Proposed workers' compensation guidelines will reduce payments to injured workers! But you can do something about it!


I write to you with a worried heart on Labor Day, our holiday that honors the contributions that workers like you have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of our country. It’s fitting, therefore, that New York’s Workers’ Compensation Board chose this Labor Day weekend to propose to slash much-needed and much-deserved permanency benefits for hardworking New Yorkers like you who are the backbone of our businesses, hospitals, security, and infrastructure.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

You can review the proposed guidelines here:
http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/hcpp/ImpairmentGuidelines/2017DRAFTImpairmentGuide.pdf

There's still time voice your opposition by completing the Board's survey at:

TELL YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES THAT YOU WILL VOTE AGAINST THEM IN THEIR NEXT ELECTION IF THEY ALLOW THE BOARD’S NEW SCHEDULE LOSS OF USE GUIDELINES TO GO INTO EFFECT!!
You can find your State Senator at this website:
https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
You can find your State Assemblyperson at this website:
http://nyassembly.gov/mem/search/
BACKGROUND:
As you may know, one type of workers' compensation permanency award is a schedule loss of use award, a lump sum benefit payable for the permanent loss of function of an injured extremity. For decades, the Board consistently applied permanency guidelines to calculate the value of these awards without regard to one’s ability to work or earn. This past summer, the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo, prompted by New York’s insurance interests, directed the Board to publish new guidelines purportedly to account for "... advances in modern medicine that enhance healing and result in better outcomes." Although I was anxious about the coming changes, I assumed that the revised guidelines would only affect the way the guidelines treat surgeries that have indeed come a long way in treating injured workers. For example, the guidelines routinely awarded a substantial 50% loss of use for joint replacements even when patients experienced a full recovery and regained almost full mobility after surgery. I did not expect, however, that the Board would substantially reduce the value of injuries like rotator cuff or meniscal tears that result in a substantial range of motion loss.
WHAT HAPPENED?
Over the Labor Day weekend, the Board proposed shocking new guidelines. The proposed guidelines go so much farther than the legislative mandate to account for medical advancements. The new guidelines reduce the value of almost every extremity injury. Not only do the proposed guidelines seek to reduce the value of joint replacements, but they also seek to extinguish the award altogether in many cases! Whereas the guidelines used to award 50% loss of use for a rotator cuff tear with a substantial range of motion loss, the proposed guidelines may award nothing for the very same injury and outcome! That’s right, nothing at all even if the injured worker has the same permanent functional loss. But that’s not all. After decades of insisting that an injured worker’s ability to earn is irrelevant to a schedule loss of use award, the new guidelines, if adopted, will direct judges to consider the injured worker’s loss of future “earning power.” I see this directive as a cynical attempt by the Board to vastly expand its discretion to reduce or even extinguish most schedule loss awards no matter how bad the injured worker’s doctor rates their injury and permanent loss.
WHO WILL THESE CHANGES AFFECT?
If the new guidelines are adopted, they will directly affect anyone with a shoulder, elbow, wrist, thumb, finger, hip, knee, foot, or toe injury. The new guidelines do not affect head, neck, or back injuries. However, even if you are not directly affected now, chances are you have a hard-working friend or relative who will be, or you may find yourself claiming one of these extremity injuries in the future.


I'm confident that together we can make a difference in the fight to preserve workers’ compensation benefits for you and your family.
Regards,
Vincent Criscuolo, Esq. - Senior Partner
Joshua Roberts, Esq. - Partner
Ryan Edwards, Esq. - Associate Attorney
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