Five Things to Catch Up On: 2/12, Weekend Edition


What Influential Factors Paint the Workers' Compensation Landscape? (2/10, FRIDAY) 

    • Wage replacement and medical benefits are not what they used to be. Lawyers, doctors and insurance experts agree, that not only have workers’ compensation guidelines changed over the last decade, but some of the modifications have even changed the face of the industry. To read more, click here.

VT House Bill 197 to Help with Mental Health of First Responders (2/9, THURSDAY) 

    • A bill introduced in Montpelier, VT puts the focus on the mental health of first responders. "There's already a law on the books that calls for parity between traditional health care and mental health services, but Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), says some areas of state policy haven't kept up," writes Taylor Dobbs of Vermont's NPR News Source (VPR). "She says that under current Vermont law, first responders suffering from mental health issues because of traumas encountered in the line of duty don't qualify for workers' compensation." Copeland-Hanzas introduced a bill this week to cover mental health issues in first responders caused by trauma in the workplace. "The bill would also create a legal presumption for emergency workers that any occurrence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was caused in the workplace. The bill would shift the burden to employers to prove that the trauma that led to the PTSD took place when the employee wasn’t on duty," according to the article. 
CA Students Exposed to Asbestos Ten Years Ago (2/8, WEDNESDAY)
    • After renovating an asbestos-laden former Castle Air Force Base in Merced County, CA ten years ago, 61 former students are worried they may have been exposed to cancer-causing materials. Prosecutors said former nonprofit leaders "...cut corners on a renovation project, intentionally using students in September 2005 to March 2006 to remove the cancer-causing substance at Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center," writes Thaddeus Miller of the Merced Sun-Star. The exposure at the job has contributed to nose bleeds and chest pains in some of the students, among other issues. "In addition to the federal case, the trio in 2013 also pleaded no contest in Merced Superior Court to state charges of treating, handling or disposing of asbestos in a manner that caused an unreasonable risk of serious injury to students, with reckless disregard for their safety," according to the article. "Under the terms of their plea deals, the time they spend in federal prison will cover the convictions in both state and federal court. They have also been ordered to pay a total of $1.8 million to dozens of victims who were exposed to asbestos while working for the group." A judge has given the 61 students permission to sue the Merced County of Education as well. 
IL Legislature: NFLPA Battle Ensues Over 'Wage Differentials' (2/7, TUESDAY)
    • There's a battle brewing over workers' compensation and retirement age in the IL legislature. "The teams want legislators to reduce the maximum age at which pro athletes can draw 'wage differential' workers’ comp. benefits from 67 to 35, arguing that their playing careers — and thus their earnings from the franchises — rarely extend beyond their mid-30s," writes Tina Sfondeles and Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun Times. Four teams including the Bears, White Sox, Cubs and Blackhawks wrote state legislature in support of the age decrease, saying "We have spoken with many experts who deal with workers’ compensation claims for professional athletes, and they have all stated that the laws in Illinois are extremely generous as compared to the workers’ compensation laws in other states,” according to the article. DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players' Association union boss commented on the issue, drawing major attention from football fans, players and industry members alike. He called it an “intellectually, philosophically and morally offensive” measure aimed at keeping money in the pockets of the Bears-owning McCaskey family, according to the article. A player, or someone awarded a "wage differential" can qualify for the maximum payout through the age of 67, writes Sfondeles and Finley. The NFLPA has won over similar changes in NC and LA. "I will tell you from the bottom of my heart that this union will tell every potential free agent player, if this bill passes, to not come to the Bears. Because, think about it, if you’re a free agent player and you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else where you can get lifetime medical for the injury you’re going to have, isn’t a smarter financial decision to go to a team where a bill like this hasn’t passed?" Smith said, according to CBS Chicago's Chris Emma and Alec Nathan of the Bleacher Report.
CO Rescue Mission Revisited (2/6, MONDAY)
    • The two men who were rescued on Jan. 12 in a mission that injured a volunteer are speaking out about the ordeal, according to an article by Steamboat Today referenced in the Denver Post. Routt County Commissioners spoke on Jan. 23 about the Fish Creek Canyon rescue, debating whether the two men could incur some of the costs because they were rescued for the second time and didn't have adequate equipment. The volunteer who was hurt in the rescue will be covered by the county workers' compensation fund. Tom Trutna and Jerry Baack told Steamboat Today that they didn't have all the equipment they needed, but they did have essential items including a shovel, extra clothes and a way to start a fire. The pair also wasn't rescued another time, but other members of the group were. “It wasn’t like we were morons who went off the bus with not a hope and a prayer,” Trutna said. He also donated $2,000 to Search and Rescue as a thank you. "Search and Rescue President Chad Bowdre said the friend who reported the men needed help was incorrect when he said they were unprepared to spend the night," according to the article. He also said the organization didn't want the county commissioners to recover costs, as the state's search and rescue organizations don't charge for services. They don't want to discourage people from calling in for help.


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