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Seeking Workers Comp for First Responders

As a nation, we may often feel divided from one another (politically, culturally, and socially), but in moments of tragedy we stand united. December 14th will forever after be, in these United States, a day of national mourning. On that day in 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire, resulting in the deaths of 20 children and six staff members.

It has been almost a year and a half since then, and the shooting has sparked a debate over the right to bear arms. While the left and the right are in grid-lock over the issue (and with no end in sight), the Connecticut General Assembly has proposed legislation that most Americans will support.

The new bill is being referred to as S.B. 56, and offers workers comp for first responders who witness traumatic events and now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Typically, we picture PTSD being triggered by loud noises or crowded spaces, but for the first responders at Sandy Hook, a TV show or a child’s laughter can bring them to tears as they relive the horrifying experience. According to current Connecticut workers comp law, mental health claims are not covered if they do not have a corresponding physical injury.

S.B. 56 would create workers comp benefits for first responders with PTSD after, “visually witnessing the immediate aftermath of such death or maiming, of one or more human beings.” According to the Connecticut General Assembly. Immediate aftermath being defined as within six hours of a scene being secured by law enforcement officers. While the legislation is widely supported, there are currently a few detractors.

The primary opposition to the bill comes from municipal employers who are worried that the bill would dramatically increase their workers comp costs. They believe the bill is too vague and that any on-duty (or off-duty) first responder would just have to go to the scene several hours after it had been secured and they would get full workers comp benefits.

Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of Connecticut AFL-CIO stated, “Workers who have experienced PTSD as a result of work are no different than workers who have torn ACLs as a result of work, except that the injury is to the whole body, inside and out.” First responders deserve fair treatment under the law because when things go badly, they are the first people on the scene, and despite horrific circumstances (like Sandyhook) they do their duty, and do it as quickly as possible. They should expect the same from their elected officials.

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Former Senator Ron Calderon Charged in Worker’s Comp Scandal

Those looking to avoid spending the next 396 years in federal prison should avoid the same career path as former California State Senator Ron Calderon. The congressman has been brought up on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery. He turned himself in to authorities on Monday February, 24th and confessed to his crimes.

The crimes centered on a piece of legislation, which Ron Calderon supported, that would be extremely beneficial to those who bribed the former senator. One such man is Michael Drobot, a former hospital owner, who paid Calderon’s son $30,000 to work 15 days during the summer for the past three years. While most college students and high school students feel like they make a steal when they make over $3k during the summer, the young Calderon was making almost 10x that. And, with college to pay for, it would definitely be a tempting offer, but someone in Ron Calderon’s position can’t exactly cry poverty.

Drobot pleaded guilty this past Friday, on charges of conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks. While Calderon made approximately $100,000, the former hospital owner made close to $500 million in a worker’s compensation fraud scheme. Paying that sum of cash to Calderon now seems like a small investment compared to the amount that Drobot made.

According to LA Weekly, the scheme relied on “a loophole in state law called the ‘spinal pass-through.’ Under this loophole … Drobot billed insurers twice for the same equipment used in spinal surgeries at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.” In an attempt to keep such an extravagant amount of capital flowing into his bank account, Drobot tried bribing politicians to keep the loophole open. Fortunately for bill comp insurers, the loophole was removed last year.

While Calderon faces almost 400 years in federal prison, Drobot may receive a reduced sentence due to a plea deal. He has testified that he gave Ron Calderon, “tens of thousands of dollars so he would support legislation that would allow hospitals to charge workers compensation carriers for the cost of medical tools.” Drobot will likely not receive a sentence that exceeds 10 years. As a bill comp insurer, please be on the lookout for any suspicious activity or malpractice, because you could ultimately stop another fraudulent worker’s comp scheme from stealing millions of dollars and influencing corrupt politicians.