers – St. John’s Law School Spring 2015 Wrap-Up

Posted in Disability Pensions, Firm News & Events, Long Term Disability / ERISA, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Social Security Disability, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

St Johns Law Logo

My third year of teaching the course Protective Legislation for Workers was the charm. As a new course developed by Prof. Barouh and myself, we have steadily fine-tuned the class based on student feedback and trial and error. Fifteen excellent students (mostly third year) brought the class alive this spring with insightful and regular participation in our seminar format.

I was very impressed with their essay answers on the final exam and wished many of them good luck after graduation. Most of our graduating third year students have new attorney jobs already, with at least half going into labor & employment, workers’ compensation or disability law. This is a testament to the strong labor & employment law program at St. John’s led by Prof. David Gregory.

I wish everyone a safe and restful summer.

Adding Insult to Injury – The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

Posted in Construction Accidents, Labor News, NY Workers Compensation Claims

This week National Public Radio and ProPublica released an eye-opening report, The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, detailing how state workers’ comp benefits for injured workers have been slashed across the US leaving many to live in poverty without proper medical care.

Could this happen in New York? Unfortunately, the answer is “Yes”. As New York workers’ comp lawyers, we can see the hand writing on the wall if something is not done soon. Here are some sad lowlights from the article:

  • Dennis Whedbee lost his arm on the job. The workers’ compensation insurance company refused to give him a prosthetic hand. They offered him a hook instead!
  • Joel Ramirez is a paraplegic due to a work accident in a warehouse. He needs assistance with bathing and toileting on a daily basis. The workers’ comp insurance company took away his home health aide leaving him sitting in his own urine and feces. His wife had to quit her job cleaning houses to take care of him.
  • John Coffell suffered a severe lower back injury working in a factory. His workers’ comp checks are so low his truck was repossessed and his family was evicted from their apartment. His family had to split up to live with relatives and some live in a family camper.

While injured workers in New York are facing similar indignities, employers continue to lobby to cut workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers even more despite:

  • Employer workers’ compensation costs are at a 25 year low.
  • Workers’ comp insurance companies are making record profits.
  • “Employer fraud” is growing as a result of misclassification of workers.

As a result of the unending cuts in workers’ comp benefits in the last decade, the cost of work related accidents have been shifted to the Social Security disability program, Medicare and Medicaid. Essentially, costs properly borne by employers only a decade ago are increasingly being shifted to taxpayers. With employers paying less for work related injuries, they have less incentive to prevent work accidents in the first place – which is in everyone’s’ best interest. Bottom line – the workplace is getting more dangerous, employer costs have gone down dramatically and insurance companies are still making record profits.

The “Demolition of Workers’ Comp” and accompanying info on the NPR website is well-researched and traces the origins of workers’ compensation law and the “grand bargain” between workers and employers: injured workers gave up their right to sue negligent employers in return for prompt lost wage and medical benefits. Employer and business interests are now trying to renege on that century old bargain by gutting state workers’ compensation laws. Do employers really want to go back to a system where they have to defend against employee lawsuits? I don’t think so.

Employers and business should keep their “hands off” workers’ compensation and the fair “grand bargain”.

Is Working While On Disability a Contradiction?

Posted in Social Security Disability, Uncategorized

Working while on Social Security Disability

 

You know someone who has been involved in an accident that has affected his ability to perform his duties at work. He applies for disability, and receives it; but then you find out that he is working at another job.

You scratch your head and wonder how it’s possible that someone who is receiving disability is able to continue working. Isn’t that some sort of conflict of interest? Actually, it isn’t. As surprising as it may sound, the government actually offers incentives to those who are on disability. The aim of these incentives is to encourage those who are on disability to return to work so that they can regain financial independence.

Take the case of a banquet server from California. She worked for more than 3 decades and was involved in a serious car accident that left her with ruptured disks in her back and neck. She required physical therapy and surgery, and was no longer able to keep up with the physical demands of her job. This forced her to file for disability.

Since she had a good work history and paid into Social Security, she was eligible to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) when she needed it. While on disability, she received the funds she needed to pay bills and other expenses. However, once she recovered to a point where she felt like she could return to work, she decided to take advantage of the government-sponsored “Ticket to Work” program. This program allowed her to learn a new skill, data-entry, which she now uses in her new position.

She started out earning minimum wage, which wasn’t enough to pay her bills. The wage she earned, coupled with the funds she received from her SSDI allowed her to make ends meet. She was eventually promoted to a supervisory position in her new-found job, and was able to support herself financially from the wage she earned from her new job.

How Does It Work?

There are two types of Social Security benefits that people with disabilities can qualify for: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). People can qualify for one or both, and both offer the option to work and collect benefits at the same time.

In short, in order to qualify for either type of disability, the following criteria must be met:

  • Suffered a disability that will last for a year or longer
  • Worked a specific period of time
  • Must have paid Social Security taxes

During the trial period of the work incentive program, an individual tests his or her ability to work while still receiving full disability. All work activity has to be reported, and they must earn at least $770 a month.

The work incentive programs that the government offers those who are on disability has positively impacted many people’s lives.

Should you have any questions about  whether you are eligible to apply for Social Security Disability benefits,  please feel free to call or fill out the contact us form at the top of this page.