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Workers, Employers Benefit from Injury Comp Revisions

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 31, 1996 – For the first time ever, DoD's workmen's compensation bill dropped.

"While the rest of the federal government paid out more, we reduced our bill last year by $2 million," said Patt Scanlon, Injury and Unemployment Compensation Division chief, Defense Civilian Personnel Management Service.

Scanlon attributed the savings to better managing injury and unemployment compensation DoD-wide. Her office grew out of a civilian personnel study in 1991-1992 that uncovered redundancies and inefficiencies in service regulations and policies and consolidated the functions under DoD.

The study also revealed the Army and Air Force were more successful in their dealings with the Department of Labor, which manages injury compensation for the federal government. Both service branches, she said, worked closely with the Labor Department to resolve cases -- compensate and rehabilitate injured workers and re-employ them whenever possible.

As technical experts in injury compensation, liaisons became the heart of the new DoD program and today work out of 12 district-level Department of Labor offices. They are intermediaries between injured DoD employees and Department of Labor and installation injury compensation administrators to resolve claims, obtain medical evaluations and rehabilitation.

Liaisons also visit injured workers in their homes to make sure they're getting entitled benefits and services, Scanlon said. During the past two years, liaisons visited nearly 900 claimants in different parts of the country to "make sure they're getting compensation checks from Labor and get them back on the payroll as quickly as possible," she said.

"We talk to some people who are told by their former employers there are no jobs for them. When that happens, we go out to the installation and encourage them to re-employ these people and get them off the injury comp rolls."

Scanlon said the visits help claimants better understand their rights and benefits. For example, one older couple a liaison visited didn't know they could submit their medical bills for compensation. "We got their bills resolved, and they had a very happy Christmas," she said.

"Liaisons are our 'aces in the hole' for resolving problems. In our first year of operations, we saved DoD $1 million by getting people rehired. That's a potential lifetime savings of more than $21 million."

Besides acting as liaisons with claimants, Scanlon's office helps installation-level administrators track cases. By looking at personnel, payroll and Department of Labor data, Scanlon said, "administrators can see what job a person had before he went on the rolls, what if any physical limitations the injury caused and where he can fit back into the organization." Unfortunately, Scanlon added, employers often hesitate to reinstate injured workers.

"Most of these people were wonderful employees before they were injured," she said, "but once they get hurt, people look at them as something less than valuable. Now, they're 'a problem.' That's not the way people should look at injured workers. If they were good employees before, and people we invested training dollars in, we need to work hard to bring them back."

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