As about forty readers have sent us the story, we have to report the top-notch investigative team at the Belleville News-Democrat, George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer are back on the attack and probably won’t stop unless and until Governor Quinn gets off his hands and starts doing something about it other than firing lots of folks to replace them with his buddies, pals and political cronies. As we have advised, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago are now neck and neck for the highest workers’ compensation costs for any private or government entity on the planet. The State of Illinois is running a budget for WC of about $133M per year. The City of Chicago is soon to exceed $100M per year with only 30,000 workers!!! We are told both government bodies have literally thousands of workers off all work and on TTD, every single day of each year. When the “injured” workers are done with care and ready to return to work, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago routinely refuse to bring them back to alternative positions, citing archaic work rules as an excuse.
When State of Illinois and City of Chicago workers aren’t provided alternative work by the government agency they used to work for, they are then turned into what we call “lazy-lot” total and permanent disability claimants who receive:
· Related medical care for life;
· Tax-free TTD/TPD for life;
· Whatever disability or regular pension to which they are eligible.
Such workers “retire” at more money than they receive when working! We are told this costs the State of Illinois over $7M each year in WC benefits alone and there are lots more folks trying to sign up for it. Almost all of that money could be saved for the taxpayers starting today, if the State would simply locate jobs for such claimants.
This concept is all tied to one of the crookest aspects of the whole WC system in IL—in our system, it is the employer’s job to somehow magically demonstrate injured claimants can work. All a claimant has to do to seek total and permanent disability or wage loss differential benefits is to stall around and do a bad job finding work—sounds kind of like what happens with unemployment compensation right? Folks won’t actually get jobs, they just show the state they are somehow “trying” to find work to then become entitled to as much as four years of unemployment benefits. In the WC arena, our office has claims for minor injuries to the arm, ankle and knee. All of the claimants are seeking well over $500,000 as “odd-lot” total and permanent claimants. They are all putting on the appearance of looking for work to seek these monster settlements to THEN return to work.
The Belleville News-Democrat reporting team notes former IL workers' compensation arbitrators awarded millions of taxpayer dollars to prison guards for arm and wrist injuries but ignored testimony of state medical experts who challenged these claims. In fact, the Arbitrators supposedly threatened to impose higher awards and/or settlements if defense lawyers for Attorney General Lisa Madigan continued fight claims. One of the Arbitrators asserted the State of Illinois did win some repetitive trauma cases. We haven’t seen such results to date and if any of our readers see such a ruling, please forward it.
Evading the “cloak of secrecy” the Governor placed on the whole WC system, staff attorneys from Lisa Madigan’s officer are reportedly again preparing to challenge repetitive trauma cases brought by State of Illinois workers statewide. The BN-D reporters indicate the Attorney General's office, which represents taxpayers, is spearheading a joint effort with Central Management Services to challenge questionable carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive trauma injury cases. CMS acts as a claims adjuster for state workers.
From Jan. 1, 2008 to August 2011, CMS denied 50 claims but every single claim was awarded by an Arbitrator or through appeal to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. The BN-D team reports new downstate arbitrators may take a fresh view of defense evidence and arguments that were routinely rejected by past arbitrators. The new 2011 Amendments to the IL WC Act also reign in CTS awards to no more than 15% LOU of the hand unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. We also hope impairment ratings, if used by CMS and all IL WC adjusters will drive down the level of awards and settlements.
As of Friday, December 2, 2011, Attorney General Madigan’s defense team failed to block even one of at least 255 claims filed by Menard guards who alleged operating locking devices caused injury to their wrists or elbows. Madigan's office is focusing an overall effort to challenge repetitive trauma cases by initially targeting a single carpal tunnel syndrome claim filed this year by a $100,000-per-year information systems analyst for the state. This employee who is with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity filed a claim in Springfield alleging she incurred carpal tunnel syndrome by typing on a computer. There are at least three major medical research studies, including a 2008 study from Harvard Medical School, which indicate normal typing on a keyboard does not cause or contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
As you may note from reading this BN-D article from the link below, your editor was quoted and we do believe there may be a clean slate at the IWCC in this state. We are hoping the new and existing Arbitrators, Commissioners and reviewing courts start to see the enormous drain it is on our economy and competitive position in relation to other states. “Non-accident accidents” arising from “repetitive work” have to be looked at a lot more carefully. We strongly hope someone with a brain will take a look at the abusive concept of global door-to-door WC coverage being provided to workers when two words that are not in the IL WC Act are implemented in the judicial fantasy that is the “traveling employee” concept in this state. As we have advised in the past, we consider the “traveling employee” concept unconstitutionally vague for numerous reasons.
Finally, we think it is something of a tragicomedy to see State employees at the IWCC giving out millions of taxpayer dollars to other State employees who are claiming "non-accident accidents." As we have advised, the IWCC reports directly to Governor Quinn—he could immediately cut state WC claim costs in whatever amount he wanted with one phone call/meeting/carrier-pigeon-message to IWCC Chairman Weisz—State of IL employee claims cannot be appealed past the IWCC by law, so they wouldn’t be concerned about our liberal reviewing courts. One has to wonder if these brilliant reporters at this great newspaper can get the message to Illinois taxpayers that we are getting the short-end of the stick from folks we elect!!!