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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 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

911-Cancer-Compensation-Claims-Information-Zadroga-Act

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.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All New York Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Claimants!

Posted in Firm News & Events, Health Info, Labor News, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Social Security Disability

On behalf of all the attorneys and staff at the New York disability and workers’ compensation law firm of Turley, Redmond, Rosasco & Rosasco, LLP, we would like to wish all our clients, friends and fellow travelers in the disability community a very Merry Christmas and a Brave New Year!

Social Security Disability Advocates Binder & Binder Officially File for Bankruptcy

Posted in Health Info, Labor News, Social Security Disability

As reported in the Wall Street Journal today, the nation-wide Social Security Disability firm of Binder and Binder formally filed for bankruptcy last night in New York.  The bankruptcy petition filed with the Court is 62 pages long (we will post on Monday) and lists current total employees as of October 2014 at 966.  The bankruptcy petition indicates that the staff at Binder & Binder will shrink, presumably by closing offices and layoffs, to 355 employees as of December 2016. In addition, employee benefits will shrink by approximately one third.

According to the petition filed in Court, there will be no more Call Center employees or Case Interviewers by June 2015.   Also, many talented employees will immediately try to find new positions in other Social Security Disability law firms.    Finally, the current active client caseload of 57,968 is estimated  to shrink to 15,163 by December 2016.  This most likely means that Binder & Binder will stop taking any new cases immediately and simply wind down the existing stockpile. Many existing clients are likely to abandon ship now and retain new Social Security Disability lawyers.

This is a sad day for all of Binder’s Social Security Disability clients who are currently represented by… “America’s Most Successful Social Security Advocates”.