Category Archives: Legislation

ABLE Act Set to Help Save for Child’s Disability-related Expenses

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081028-N-3173B-027The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) was recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

This legislation matters to us because some clients may have a child or children who qualify for an ABLE account.

“The ABLE Act aims to provide families of a severely disabled child with some peace of mind by allowing them to save for their child’s long-term disability expenses in the same way that families of able bodied children can currently save for college through popular 529 investment plans,” according to information on North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr’s website (link is below).

There are a lot of details available on the internet about the act, and some of it is conflicting, as “passage of legislation is a result of a series of compromises,” as noted in the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) excellent resource article that is linked to below.

One of those limitations is that a person must have a qualified disability diagnosed before turning 26 to have an ABLE account, according to Sen. Burr’s website.

Here are some more links with information that I thought would be most helpful to those who are looking for more details to see if the act’s passage can help a loved one.

This link has detailed information about the act, including its text and history, from Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/647 H.R.647 – 113th Congress (2013-2014): ABLE Act of 2014 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Sen. Burr was a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Burr’s link has information that includes details on who is eligible for an ABLE account and what are considered “qualified disability expenses.” http://www.burr.senate.gov/public/_files/ABLE%20Act%20Summary%20–%20NH%2011-19.pdf

“ABLE accounts would be a savings vehicle for disability-related expenses that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources,” according to the site above.

Via the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS): Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act http://www.ndss.org/Advocacy/Legislative-Agenda/Creating-an-Economic-Future-for-Individuals-with-Down-Syndrome/Achieving-a-Better-of-Life-Experience-ABLE-Act/

I thought the section of “10 Things You Must Know” was most helpful, with more details about the who, what, when, where and why of the accounts.

Via the National Association of Injured and Disabled Workers (NAIDW):  Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act https://www.naidw.org/groups/viewdiscussion/1770-achieving-a-better-life-experience-able-act?groupid=144

Via disabilityscoop: The Premier Source for Developmental Disability News: Obama Signs ABLE Act http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/12/22/obama-signs-able-act/19935/

“People with disabilities may be able to start opening ABLE accounts as soon as 2015. However, some hurdles remain. While the new law alters federal rules to allow for ABLE accounts, each state must now put regulations in place — much as they have done for other types of 529 plans — so that financial institutions can make the new offering available,” according to the site above.

As is evident from the links above, more groundwork needs to be done to implement the law, so I would encourage those with questions to learn more about the accounts by contacting an accountant or a lawyer who is an expert in life care and special needs.

So if you, a loved one, and/or a friend, are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, but are worried about losing necessary current benefits for your disabled child because of limitations in what you can save or spend, an ABLE account may be just the thing for your situation.

NIOSH Acts To Prevent Lifting Injuries For Home Healthcare Workers

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Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, from Jon L Gelman LLC, a law firm in New Jersey. It addresses yet another workplace danger for healthcare workers, this time for home healthcare workers, but I suspect some of the same issues can be found in almost any healthcare setting. I have written and posted others’ blogs about how challenging jobs can be for healthcare workers and how the work they do can be taken for granted. And I spend so much time talking about workplace safety because a safer workplace can often decrease workers’ compensation claims, and most importantly, keep workers safe. Because I don’t want healthcare professionals to sacrifice their own health because they’re taking care of others’ loved ones.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH has published educational information to prevent musculoskeletal injuries at work. Injuries caused by ergonomic factors have been a major issue of the Federal government for decades and have been the basis for repetitive trauma motion claims for workers’ compensation benefits. While the Clinton-Democratic administration had advocated strongly for ergonomic regulations, the Bush-Republican administration took action to reject the reporting of ergonomic injuries to OSHA.

A work-related musculoskeletal disorder is an injury of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, cartilage, bones, or blood vessels in the arms, legs, head, neck, or back that is caused or aggravated by work tasks such as lifting, pushing, and pulling. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, numbness, and tingling.

Lifting and moving clients create a high risk for back injury and other musculoskeletal disorders for home healthcare workers. Continue reading

Let OSHA Do Its Job

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OSHA is being prevented from fulfilling its mission.

Today’s blog post was written by guest author Paul McAndrew, Jr., of the Paul McAndrew Law Firm in Coralville, Iowa. It focuses on some of the unfortunate ways that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has been limited by politicians over the years. He argues, and this law firm agrees, that OSHA needs to protect workers by fulfilling the mission that’s found on its website at www.osha.gov/about.html “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”

In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety & Health Act (the Act), which created the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Among other things, the Act requires every employer to provide a safe workplace. To help employers reach this goal, OSHA promulgated hundreds of rules in the decade after it was created. OSHA’s rulemaking process has, however, slowed to a trickle since then.

While the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health recently identified over 600 toxic chemicals to which workers are exposed, in the last 16 years OSHA has added only two toxic chemicals to its list of regulated chemicals. This is because Congress, Presidents and the courts have hamstrung OSHA. For example, in March 2001 the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress effectively abolished OSHA’s ergonomics rule, a rule the agency had worked on for many years.

These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses.

These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers are being injured and killed by known hazardous circumstances and OSHA can’t act.

Congress and the President need to break this logjam – we need to free OSHA to do its job of safeguarding workers.

Nebraska’s Evidence-Based Medicine Proposal And The Golden Rule

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Nebraska big business and big insurance has introduced a bill to impose evidence-based medicine and utilization review (EBM/UR) on Nebraska workers. The proposal, LB 584, designates a California corporation to review what kind and how much medical care our injured workers are to receive. I have many criticisms of the bill that will be discussed from time to time. One of my fundamental problems is who reviews the care proposed by Nebraska doctors for our injured workers.

Most EBM/UR systems involve reviews by doctors, many of whom are retired, from other states. These doctors aren’t familiar with the high-quality doctors who practice within the state. Illinois has a form of EBM/UR, and my Illinois colleagues informed me that some of the utilization review had been outsourced to India. The Illinois Department of Insurance has recently dealt with these out-of-state reviews by requiring that Illinois doctors must be reviewed by other Illinois doctors. Peer review of care ought to done by peers, not some stranger half a planet away.

Would the business and insurance interests pushing EBM/UR want their treatment recommendations for a loved one second-guessed by a retired physician in another state or an offshore physician? Especially when that treatment recommendation was made by a trusted Nebraska physician who knows the loved one’s individual circumstances? I understand that business is always concerned about costs, but the worker must be protected. Workers should be treated as businesses would like their loved ones be treated. Sadly, big business and big insurance doesn’t seem to think the Golden Rule applies to injured workers and their families.

Proposed Nebraska Legislation: Pay Workers’ Comp Medical Bills Promptly

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Nebraska State CapitolSometimes, there are complexities within the arguments over workers’ compensation laws. And it almost always involves money. It’s too bad that in so many states, money comes before workers.

But I don’t think that’s currently the case here in Nebraska. Although we have a mostly fair workers’ compensation process that started about a century ago, more efforts can always be made to advocate for workers’ rights, especially when those workers have been injured and are protected through the workers’ compensation system. Because when a worker is dealing with being hurt and all the stress that comes with an injury, worrying about all the bills coming in should take a backseat to getting as healthy as possible under the circumstances.

A bill in the Nebraska Legislature, LB291, “would require that medical payments be paid within 30 days after notice is given to the employer or after a final order of the compensation court,” according to the “Unicameral Update.” Sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, the bill was the subject of a recent hearing in the Business and Labor Committee. It essentially protects workers’ credit scores and prevents further stress by making sure the bills related to a worker’s injury are paid in a timely manner by the party that’s supposed to pay the bills in a workers’ compensation claim: the employer, which firm shareholder Roger Moore noted in a recent blog post. And it also brings that part of the workers’ compensation process into line with the penalties that employers incur if they withhold workers’ checks, an issue that attorney Brody Ockander addressed in a 2012 blog post.

If passed, the bill would really add some teeth to the notion of having workers’ bills paid promptly, and would reassure a large number of our Nebraska clients who get not only bills, but many other financially-related and upsetting communications from healthcare providers, when employers don’t pay in a timely matter. According to the “Unicameral Update: The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977” story, “Under the bill, 50 percent of the amount payable would be added to the charge and paid to the employee if the medical payment is not paid within 30 days.”

The anti-worker, pro-business Nebraskans for Workers’ Compensation Equity and Fairness was one of the groups that testified in opposition of the bill because “current law already compensates employees fairly … so paying additional sums to them would provide a ‘windfall’ to injured workers,” according to the “Unicameral Update.” I don’t think the term “windfall” is accurate, as the intent is to penalize the employers for not following through on their commitments in a timely manner, and we all have to pay late fees in life if we don’t pay our bills on time, so why should employers be any different? Besides, if employers did what they were supposed to by supporting hurt employees on workers’ compensation, honestly, we would have a lot fewer clients! Attorney Roger Moore noted the exact concern this bill addresses in a 2012 blog post: “The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury.” So instead of a “windfall,” because nobody asks to or wants to get hurt, I see this penalty as another way to protect injured workers and hold employers accountable.

The reality is that the attorneys and staff at Rehm, Bennett & Moore will always advocate for workers’ rights. We will continue to write blog posts specifically about bills in the Nebraska Legislature that could affect workers, both positively and negatively, if passed. Be sure and follow the legislature while in session by going to http://nebraskalegislature.gov/. Because I think an inscription by philosopher Hartley Burr Alexander on the Nebraska Capitol building says it best: “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.”

 

Your Vote Matters! It Really Does!

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PLEASE VOTE AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO VOTE. We realize people are getting tired of all the commercials, e-mails, TV chatter, etc. However, voting is important, particularly to working people concerned about how the legal system treats injured and abused workers. We think working people should be concerned about these rights!

Each vote really counts in state and local elections. Most laws that impact injured people come from the state. State legislators write the laws for most workers’ compensation, personal injury, and employment abuse. The following list gives you a way to judge if the candidates are likely to support working people or favor business and insurance.

1. Endorsements from Chamber of Commerce or other business groups are generally a negative for working people.
2. Financial support from Chamber of Commerce, insurance, big employers, etc. is generally a negative for workers.
3. Advertisements supporting a candidate calling for reducing workers’ compensation costs for business or reducing lawsuit costs for business are generally a negative for workers and their families.

So please vote because your vote really does matter.