FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH
firstname.lastname@example.org, cell: 631-524-3922
September 26, 2017
STATEWIDE WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADVOCATES DEMAND
NEW YORK STATE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD WITHDRAW PROPOSED CUTS
TO PROTECTIONS AND BENEFITS FOR INJURED WORKERS
Albany, New York – Health and safety advocates and medical professionals from across New York State gathered for a press conference in Albany today before submitting testimony to the Assembly Committee on Labor to demand the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board withdraw its proposed guidelines.
According to a document released on the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health website, the proposed guidelines would:
- Give company-assigned doctors undue power to suspend care. With this new “insult to injury rule” already injured workers will not be allowed unbiased medical care and will be forced to go to a company-assigned doctor who can perform any exam or ask any question-regardless of relevance to a person’s injury. If the company doctor then decides that that worker did not “fully cooperate” with the exam, the doctor can recommend a suspension of benefits and care.
- Slash protections by eliminating injury payments for a number of injuries to workers already struggling to make ends meet. Fractures, ligament and tendon tears, dislocated patellas – the list goes on and on of painful life-altering injuries to the body that would be eliminated from any payment under the comp system. The proposals also slash vital injury payments for a number of impairments associated with a workers’ ability to fully extend their arms and legs, cutting benefits by up to 97% for some injuries.
- Illegally seize the power of the legislature to determine the nature of medical impairment, eliminating accountability and transparency and spelling doom for Workers Comp in New York State. This proposal grants the Board sweeping authority to sidestep the law to adjust claims, regardless of what the legislation guarantees.
Leading the press conference, Nadia Marin-Molina, Associate Director at NYCOSH stated, “On April 10, 2017, the Workers’ Comp Board was given the mandate to make recommendations to revise the injury payment amounts that workers receive when they are injured on the job. Without any regard for injured workers or medical science, the Workers’ Compensation Board issued protection-slashing guidelines that will strip already weak protections and render workers’ comp impossible for many of New York’s injured workers.” (Read NYCOSH’s testimony submitted to the New York State Labor Committee here)
Advocates also decried the proposals’ impact on injured immigrant workers.
“The Workers’ Compensation Board’s proposals to limit workers’ access to doctors of their choice in favor of company doctors would cause workers with limited English proficiency to face even more barriers accessing the already difficult to navigate comp system. The Board’s proposals do not require that the doctor even speak the injured workers’ language or have cultural competency,” said Leah Lotto, Staff Attorney at the National Council for Law and Economic Justice.
The press conference was also attended by Assemblyman Harry Bronson, who would attend the Assembly’s Labor Committee Hearing on the proposed guidelines.
Additional occupational safety and health professionals, advocates, and doctors who were unable to attend submitted the following comments to the Assembly’s Labor Committee, whose hearing immediately followed the press conference.
Germain Harnden, Executive Director of the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health: “Workers are increasingly under attack with proposals to cut safety and health regulations that have provided protections from unsafe working conditions, and now threatening a guarantee that provides injured workers compensation when they are injured on the job. The proposed changes by the NYS Workers Comp Board will have a huge impact on whether or not injured workers will continue to receive the proper medical care without having to see a company assigned doctor, and whether workers will receive injury payments for legitimate impairments that have been compensated for under the workers’ comp system for years. We should not be denying workers help when they are most vulnerable, but rather we should be finding ways to strengthen a system that is woefully inadequate.”
Matt London, Director of the Northeast New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health: “The Board should be working to ensure that New Yorkers who are injured at work get the care and compensation that they need and deserve, rather than proposing changes to the system that increase injured workers’ pain.”
Dr. Winston Kwa, Occupational Medicine Physician at Mt. Sinai Selikoff Center: “For many injured workers, the Proposed WCB guidelines will produce impairment ratings for injury that are significantly lower than the current standard, which has been in effect since 2012. This is because the methods by which percentage loss of function will be calculated under the proposed guidelines are far different from the methods in today’s Standard. My testimony explores these technical differences in methods in some detail. But our concern is that in many cases, the clinical methods required under the Proposed WCB guidelines rely on less complete clinical information than under the 2012 standard and are not supported by the medical literature. The outcome of such methods will be inadequate compensation for injured workers who are suffering permanent impairment and unable to return to their jobs.”
Dr. Michael Lax, Medical Director, Central New York Occupational Health Clinical Center: “Injured workers and the doctors who care for them have long known the Workers’ Compensation system is badly broken, failing to deliver on its key promises: fair and timely benefits. The new guidelines on Schedule Loss of Use awards proposed by the Workers’ Compensation Board take the compensation system even farther from its promises. The cuts to benefits, restrictions to conditions covered, and use of company appointed physicians cannot be justified by supposed advances in medical science. They are clearly just another cost cutting measure pushed by business and paid for by injured workers.”
About NYCOSH: The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals. NYCOSH uses training, education, and advocacy to improve health and safety conditions in our workplaces, our communities, and our environment. Founded in 1979 on the principle that workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths are preventable, NYCOSH works to extend and defend every person’s right to a safe and healthy workplace. For more information, visit nycosh.org, follow the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NYCOSH on Twitter.