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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 Workers’ Compensation Registration Re-opens: Governor Cuomo Signs Bill

Posted in NY Workers Compensation Claims, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

Last week Governor Cuomo signed an important new bill that re-opened 911 workers’ compensation registration and disability pensions for Ground Zero workers. The new registration deadline is set for September 11, 2014, but re-opens registration and filing for previously denied claims. Therefore, any 9/11 worker who was previously denied workers’ compensation because they failed to register timely, will now have a second shot at establishing a claim before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. In addition, the filing of new workers’ compensation claims will have an impact on pending 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claims. It is strongly suggested that you speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer knowledgeable in 9/11 claims as soon as possible. Feel free to contact Turley, Redmond, Rosasco and Rosasco with any questions.


Registration preserves the right for workers who participated in the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts at Ground Zero to be able to file a future claim should they become sick with a 9/11 related illness.The revised  bill now allows for vested members in eligible pension retirement systems to participate in 9/11 workers’ compensation registration regardless if they had subsequently left service. The registry  known as the WTC-12 or the WTC Notice of Participation for pension systems, for example, The New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS) or the New York City Police Pension Fund (NYCPPF). If you have already filed a WTC-12 or WTC Notice of Participation, you do not have to re-register. You can view the full press release from Governor Cuomo here. 

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Queens New York Social Security Disability Judge Bias Class Action Settlement Approved by Court

Posted in Disability Pensions, Health Info, Labor News, Social Security Disability

 

 

There are unfortunately many Americans who fell for the recent “one-sided” 60 Minutes piece by Steve Kroft about how easy it is to get disability benefits from Social Security  For those who want to know the reality of how tough getting disability benefits can really be,  you should read the attached Padro vs. Astrue (Colvin) Queens NY Social Security Judicial Bias Class Action decision from the Chief Judge of the US Federal District Court in New York filed today, October 18, 2013.  Much credit goes to the lawyers for the plaintiffs, the Urban Justice Center and pro bono counsel Gibson Dunn led by Jim Walden for their “David vs Goliath” like victory.

Essentially, the settlement in Padro v.  Astrue (Colvin) grants over 4000 New York disability claimants who were unfairly denied benefits by five rogue judges in Queens, NY the right to new hearings before different and independent judges.  It also forces the five errant ALJ’s to undergo remedial re-training on Social Security law and proper procedures for conducting fair hearings.   Finally, all future decisions by these five judges will be monitored by a special unit within the Social Security Administration for 30 months.

So there Mr. “Disability is Easy to Get” Kroft -  stick this decision in your pipe and smoke it!

For more background on Padro v. Astrue and judicial bias against claimants, see my prior blog posts and the New York Times story that broke it all here.  The important thing is that now over 4000 disabled claimants will now be given the opportunity for fair hearings by new, independent law judges.

Hopefully, the five offending  judges have learned a valuable lesson - intimidation and bullying of disabled claimants appearing before you will no longer be tolerated either by the Social Security Administration (your employer) or New York Social Security disability attorneys.    I am pleased to report that a few of the five ALJ’s have seemingly turned over a new page.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

What is the NY Workers’ Comp Claims Process?

Posted in Construction Accidents, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Uncategorized

Most people don’t go into work and say “I think I will get injured today. Yeah that’s what I’ll do! At two thirty, I’ll be the victim of a horrible accident and spend months or even years undergoing a grueling and expensive recovery process“.   As such, many people are not prepared when serious work accidents do strike.  Recovery may take a very long time and result in a lot of financial stress and anxiety. That being said, it is important to understand the New York Workers’ Compensation claims process ahead of time so you are prepared.

To better understand these workers’ comp procedures, let’s use a   hypothetical New York construction site accident. This construction worker is “Steve”:

Workers' Compensation

Let’s say Steve (who is only hypothetical and not based on any particular real-life individual) is a construction worker.  He goes to his job site every day and works very hard.  Then one day Steve falls off this steel beam on the construction site landing on the ground 20 feet below:

His leg appears broken and he is in severe pain.  What’s the first thing Steve should do?

That’s right! He should obtain any necessary emergency medical attention immediately.  But what else should he do?  Steve should notify his supervisor of his injury and the circumstances surrounding it if he is not already aware. This should be done in writing within 30 days or as soon as possible.

Also, Steve should file a claim by filling out official New York State Workers’ Compensation Board  form C-3 as soon as possible but no longer than two years of the accident or within two years of when it became apparent that the injury or illness is work-related. This form should be sent to the NY Workers’ Compensation Board online or mailed to the appropriate WCB district office.

Within 48 hours of  falling off the steel beam, Steve’s Doctor should perform a preliminary medical exam and mail official WCB Form C-4 (Doctor’s initial report) to the WCB District Office, the employer and/or the employer’s insurance company, Steve, and Steve’s NY workers’ comp attorney.

The employer must also report the injury to the New York Worker’s Comp Board and his insurance company within ten days of the injury using official WCB Form C-2, Employers’ Report of Injury.

Within 18 days of receiving form C-2 and a proper medical report (C-4) and if the claim is not “controverted” (contested), Steve should begin receiving cash workers’ compensation benefits for his lost wages.  If the insurance company is not making payments, they would have to inform the NY Worker’s Compensation Board, as well as Steve and his NY workers’ comp lawyers Turley Redmond Rosasco & Rosasco, LLP.   The insurance company would also have to provide a good reason for disputing the claim if this was the case.

If the insurance company “accepts” the claim, Steve receives benefits every two weeks.  If these were to be stopped or modified, the insurance company would have to fill out form C-8.6 (Form Notice That Payment of Compensation Has Been Stopped or Modified) and send it to the Workers’ Compensation Board.   Every 45 days, Steve’s doctor will also submit progress reports to the Workers’ Compensation Board.

If Steve had not filed a claim or informed the employer of is on-the-job injury, he would have been giving up extremely valuable cash and medical benefits under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.  Fortunately, this was not the case. Good luck Steve! We’re all pulling for you!

What Are New York Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Posted in Construction Accidents, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Uncategorized

In short, New York Workers’ Compensation benefits (sometimes referred to as Workmans’ Compensation or Workers’ Comp) is an employer paid insurance policy that pays cash and/or medical benefits to people who are injured or become sick as a result of circumstances that are directly related to the nature of their job. The employee may not be required to contribute to the cost of premiums.

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board processes claims and may intervene if there is a dispute between an injured worker and an employer/insurance carrier over the amount of cash benefits or medical care the injured worker needs.

Workers’ Compensation is referred to as a no fault system. What does this mean? In short it means that benefits are payable regardless of an employer’s fault or an employee’s carelessness. When New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law was enacted in the early 1900’s, workers gave up their right to sue their employers for negligence in return for a no fault system which benefited both employers and employees by encouraging a quick return to work.

Claims must be paid once it is determined that the injury or sickness incurred is indeed work-related. If the employer or their insurance company does not believe that an injury, accident or condition is the result of employment, no cash benefits will be paid until a Workers’ Compensation Judge rules on the matter. In the meantime, an employee may be eligible to receive New York State Disability benefits. However, these benefits may be deducted from future NY Workers’ Compensation awards. Should you be able to return to work, but be unable to fully perform all your previous job functions, you may be entitled to receive two thirds of the difference between your prior and current wage/salary if you have reduced earnings.

New Employer’s First Report of Injury/Illness Form

Posted in Firm News & Events, Labor News

Back in October, the Workers’ Compensation Board announced that they would be introducing New York State eClaims Requirement Tables and Implementation Guide in the Spring. This entails the introduction of the new Form C-2F which will allow employers to easily report an on-the-job injury or illness.

The implementation of eClaims has been set to happen in phases. But once all claims administrators have transitioned to eClaims, Forms C-2, VAW-2 and VF-2 will be obsolete. For more information on eClaims you can go the the Workers’ Compensation Boards website or direct any questions to eClaims@wcb.ny.gov.

Fast Food Workers Strike for 15

Posted in Labor News

About eight months ago, fast food workers in New York City started holding day long strikes during peak customer traffic. Their goal: higher wages, fifteen dollars an hour to be exact, which is more than twice the current minimum wage. Since then, protests have spread to Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Flint and as of tomorrow, Milwaukee. Thousands of Fast Food workers, who make a median salary of about $9.05/hour, have set their sights on pressing Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and urging state legislatures to raise the state minimum wage.  The protests are part of a campaign underwritten with millions of dollars from the Service Employees International Union.

There are a few hitches though. Number one being that it is hard to unionize when your occupation has an annual turnover rate of 75%. In fact, none of the 200,000 fast food restaurants are unionized. Restaurant industry Officials also claim that raising wages to $15/hour would put many restaurants out of business and many workers would have to be let go or replaced with some form of automation.

Be that as it may, there are still thousands of hard working Americans trying their hardest to support their families on paltry wages and with few benefits at part-time hours  as they attempt to make ends meet.

 

Department of Labor Releases New Unemployment Statistics

Posted in Labor News

Good News! The New York State Department of Labor has just released some encouraging preliminary figures pertaining to the state’s unemployment rate.  According to the numbers released on July 18, the percentage of unemployed individuals fell from %7.6 to %7.5 between May and June, putting it below the national average. In areas outside of New York City (including Upstate and Long Island), the unemployment rate fell from %7.1 to %6.9. Jobs in the private sector have risen in 26 of the past 30 months.

On July 23, the DOL released a more comprehensive list of the change in unemployment rate in each county over the course of the past year (June 2012-June 2013). 

Social Security Disability is Never Easy to Get in New York and Long Island

Posted in Health Info, Social Security Disability

 

Last Friday, Newsday published an edited version of my Letter to the Editor criticizing their article about the reasons for the increase in Social Security disability claims.  The Newsday article argued that one of the reasons Social Security disability claims were up was due to lax disability standards.

A few important nuggets of truth remained in my letter which will hopefully resonate with most New Yorkers.  According to Social Security stastistics, the grim fact is that 1 in 5 male and 1 in 7 female disability recipients die within 5 years of being granted benefits.  So if the average age that someone receives disability payments is 55, the fact is that many will never collect a dime of regular Social Security retirement benefits.

This saves Social Security a ton of cash!  This “found money” in their “retirement trust fund”  can always be used to supplement the “disability trust fund”.  The drum banging about the “death of the “disability trust fund in 2016″ is nothing more than the inarticulate playing of a bunch of right wing,  anti-entitlement  percussionists.

As the residents of Queens know so well, getting Social Security disability benefits in New York is no easy task.  Despite the large majority of Social Security judges being of the highest integrity, the simple fact is that the standards to get disability have never been higher than they have in the past year.   Nationwide, approvals at the administrative judge level have dropped by nearly 10% in the last year.   Judges are calling more medical and vocational experts to testify than ever before.  Claimants have no choice but to hire Social Security disability attorneys to cross-examine these professional experts called by the judges.  Many claimants are poor and extremely sick.

Although there are certainly areas for improvement in the disability system (such as worker re-training), lets not throw the most vulnerable to the curb so fast.  After all, government stats show that many will be dead soon enough.

Zadroga Act 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Sheila Birnbaum attends Long Island Meeting about Upcoming Registration Deadline on October 3, 2013

Posted in Firm News & Events, Health Info, Labor News, NY Workers Compensation Claims, Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Claims

October 3, 2013 is the final deadline for many first responders and survivors of the attacks on September 11th to register for cash benefits from the WTC Victim Compensation Fund.

Sheila Birnbaum,  Special Master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund,  will be coming to Commack, Long Island on Thursday, July 11th for a Town Hall meeting and question and answer session about the Zadroga Act and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.    Linda Carson and Angela Luongo of our Zadroga Team will be their to assist our clients and others. 

The meeting starts at 6:00pm at CSEA Local 1000 Headquarters where my good friend Nick Lamorte is President of the union.   Nick and I have known each other for over 30 years going back to our old Farmingdale High School  days where we both played football.  Thanks Nick for providing your facility for this important public service.

The Victim Compensation Fund was re-opened as part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2011 and allows up to $2.8 billion for survivors and first responders suffering from a specific list of cancers and other ailments as a resulting from the tragedy.  According to the Department of Justice, 17,453 people have registered for the fund, 53 claims have been resolved and $6 million in compensation has been awarded to date.  A small portion of this compensation will be paid at the time of the original award with the large bulk being paid in 2016-17.

The executive director the non-profit group 9/11 Health Watch has expressed that there is no telling how many may be eligible.

Processing applications for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund under the Zadroga Act is a lengthy, complex process (see the linked FAQ’s for example) - however, some claims can be worth in the millions of dollars depending on if a claimant cannot work anymore due to their 9/11 illnesses.  It is important to apply as soon as possible.

Feel free to call us toll free at 1-855-WTC-INFO for a Free Consultation or visit us at www.zadrogaclaimsinfo.com for more information.

Cuomo Proposes Worker’s Compensation Financing Plan

Posted in Labor News

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently proposed an unusual plan to relieve the debt of some 10,000 state-wide businesses who are members of failed, dissolved or defaulted group insurance trusts so that they can better provide coverage for work-related injuries. The idea is to rearrange financing through public channels to cover about $800 million in Workers’ Compensation liabilities. Specifically, it will permit the Workers’ Compensation Board to issue bonds to cover liabilities through the Dormitory Authority of New York. For more information on this proposition, go ahead and check out this link.