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Fixing Our Inadequate Brain Science

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

The high incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) affecting our returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, and also our civilian contractor employees, has helped to highlight the inadequacy of the current level of “brain science.”

More than one in five Americans – – over 60 million people – – suffer brain disorder from injury or illness. 600 conditions exist, ranging from autism and Alzheimer’s to the aforementioned TBI and PTSD. Not a single one of these conditions has been cured.  Brain ailments affect more people than heart disease and cancer combined, yet those conditions receive 3 to 5 times more funding for research.

Unlike science for other conditions and diseases, brain science has not had the advantage of an umbrella organization to its coordinate efforts. Brain science research and funding has been fragmented, researchers have often been territorial and overly concerned with intellectual property issues, and the corporate funding that has come mostly from the pharmaceutical industry has been shrinking. An organization named One Mind has recently been created to attack the shortcomings of brain science by advocating for the principle of “open science,” which fosters collaborative scientific work with accessible central data collection for researchers. This process in turn allows for accelerated integration of data and validation of results for publication. All of this should allow basic research to more rapidly reach the clinical setting and benefit patients of brain ailment.

One Mind has two programs currently in progress: Gemini, in which 11 research centers will enroll 3000 patients in a longitudinal brain injury study; and Apollo, which is developing a data exchange portal that will support the collaborative effort described above and will create a digital marketplace accessible by students, teachers and researchers.

One Mind is currently headed by CEO Gen. Pete Chiarelli, U.S. Army (retired) who as vice chief of the Army was instrumental in Department of Defense efforts on PTSD, TBI, and suicide prevention. In 2013 Chiarelli received the “Patriot Award” for his work with soldiers and their families dealing with the so-called “invisible wounds” of war.

The author recently attended a presentation in Seattle by Gen. Chiarelli, who provided much additional anecdotal information about the shortcomings of brain science and the efforts by One Mind. He noted, for example, that the diagnostic criteria currently in use for assessing PTSD are decades old and woefully inadequate for mental health practitioners to accurately diagnose and assess the condition.

Go to www.onemind.org for a full review of the organization, its mission and its programs.

Photo credit: “Central nervous system drawing circa 1900″

 Double–M / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Considering Priorities on Patriot Day

Today’s post comes from guest author Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?” Alan Jackson, “Where Were You”

Have you heard that tune? While I don’t remember all the words, the internets can help with that, and the words definitely provoke some strong feelings and memories.

Today is Patriot Day. For so many people on Sept. 11, 2001, the change was swift and often tragic. Many people, all over the United States, are still living the ramifications of that day, whether directly or indirectly.

Life changes all the time, in an instant, for a friend, a family, or a community, even New York City. So what (and who) are your priorities?

While at a family gathering recently in small-town Nebraska, I found myself reflecting on priorities and how important it is to appreciate loved ones, both family and friends. It seems like Patriot Day also give a chance for entertaining such thoughts.

We were at a town that seems idyllic, but I’m sure people have their challenges and issues, as happens everywhere. This is also a town that was hit very hard by winds and baseball-sized hail earlier in the summer. No tornadoes, but there was plenty of damage. Many windows are still boarded up, and seeing people on roofs is a regular occurrence as homes are still being repaired.

During our visit, the scaffolding attached (or next to) to the house across the street collapsed. The two people on the roof (one of whom was the homeowner) were there amid the rubble, on the ground. They were at the highest point of the old house, so they both fell a good 20 feet. The volunteer fire department brought both of the town’s ambulances. The first responders, including a town policeman, were efficient and took great care in loading the gentlemen onto backboards and transporting them to the hospital.

Time can do funny things in a situation like that. Although 911 was called quickly and the policeman was there very fast, it seemed like it took forever for ambulances to arrive, although it really wasn’t very long, and it was very interesting to see the volunteer firefighters/EMTs meet the ambulances at the site for efficiency. All these vehicles descended at the house, and each first responder jumped out of his or her vehicle (you know you’re in a small town when …). They seemed to do a well-rehearsed dance, and you could see the hard work, concern and speed needed. We learned later that the two most likely would survive, but the extent of the damage they face is unknown, as each man on the roof broke his back.

Although I don’t know the people hurt, just as I didn’t personally know anyone in the Sept. 11 tragedy, it is still easy to empathize and think about the “what ifs.”

But it’s most important to face the new reality and call, write and hug loved ones. Because events and tragedy, whether personal or even nationwide, often elicit strong emotions in those who experience them. However, it’s the action afterwards that counts.

Please take that “where were you then” moment, think about it in the best way you know how, and then use it to provide a positive memorable moment for someone close to you. Because who are your priorities?

Happy Patriot Day.

What’s Happening to North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act? (Part III)

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

In Part I and II of this series we discussed the legislative power shift in 2010 and identified four significant changes.  Here are some more legislative changes, all imposed after 2010: 

 

    5.   Even If The Claim is Denied the Employer Can Still Get An IME

Before 2010, although an employer might be able to get the employee’s medical records once the claim was filed, if the claim was denied the employee took the position that the employer had no right to force the employee to go to an insurance-selected physician for an IME.  That has now changed. 

    6.   In Second Opinion Rating Evaluations Certain Medical Evidence Can Be Ignored.

An employee has an absolute right to get a second opinion about the extent of a permanent injury, if dissatisfied with the impairment rating given by the insurance-selected treating physician.  Occasionally, this new physician, who was selected by the employee, would make a medical finding that the employee needed further medical treatment or would diagnose another medical condition that had not been evaluated by the treating physician.  This new information would be the basis of a motion to the Industrial Commission for additional medical care.  New legislation states that as to any opinions unrelated to the rating the Commission “must either disregard or give less weight” to these medical opinions.

    7.   Restrictions on the Ability to Change Physicians.

Before 2010, the employee had the right to petition the N.C. Industrial Commission to change physicians.  Occasionally there were personality conflicts between the employee and the insurance-selected physician, or the physician would be ignoring certain complaints, or not reporting the complaints in the medical records.  When these matters were brought to the attention of the Executive Secretary’s Office, the Commission had the discretion to authorize a change of physician.  New legislation now requires that the Plaintiff prove by a “preponderous of the evidence” that a change is necessary. 

     8.   Greater Difficulty for Getting Second Opinion for Employee.

Before 2010, the employee could select a physician for a second opinion examination and request the Industrial Commission to approve this physician.  Now the employee must first request approval “in writing” from the employer and attempt to jointly agree on a new physician.  If this effort fails, then the employee can seek approval from the Industrial Commission.  This new procedure is a roadblock to allowing the employee quicker access to a different medical provider.

 

Part IV of the series will discuss other changes, including administrative changes, to the Act.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Cal/OSHA fines aviation company in death of LAX baggage worker

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.latimes.com

LAX ramp area
LAX ramp area

State officials fined an aviation services company $77,250 on Wednesday for five safety violations related to the death of a baggage worker in February at Los Angeles International Airport.


Related: Luggage cart that killed LAX worker had no seat belt, officials say
Related: Luggage cart that killed LAX worker had no seat belt, officials say

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health leveled the penalty against Menzies Aviation, whose employee, Cesar Valenzuela, 51, died after being thrown from a baggage tug that did not have a functional seat belt.

Cal/OSHA investigators said seatbelts were required for the vehicle and that Menzies’ safety policies related to baggage tugs did not require and even discouraged the use of restraints in certain areas of LAX.

"This fatality could have been prevented with a well thought out and implemented safety plan as is required for all worksites in California," said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations.


Decision on seeking death penalty for accused LAX shooter due by fall
Decision on seeking death penalty for accused LAX shooter due by fall

Menzies and other aviation service companies contract with airlines to provide cabin cleaners, security personnel, custodians, wheel-chair assistants and baggage handlers.

The citations prompted union officials and service company employees to renew their calls for improvements to working conditions at LAX, the nation’s third-busiest airport.

"Workers punching in at the start of a shift ought to be able to finish the day without risking their health or losing their life,"…

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Family of BU student killed in fire prepares lawsuit

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.bostonglobe.com

Binland Lee

The family of a 22-year-old Boston University student who died in a fire last year after getting trapped in her attic bedroom is filing a lawsuit against the landlord and brokers, accusing them of renting an illegal apartment with insufficient exits and a faulty fire-alarm system.

The wrongful death suit, which is expected to be filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, comes three months after the Globe’s Spotlight Team published a detailed reconstruction of that terrifying morning in Allston when Binland Lee’s last screams were heard as her fellow tenants jumped out of third-floor windows at 87 Linden St.

The Spotlight investigation revealed persistent problems at the overcrowded house and the failure of key individuals — from the building’s past and present owners to city regulators — to do much about them. When Lee, a marine science major from Brooklyn, moved into the building in 2012, landlord Anna Belokurova was renting out nearly every space as a bedroom, leaving the tenants on the third floor with only one way out, down a flight of stairs. On April 28, 2013, those stairs were blocked by surging smoke and flames.

The first warning people on the third floor received of the approaching inferno was when the smoke detector on the ceiling of the attic’s common hallway was activated, according to the lawsuit. By the time the alarm went off, thick smoke and heat made it impossible to use the stairs to escape.

The apartment did…

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Mother files wrongful death lawsuit over 19-year-old son who died on Rikers Island in solitary confinement

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.nydailynews.com

Andy Henriquez, 19, suffered a slow, agonizing and lonely death while he was locked up in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, court papers charge.
Andy Henriquez, 19, suffered a slow, agonizing and lonely death while he was locked up in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, court papers charge.

A 19-year-old man suffered a slow, agonizing and lonely death while he was locked up in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, court papers charge.

Andy Henriquez, his friends, family members and even his fellow inmates pleaded with guards to get him proper medical help in the days before his April 7, 2013, death, but prison officials just turned a deaf ear, his mother charges in a wrongful-death suit.

“We believe the conditions at Rikers . . . are deplorable,” said the family’s lawyer, Carmen Giordano.

A MAY 17, 2011 FILE PHOTO
A MAY 17, 2011 FILE PHOTO

The suit, filed in October and seeking unspecified damages, says that while in lockup, Henriquez complained frequently about chest pains and breathing problems before dying of a ruptured aorta.

A city Law Department rep declined to comment. A spokesman for the city Correction Department said the agency cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

Related Stories
Negligence suit permitted in case of Rikers Island death
Rikers Island’s cycle of violence violates teen inmates’ constitutional rights: DOJ

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Protecting Workers from being Destroyed by the Work Schedule

Senator Tom Harkin

I wrote the post below as an editorial in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Because The Scheudles That Work Act is of national importance I want to make sure this issue receives the attention that it deserves by promoting awareness of it as broadly as possible. I hope you’ll take the time to read my editorial and pass it along to concerned citizens in your area.

Workers deserve some certainty in their work schedules. Why? Because we all have need to plan for child care, time for school, transportation, or simply time to pay bills and manage the household. It’s basic fairness.

But don’t you, a friend or an acquaintance work a job with unpredictable and irregular work schedules? You’ve probably noticed that irregular and on-call scheduling are increasingly common. It’s especially common in the fastest-growing areas of our economy—- cleaning, janitorial, retail and restaurant work.

These scheduling practices can devastate the worker and her/his family. The practices demand the worker choose between his job or his family. They often lead to the worker being fired.

Vermont and San Francisco have already passed laws to help employers and workers avoid this devastation.

Senator Tom Harkin has now proposed The Schedules That Work Act to help workers balancework duties with family duties. The Act helps both workers and employers by:

  • Protecting all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule.
  • Creating a process under which an employer considers a worker’s schedule request in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of the worker and her/his family. For example, schedule requests based on caregiving duties, health conditions, pursuing education or the need to meet the demands of a second job, must be granted, unless the employer has a good business reason for denying it.
  • Compensating retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early.
  • Providing that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance. Though schedules may later be changed, one hour’s worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than twenty-four (24) hours’ notice.
  • Providing workers an extra hour of pay if scheduled to work split shifts or non-consecutive shifts, within a single day.

Kudos to Senator Harkin! Some politicians and billionaire-driven PACs parrot “Iowa values” as a campaign slogan. Senator Harkin, on the contrary, uses those values to create legislation like the ADA and The Schedules That Work Act.

What’s Happening to North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act? (Part II)

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

 

In 2010 after the Republican Party took complete control of the legislature for the first time since 1898, changes to the system began. As death benefits and funeral expenses were being increased, along with an increase in wage loss benefits, current injured workers were told that new proposals would not affect their claims. True enough, but anyone who was injured after June 24, 2011 would see some fairly drastic changes in benefits:  

 

  1. 500 Week Cap On Total Disability Benefits.

Absent extroardianry circumstances (such as a brain injury) disability benefits would stop after 500 weeks (9.6 years). Thus, for a 25-year-old severely injured person who did not meet one of the exceptions, total disability benefits would stop at age 34 or 35, even though this person could no longer obtain employment in the competitive market place and had been out of the workforce for nearly a decade. For these disabled and unemployable people, the future cost of the injury will be shifted away from the workers’ compensation insurance company to the U.S. taxpayer, through Social Security and Medicare. Before this change, as long as the employee was disabled and unemployed because of his injury, he would be entitled to lifetime disability and medical benefits related to the injury.

 

  1. Employer Gets Credit For Social Security Retirement Benefits

If benefits are extended beyond 500 weeks, the employer can reduce workers’ compensation  by 100% of Social Security retirement benefits. This change gives the  insurance carrier a huge financial break at the expense of the elderly and disabled who have earned retirement income.

 

  1. Even Catastrophic Injury Benefits Can Be Terminated

If a person is disabled from a workplace injury because of a spinal injury, brain injury, or serious burns to 33% of the body, then they can get lifetime disability benefits. However, if the employer can show that this individual can return to “suitable employment” then those benefits can be terminated or suspended.

 

  1. 4.       New Definition of Suitable Employment After Maximum Medical Improvement

In the above context, suitable employment means employment that the employee is capable of performing, considering his pre-existing and injury-related physical and mental limitations, vocational skills, education and experience, and is located within a 50 mile radius of the employee’s residence at the time of injury or elsewhere if there was a legitimate reason for leaving. [Before leaving the Tarheel state, be sure to get approval that the move is legitimate. Otherwise, you may get a job offer that is within the 50 mile job radius.]

 

Part III will discuss further changes to the workers’ compensation system. Stay tuned.