Lucas County man pleads guilty to workers’ comp fraud

A Lucas County truck driver was sentenced in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas July 26 following an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that found he worked for three trucking companies while receiving workplace injury benefits.

Donald Rasmussen, of Holland, raised suspicion with a BWC claims service specialist in 2011 when he requested two years of retroactive temporary total disability benefits. The CSS reported that Rasmussen was a truck driver at the time of his injury and questioned whether he worked during the new period of benefits that he requested.

Rasmussen claimed he had not worked since 2009, however, BWC’s Special Investigations Department obtained evidence showing he did in fact work as a truck driver for three different truck owners. He was able to obtain benefits he was not entitled to receive by failing to to notify BWC, his treating physicians or managed care organization that he returned to work.

Rasmussen pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud and was sentenced to sixty days in jail, suspended provided he has no convictions for one year.  Rasmussen repaid $29,720.39 in restitution to BWC prior to his plea.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

State funds’ common challenge: A ‘people’ industry in need of more people

kendraBy Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Last week, I spent a few days attending the Annual Conference of the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF). AASCIF is an association of workers’ compensation state funds from 26 different states, plus 8 workers’ compensation boards in Canada. Each year the conference is hosted by a state fund and this year WCF Insurance (Utah State Fund) hosted hundreds of attendees to discuss workers’ compensation issues and find ways to incorporate best practices in our own organizations. The week was jam packed with speakers, classes and opportunities to meet staff from state funds across the country.

Attending as a large monopolistic state fund, it is clear that BWC is different than many other of the state funds in attendance. We are very large in terms of written premium, and at the same time, we are required to provide coverage to all employers in Ohio (expect for those who self-insure).

The unique structure of BWC comes with its own benefits and challenges. Our large size allows us to have robust safety programs, such as safety intervention grants and research grants to universities. On the other hand, with nearly 250,000 policyholders in Ohio, finding ways to communicate to diverse parties can be challenging.

Although BWC is different, these conferences always remind me that we are also very much the same. Some of the topics discussed included IT System Conversions and Ways to Improve Safety and Coordination of Care for Injured Workers – all topics we are working on here in Ohio.

One topic that really hit home was the need to recruit more people into the workers’ compensation field. Just like Ohio BWC, many state funds are facing significant retirements in the next few years without enough incoming staff to fill their roles. The message was clear – we need to attract more young people to the industry. And being a young person myself, I enjoy working in a field where no two days are alike and where I have the opportunity to help people every day. I think that if we can get people’s feet in the door, they will find that workers’ compensation is a challenging, interesting and rewarding industry to work in. I am very excited about our new Fellowship Program in the Division of Safety and Hygiene and I think similar programs could help expose college graduates to the field.

Reflecting on the whirlwind of classes, speakers and events last week, the one thing I keep coming back to is the people. Working in the industry for just four years, I have been continually impressed by how genuine the people are. Especially during implementation of BWC’s Other States Coverage program, many of our AASCIF brother and sister funds have offered their assistance. And as I have taken them up on their offers, I have found them to be more than willing to share any tips and tricks they learned along the way. It is also clear the state funds care deeply about providing excellent service to the policyholders and injured workers in their care.

In a world that can sometime put profits before people, I am proud to be part of a group that focuses on people.

Avoiding an OSHA inspection

By Greg Collins, Industrial Safety Administrator for the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

Small employers in northeast Ohio now have the option to avoid an OSHA inspection after self-reporting injuries to OSHA under a new recordkeeping rule. This rule requires employers to report to OSHA any work-related fatalities within eight hours, and to report to OSHA all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations, and all losses of an eye within 24 hours.

Under a pilot program, the OSHA Area Office in Cleveland will offer these small employers the opportunity to work with Ohio’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program instead of undergoing an OSHA inspection. This approach to improving safety and health is known as Rapid Response Investigation, or RRI.

Depending upon the severity of the incident, employers who report to OSHA about injuries will receive a letter that asks them to:

  • Conduct an incident investigation,
  • Provide documentation of hazard abatement,
  • Document findings and corrective actions taken which should be posted in the workplace,
  • Provide a certificate of posting, and
  • Schedule a visit with BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program.

The employer must respond to OSHA within five days of receipt of the initial letter. Working with the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program is voluntary. If the employer chooses not to work with the consultation program, it may be inspected by OSHA.  However, if the employer does not provide an adequate response to the letter, it will be inspected by OSHA.

The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program will consider these requests for services as high priority requests. The goal for response time by the consultation program is 14 days or less.

The services offered by the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program will be exactly as they have always been. The only differences from our normal operating procedures are as follows:

  • We are making these requests for service high priority for receiving our services.
  • We are starting off with a limited service visit, focusing only on the incident(s) that caused the employer to report themselves to OSHA.
  • We are offering to expand the scope of the visit if desired by the customer.
  • We are going to help with incident investigations.

In addition to RRI requests for service, the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program may also respond to requests from employers where OSHA has received certain employee complaints.

This arrangement is a pilot plan, starting August 1st and going to September 30th. If it is successful, it may be expanded to the other three OSHA Area Offices in Ohio, or beyond.

For more information see Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation.