Re: AP article in Oregonian re Federal workers comp(11-24-99

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Posted by The Director on November 26, 1999 at 10:45:20:

In Reply to: Re: AP article in Oregonian re Federal workers comp(11-24-99 posted by The Director on November 25, 1999 at 19:28:08:

Rather than Link to the Oregonian that has a habit of deleting news articles (especially ones Favorable to Workers, here are the articles we are commenting on.

First article =============
Workers' Comp-Injuries

The Associated Press
11/25/99 1:16 AM Eastern

The most common injuries claimed by federal employees last year in the
government's workers' compensation program, according to the Labor

Strains -- 24 percent.

Back condition -- 16.6 percent.

Contusion or bruise -- 12.4 percent.

Laceration -- 5 percent.

Puncture wound -- 3.3 percent.

Stress -- 2.9 percent.

Fracture -- 2.7 percent.

Tendonitis -- 2.7 percent.

Carpal tunnel syndrome -- 2.3 percent.

Hearing loss -- 1.3 percent.

second Article ===============

Workers' Comp-States

The Associated Press
11/25/99 1:15 AM Eastern

Federal workers' compensation program benefits are generally more generous
than benefits offered under most state workers' compensation programs, a
1996 congressional audit found:

--Federal workers with dependents receive 75 percent of their salary,
tax-free. Most states pay workers 66.7 percent of their salary whether or
not they have dependents. Only seven states offer dependent benefits.

--Maximum weekly compensation benefits for federal workers was $1,274. Top
weekly benefits for state employees ranged from $253 in Mississippi to $817
in Iowa.

--Federal workers with traumatic injuries can receive their regular pay for
the first 45 days they are out of work. State workers must be out of work
for three to seven days before they are eligible for wage-loss compensation.

--Injured federal workers can choose their own doctors without restriction.
Many states, including California, New York, Texas and Florida, require
injured employees to choose doctors from a state list or let employers pick


third article ==============

Examples of fraud in federal workers' compensation program

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
11/25/99 1:14 AM Eastern

Federal investigators have caught dozens of workers cheating the
government's workers' compensation program. A few recent cases:

Nicholas Pascucci, a former Veterans' Administration outreach specialist in
New York borough of Queens collected more than $320,000 in workers'
compensation benefits from 1984 through 1997. During that period, he claimed
that he was 100 percent disabled and unemployed.

An investigation showed that since 1984, he had worked at various jobs,
including as an elementary school psychologist, an adjunct professor, a
private therapist and preschool director.

In April, Pascucci was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay
$324,709 back.


Patrick Reary, a former heavy equipment operator with the National Park
Service in Utah, owned and operated a trucking firm while receiving workers'
compensation benefits, Labor Department investigators said. He had been
medically cleared to obtain a commercial truck driver's permit after telling
his doctor that he no longer suffered from his back injury.

He was sentenced in February to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay
$82,000 in restitution.


Jerry Mitchell, a former civilian employee with the Army at Fort Polk, La.,
was collecting disability benefits for a work-related injury that occurred
in 1983. A joint Labor Department and Army investigation in 1996 revealed he
sold real estate, raised and sold cattle and operated a hunting lodge, none
of which he disclosed to the program. He was ordered to repay $55,129 to the
government and was sentenced to a year in prison.


Ralph Trujillo, a former security police officer at the Toole Army Depot in
Utah, was sentenced in January to one year in prison and ordered to repay
$133,737 in benefits. Investigators discovered that since 1988 he had worked
at various unreported jobs, including running a lawn care service and a snow
removal business


Fourth article =============

Government battles fraud in federal workers' compensation program

The Associated Press
11/25/99 1:13 AM Eastern

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Albert Slugocki had collected more than $300,000 in
federal workers' compensation for a disabling back injury when investigators
received an anonymous tip: He was leading adventure tours on the Amazon

While captain of the tour boat, Slugocki was receiving as much as $1,888 per
month in tax-free disability benefits for an injury he sustained in 1980 as
a deputy U.S. marshal. To keep the checks coming, he simply filled out a
form each year saying he wasn't employed.

Slugocki said in an interview that the company run out of his Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., home was his wife's business and he wasn't paid. "I never
made any money," he said.

But the government requires employees to report any work they do -- paid or
volunteer. Slugocki was convicted in 1996 of making false statements, served
a year in prison and was ordered to repay $217,000.

Federal watchdogs say they fear many others are taking advantage of the
government's $1.9 billion workers' compensation program, which is more
generous than most state programs.

About 49,000 federal workers are on long-term disability -- which pays most
of them three-quarters of their salaries tax-free after 45 days out of
work -- and nearly half have collected benefits for 10 years or longer.

The annual cost of long-term cases is now $1.1 billion, compared with $740
million in 1988.

Administrators contend abuse is rare, noting that only 160 workers, out of
hundreds of thousands receiving benefits, have been convicted of fraud in
the last five years. The number of disability cases has held mostly steady
the past few years as the federal work force became smaller and agencies
stepped up monitoring for fraud.

But several investigators who check for abuse in the program told The
Associated Press that they believe many people are getting away with fraud.

The investigators at the departments Labor and Veterans Affairs and other
federal agencies estimate fraud could be involved in 3.5 percent to 10
percent of cases, at a potential cost of tens of millions of dollars.

"It's a great program if you're really hurt, but it's so generous that it's
tremendously abused," said Jim Reed, manager of financial investigations for
the Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal agency that runs the nation's
largest power producer.

Nearly 265,000 of 3 million federal employees collected benefits for
job-related injuries or illnesses in 1997, the last year for which figures
are available. More than half received just reimbursements for medical
expenses; the rest got wage benefits.

A congressional audit showed some employees' tax-free benefits exceeded
their pre-injury take-home pay. Such benefits can be collected indefinitely,
even past retirement age.

Federal managers have recommended cutting benefit levels -- something
employee unions strongly oppose -- to make fraud less tempting.

Shelby Hallmark, deputy director of workers' compensation at the Labor
Department, said ineligible employees are weeded out by case monitoring and
other safeguards.

"Obviously fraud occurs, but a very small number of cases are prosecuted
each year," Hallmark said.

Nevertheless, the Labor Department began two projects to monitor cases more
closely in 1992 and 1993. Officials say the screening already has helped
reduce long-term cases by 8 percent -- after years of annual increases --
and saved $400 million by getting people who could work or were no longer
eligible for benefits off the rolls.

When Veterans Affairs' inspector general took a closer look at the program,
it discovered hundreds of fraudulent cases. Auditors at the VA, which spent
about $140 million on workers' compensation benefits last year, estimated
that as many as 567 out of the 15,753 cases active in 1996 were fraudulent.
Poor case management at some facilities was to blame, they concluded.

Yet the agency has caught just 38 employees cheating the program since 1993.
The VA has begun monitoring cases more closely, said David Gamble, deputy
assistant inspector general for investigations.

Federal watchdogs say they don't have enough resources to go after every
case of suspected fraud and instead focus on big money cases.

Employee union officials say fraud estimates are overblown and create an
unfair and inaccurate perception that injured federal workers, who by law
can't sue the government, are cheating.

"No one can come forward showing any significant evidence of widespread
fraud," said Richard Boutwell, special assistant for federal injury
compensation at the American Postal Workers Union.

Pursuing cheaters has paid off. Labor Department investigations saved $40
million in the last five years. The U.S. Postal Service, which accounts for
one-fourth of all workers' compensation payments, says it saved $374 million
by uncovering fraud in the last five years.

Under increased monitoring, long-term cases are now referred to nurses who
coordinate treatment to get employees back to work. Workers must submit
annual medical reports and a form stating whether they are employed.

The Labor Department's inspector general also wants authority to check
Social Security records without having to get workers' permission.

Even that won't help catch some fraud.

Former letter carrier Lydia Carpio of Rock Island, Ill., sidelined by
bunions, had been collecting disability payments since 1983. But
investigators found she was running a business and having customers make
checks out to her 11-year-old grandson, which she later cashed.

Carpio pleaded guilty to fraud in December. She was ordered to repay
$40,000, sentenced to six months in prison and stripped of her benefits

This stuff is in all the major print papers also.... big business at work
here of course play up an imaginary boogee man

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