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Permanent Disability Horror Story No. 4: Matthew Pickert

Posted on 18 August 2005 by admin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Contact: Mark Hayes, President, 714/396-5260

“I have had to leave California because I cannot afford to live
in the state where I was injured at work.”

SACRAMENTO – VotersInjuredatWork.org, an injured workers’ advocacy group, today released the fourth of nineteen Permanent Disability Horror stories spotlighting injured California workers being harmed by the governor’s deep cuts in their permanent disability compensation.

MATTHEW PICKERT’S PERMANENT DISABILITY HORROR STORY

About Me: My name is Matthew Pickert. I’m 42 years old, married, and I owned a home in Castro Valley, but since my injury I have had to leave California because I cannot afford to live in the state where I was injured at work. I now live in Nevada.

My Family: I have a daughter, 19, and two sons, ages 8 and 3.

My Job and What Happened: I worked for 12 years as an Auto Mechanic in Fremont, in the SF Bay Area. My back wore out from years of bending over into engines and under hoods and dashboards. I had to have surgery to fuse my back in two places. I have not been able to return to work, nor do I ever see myself being able to return to being an auto mechanic. I have pain in my back and legs, and I can’t either sit or stand for very long.

What this has meant to my life: Before my work injury, I used to fish, and ride motorcycles and dirt bikes. Now, I can’t even get on the floor to play with my 3-year-old son, and my 8-year-old is angry that his dad can’t even toss the ball with him in the yard. We owned a home, a boat, 2 motorcycles and a dirt bike before my injury. We had to sell our home to pay our bills, and I can’t ride in the boat or on the motorcycles or dirt bikes, so those had to go as well.

How the Governor’s Schedule Affects Me:

BEFORE SCHWARZENEGGER

ADMINISTRATION SCHEDULE: $102,235

AFTER SCHWARZENEGGER
ADMINISTRATION SCHEDULE: $32,130 (For Life!) 69% reduction in benefits.

How Workers’ Comp was supposed to help me: Workers compensation is my only way to recover what I’ve lost due to my work injury. The award is supposed to make up for 2/3 of my lost earnings. It is also supposed to compensate me for the fact that I am no longer able to do the things I most enjoyed in life: playing with my kids, getting out on the water or in the dirt to enjoy the machines I’ve spent my adult life working on and enjoying. The Schwarzenegger Administration’s compensation won’t even cover the bills we’ve accumulated since my injury!

The “Permanent Disability Horror Story” campaign seeks to have the legislature and the governor agree to lessen the governor’s drastic reductions in the meager compensation injured workers receive. The legislative leaders promised to change the schedule during this year’s session.

“These Californians deserve better,” said Mark Hayes, president of VotersInjuredatWork.org. “The governor promised that he would not harm truly injured workers and these cuts harm them deeply. There are just 15 working days left for the Legislature and the governor to agree to change the Schwarzenegger Administration’s Permanent Disability Ratings Schedule (PDRS), which studies have shown make steep reductions in injured workers’ compensation.

VotersInjuredatWork.org charges that the schedule “is inconsistent with SB 899, undermines the Legislature’s balanced approach to reform, and threatens to relegate thousands of workers to subsist on constitutionally inadequate benefits. We hope these human horror stories will help show the need for change.”

Four studies, including one by the insurance industry’s own ratings bureau, have found the Schwarzenegger ratings reduce compensation to permanently disabled workers by more than half. One was conducted by a UC Davis Medical School professor; another by the State’s own Commission on Health, Safety and Welfare Compensation (CHSWC); yet another by an insurance defense expert; and the fourth from the insurance carriers’ own ratings bureau.

In April, thousands of injured workers protested the takeaways from permanently disabled workers in the biggest-ever demonstration by injured workers. Originally adopted on January 1, 2005 under the governor’s emergency powers, the schedule recently became permanent. The Studies have consistently shown Schwarzenegger’s schedule will reduce permanent disability compensation by an average of 50% to 70%.

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