S.B. 863 BATTLE WON BUT THE WAR CONTINUES
Voters Injured at Work continues its fight against S.B. 863 and has begun a recovery and take over mission to turn the tide on this adverse law. By joining forces with Latino Comp and analyzing the legal language of the bill additions to the bill were made to restitute rights and scale back on the potential damage which will be unleashed effective January 1, 2013.
Voters Injured at Work did not stand alone in opposing S.B. 863. The International Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), California Chiropractic Association, California Medical Association (CMA), California Orthopedic Association, California Society of Industrial Medicine & Surgery (CSIMS), California Applicant Attorneys, Dolores Huerta, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and South Bay Labor Council, and Latino Como, all stood firm with us.
Treatment for psychiatric, sleep and sex claims language has been placed back into the bill. PPD at higher rather than lowered levels requested. Payment of permanent disability payments are not required without an award if the injured worker has returned to work under certain conditions.
The most significant change in terms of permanent disability (PD) is that Almarez-Guzman is approved and Ogilvie is omitted. Also, future earnings capacity (FEC) are eliminated and replaced by a 1.4 multiplier for all body parts and conditions. There is an increase in the weekly benefit, for both minimum and maximum rates.
For injuries as of January 1, 2013 the following will apply:
There is an increase in the weekly benefit, both minimum and maximum as well as another increase for DOI on or after January 1, 2014.
Less than 55% PD will receive $160-$230 per week depending upon earnings prior to the injury. If PD is more than 55% and less than 70% the weekly benefit rate is $160-$270 and if the PD is more than 70% then the weekly benefit rate is $160-$290 depending upon pre-injury earnings.
Injured workers can choose their own interpreter rather than insurance carriers which was written in the original language. The legal right to an interpreter at a treating doctor’s office as well as during legal questioning is solidified and the employer is obligated to arrange it.
There is a provision for a $120 million fund for a return-to-work program and as part of this program there is a flat rate $6,000 voucher for qualifying expenses, irrespective of the permanent partial disability.
None of these changes would have been possible without an alignment between Voters Injured at Work and Latino Comp with the teamsters.
DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL KILLED
A.B. 889 which was passed by the California state legislature on August 30 was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown On October 1st. This is a blow to domestic workers who seek protections that workers in other industries have such as meal and rest breaks, overtime pay as well as adequate sleeping accommodations and use of employer kitchens for those who are live-in domestic workers.
Legislators such as Tom Ammiano, who introduced the bill, were stunned with the turn of events and shocked that the rights that other workers have yet to be extended to them. The issue is that those who are not working as domestic workers do not understand the issues such as low pay, abuse and firing with no notice. This issue will continue and it will take lots of funding and education before this legislation is enacted as it did in New York.
WORKER COOKED IN OVEN
A six-year employee of Bumble Bee Foods was killed on October 13. Jose Melena, 62, was cooked in a steaming oven but it was unclear how he ended up inside.
Primary responders arrived to the scene where Mr. Melena was declared dead. California Division of Occupational Safety and Health will conduct an investigation to determine whether safety procedures were being followed at the time of the accident.
The investigation will be completed in six months. If it is determined that California health and safety regulations were violated there will be civil penalties against the Bumble Bee Foods and the Los Angeles District Attorney will determine if there will be criminal charges pending the outcome of the Cal-OSHA investigation.
(Source: Whittier Daily News)
OPIOID MISUSE AMONG INJURED WORKERS
The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute conducted a study under head researcher, Dongchun Wang titled “Longer-Term Use of Opioids.” The study reviewed approximately 300,000 workers’ compensation claims (October 1, 2006-September 30, 2009) and 1.1 million prescriptions (up to March 31, 2011) for longer-term narcotics in 21 states and demonstrates the frequency of treatment and monitoring protocol by physicians.
The aim of the study is to aid in helping public health officials to design and implement policies regarding the use of narcotics. Also, it will help provide adequate care to injured workers by lessening the risks to patients and extra cost to employers. The study will help states use the information along with their specific medical treatment guidelines to help injured workers not to abuse narcotics.
(Source: Lexis Nexis and WCRI)
CHRONIC PAIN AND DEPRESSION
After suffering a work-relates injury, pain can be a daily reminder of that injury and it can be a persistent pain that goes on for weeks, months and at times years. Some types of this pain are back pain, arthritis, headaches, and fibromyalgia as well as others.
As an injured worker one faces daily pain. This differs from a pain caused by hurting own’s toe by banging it on the foot of a sofa, or some other minor injury caused simply through the carrying out of one’s daily duties.
Not having a job and having economic constraints often intensifies the effects of chronic pain. This in turn amplifies psychological and social issues because one’s role is limited not only professionally but also within the family structure. Living with an injury and adjusting to life with modified duties leads to depression.
The Relationship of Depression to Chronic Pain
According to scientific studies those who suffer chronic pain are 30-80% more likely to have depression. This in turn may lead to a furthering of physical disability which may affect also the emotional and social well-being of the individual.
Those who experience chronic pain and depression have a less satisfying quality of life and their concentration, sleep and daily activities are greatly affected. These difficulties many times lead to further deterioration of life quality and a cycle of worsening depression and chronic pain.
Along with a medical provider it is best to delineate a plan for lessening the isolation caused by avoidance of social connections and daily living. Excessive bed rest may contribute to chronic pain.
Chronic Pain and Daily Living
In order to be able to function as an injured worker and be able to have a good quality of life it is essential to determine pain triggers and what best ameliorates them. By understanding these triggers one can be empowered to do things to help themselves calm the pain and shift the focus of life to living rather than simply the chronic pain. Taking some of the following steps can help and it is best to speak with your doctor to determine a medically sound plan.
- Remain active in a manner appropriate to your pain and situation.
- Use relaxation techniques to cope with pain
- Maintain social contact with friends and family to have a link to the world outside your home and beyond your pain.
- Call a spiritual advisor or counselor to talk in times of crisis to help you through the times when only a professional will be able to understand.
*VIAW and its employees do not make medical claims and these tips should not be taken as such.