OPINION: Hey DIR - Where's The Money? (California)

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OPINION: Hey DIR - Where's The Money? (California)

Postby davidd on Mon Mar 08, 2010 5:43 am

Here we go again - another example of the continuing disservice the California Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) and it's parent organization, Division of Industrial Relations (DIR) provide the user fee assessment public and the injured worker population.

Unless you have become the subject of reverse Darwinism you know that DWC "user" assessment fees have increased nearly 60% in just two years. This in itself is not problematic in my opinion - hey, these are tough times and government needs to run in order to serve the people.

The problem with the fee increases, however, is that government is not running, is not serving the public, and in fact the public continues to receive less service than ever before despite the funding of nearly half a billion dollars.

This issue was again highlighted in Friday's report by our reporter Greg Griggs on the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC) meeting ("DWC Disability Ratings Greatly Exceed 20-Day Statutory Deadline" - 3/05/2010) where a study was unveiled reporting that permanent disability ratings by the Disability Evaluation Unit were taking between 84 days (if represented by a lawyer) and 129 days (for unrepresented injured workers).

The law requires these activities to be preformed within 20 days.

The problem with DEU ratings is just a symptom of something terribly wrong with the DWC, DIR and related entities. I don't know exactly what is wrong but I know the symptoms are severe. Let's review:

1) The Labor Code mandates that the Permanent Disability Rating Schedule be amended at least once every five years. That should have occurred by 1/01/2010. That date passed, and there is no amendment. DIR Director John Duncan has said repeatedly that now is not the time to amend the PDRS because of the recovering economy. Who appointed Mr. Duncan as Labor Dictator? Who gave Mr. Duncan the right to violate the law for any reason?

2) I am informed by a very high source at DWC that the WCAB is losing one judge per month (some of them highly publicized such as Judge Pamela Foust's new career at The Zenith Insurance Company, some not so highly publicized such as Oxnard Presiding Judge David Brotman's recent defection). My source says that despite the labor shortage, and despite the record assessment money, the WCAB is under a hiring freeze, so judges can not be replaced.

3) My source also advises that several of the busy boards in Southern California are between four and six months behind in getting OCR documents into the EAMS computer system. A good chunk of the money raised by the increased user fee assessment was to pay for this $60 million project, and to expand its capabilities. But if you can't get data into the system, what good is the system - to either DWC or the public?

4) In February the DWC cancelled the QME Exam that was scheduled for April 24 citing budget concerns. Budget concerns? Are you kidding me? The total number of those available to perform panel reviews of injured workers remains more than 20% below the roughly 4,000 medical professionals available five years ago and now the DWC is going to arbitrarily limit the number of doctors to do the inglorious if not underpaid job of telling injured workers how disabled they are though some budget-speak. Nonsense!

5) Despite the success of unions representing the workers of administrations not funded by the General Fund, DIR still requires DWC to observe work furloughs, ensuring a decrease in service to the public by another 20%. Duncan continues to fight the lower court's order on specious arguments and in my opinion will ultimately lose thus creating a huge back pay liability for which the public will receive no service. Why not just put DWC back to work full time John? If you lose then there isn't such a huge liability and the public in the meantime gets the service we are paying for? And if you win, then you're a happy camper and you can close shop again and say "I told you so."

The irony is that the ongoing drum beat of Duncan and cronies is that the best way to mitigate the impact of workers' compensation claims is to get injured workers back to work as soon as possible (indeed, I agree - the scientific evidence of this maxim is overwhelming), and yet the DWC seems intent to do all it can to ensure that cases are delayed, virtually ensuring increased disability and increased experience modifications for employers.

But still, DWC says that the economy can not bear increasing PD, can not bear increased premiums. But DWC does what it can to ensure just the opposite....

This is the stuff that gets legislators riled up (and rightly so if they are properly representing their constituents) and why I believe that AB 2423 (Niello, R-Fair Oaks and Solorio, D-Santa Ana) will pass - because our bureaucrats can't seem to hold up to the standards of accountability when left to their own devices. When AB 2423 becomes law (and it will - how often, especially in these times, to we get a bipartisan sponsored bill?), then the public will regain some voice in the operations of DWC and will regain a respectable level of service.

To Duncan and lieutenants in the meantime, answer the public this, "Where's the money?"

The opinion expressed above is that of the author, David DePaolo, and no other.
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Re: OPINION: Hey DIR - Where's The Money? (California)

Postby rider001 on Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:05 pm

You got my vote David
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Re: OPINION: Hey DIR - Where's The Money? (California)

Postby Puzzled on Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:18 am

David, can you explain where the money to pay salaries at the WCAB comes from, especially that of judges?
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Re: OPINION: Hey DIR - Where's The Money? (California)

Postby davidd on Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:49 am

The same place all other DWC expenses are paid from - the user fees!
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