Wednesday, December 30, 2009

QR Alert: Homeowners Can Be Liable For Slips, Falls On Snow

A helpful article for home and business owners:

"How much time do Pennsylvanians have to clear their sidewalks of snow before someone who slips and falls can hold them responsible?"

Read the entire article: http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/weather/22083792/detail.html

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

QR Legislative Alert: UC and Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Extension Information

We at Quatrini Rafferty have received a lot of questions regarding the extension of the Unemployment Compensation by the federal government. The following guidance was originally posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry website:

On Dec. 19, 2009, the president signed into law new legislation to continue the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) programs and delay the phase out of the programs until the end of February, 2010. In addition, this legislation allows High Unemployment Period Extended Benefits (HUP EB) to continue through February, 2010. Generally, this new law will have the following impact on claimants currently filing for benefits.
Individuals who believe they qualify should simply continue filing their biweekly claims. Claimants will be contacted by the Department of Labor & Industry if any additional information is needed.
  • Claimants filing for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits: If you exhaust your regular UC no later than the week ending February 20, 2010, you may be eligible for Tier 1 EUC. If you exhaust your regular UC benefits after February 20, 2010, you may qualify for regular state EB benefits, if PA remains in an EB Period at that time.

  • Claimants filing for Tier 1 EUC benefits: If you exhaust your Tier 1 EUC benefits no later than the week ending February 27, 2010, you may qualify for Tier 2 EUC benefits. If you exhaust your Tier 1 EUC benefits after February 27, 2010, you may qualify for regular state EB benefits if PA remains in an EB Period at that time.

  • Claimants filing for Tier 2 EUC benefits: If you exhaust the original amount of your Tier 2 EUC benefits, 13 or 8 weeks, no later than the week ending February 27, 2010, you may qualify for Tier 3 EUC benefits. If you exhaust the original amount of your Tier 2 benefits after the week ending February 27, 2010, you may qualify to receive your increased Tier 2 EUC benefits (.6 or 1 week), followed by regular state EB benefits, if PA remains in an EB Period at that time.

  • Claimants filing for Tier 3 EUC benefits and increased Tier 2 EUC benefits: If you exhaust your Tier 3 EUC benefits AND your increased Tier 2 EUC benefits (.6 or 1 week) no later than the week ending February 27, 2010, you may qualify for Tier 4 EUC benefits. If you exhaust your Tier 3 and increased Tier 2 EUC after February 27, 2010, no additional EUC benefits will be available. However, you may qualify for regular EB benefits if PA remains in an EB period at that time and you did not previously receive EB.

  • Claimant filing for Tier 4 EUC benefits: If you exhaust your Tier 4 EUC benefits, no additional EUC benefits are available for you. However, you may qualify for regular state EB benefits if PA remains in an EB Period at that time and you did not previously receive EB benefits.

  • Claimants filing for regular EB benefits: If you exhaust your regular EB benefits no later than the week ending February 20, 2010, you may qualify to receive HUP EB benefits if PA remains in a HUP EB period at that time. However, the last week for which HUP EB may be paid is the week ending February 27, 2010. If you have not exhausted HUP EB when that program ends or you exhaust regular EB on or after February 27, 2010, you may qualify for Tier 3 EUC benefits.

  • Claimants filing for HUP EB benefits: The last week for which HUP EB may be paid is the week ending February 27, 2010. If you exhaust your HUP EB benefits no later than the week ending February 27, 2010, or you have not exhausted these benefits when that program ends on February 27, 2010, you may qualify for Tier 3 EUC benefits.
The last payable week of EUC benefits is now the week ending July 31, 2010, and the last payable week of HUP EB benefits is the week ending February 27, 2010.
Important filing information: The requirement to file weekly paper claim forms applies only to regular and HUP EB. If you transition from regular EB or HUP EB to Tier 3 EUC, you will file your EUC claims through the Internet or the telephone claim system, PAT. If you transition from UC to Tier 1 EUC, or from one Tier of EUC to another, you will continue to file claims for benefits through the Internet or PAT.
Additional information regarding these programs and how the phase out of these programs will affect claimants will be added to this Web site as it becomes available.

If you have questions regarding the phase-out of EUC or the end of HUP EB, please call the Pennsylvania UC Service Center at 1-888-313-7284 from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you would like to discuss your eligibility for Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation, contact James A. Horchak in our office at 1-888-288-9748 or www.qrlegal.com.


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, December 7, 2009

QR Alert: DUI Holiday Crackdown

The following was in today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

"Police nationwide will begin a crackdown on drunken driving Dec. 16, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced today.

A $7.5 million advertising campaign will try to discourage drinking and driving during the holiday season. In Pennsylvania, the Operation Safe Holiday program is in effect this month, with state police and 600 municipal forces participating in an effort to curb drunken driving, speeding and aggressive driving.

The organization Drive Safe Pa. pointed out that a DUI citation costs more than $1,000 plus court costs.

Last year, 11,773 people died nationally in crashes involving a driver whose blood alcohol level was 0.08 or higher. That represented a 9.7 percent decrease compared with 2007.

DUI deaths also declined in Pennsylvania, from 504 in 2007 to 496 last year. Those deaths made up 34 percent of crash fatalities in the state.

The nationwide crackdown continues through Jan. 3."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Attorneys Receive High Marks from Martindale Hubbell

Quatrini Rafferty attorneys continue to receive high honors from Martindale-Hubbell, a trusted source in peer-to-peer ratings.

Founding partners Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., and Dennis B. Rafferty again earned a "Preeminent AV" rating. An "AV" is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.

Martindale-Hubbell also awarded "BV Distinguished" ratings to A. Tereasa Rerko and David S. DeRose. The "BV" certification mark is an excellent rating for a lawyer with some experience. A widely respected mark of achievement, it differentiates a lawyer from his or her competition.

According to the Martindale-Hubbell website, "Lawyer Ratings serve as an objective indicator that a lawyer has the highest ethical standards and professional ability and are used by buyers of legal services to justify their hiring decisions. Combined with the Martindale-Hubbell® Client Review Ratings, self-reported professional credentials and other fact-based performance data, the Peer Review Ratings contribute to the comprehensive view of a lawyer."

Congratulations to Vince, Dennis, Tereasa and David!

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, November 23, 2009

Attorney Joyce Novotny-Prettiman from Quatrini Rafferty in Tribune Review

Sale of Former Jeannette Middle School Site Collapses

By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A sale of the property where Jeannette Middle School once stood has fallen through.

Jeannette School District has been trying to sell .95 acres at 326 S. Fourth St. A petition for a sale price of $75,000 to Clifford and Christine Smith of Nanty Glo was granted by Westmoreland County Judge Daniel Ackerman on Oct. 28.

But the Smiths, who planned to build a Family Dollar store on the parcel, withdrew their bid.

Joyce Novotny-Prettiman, district solicitor, said the Smiths were not required to give a reason for the withdrawal under the terms of the sales agreement.

"We just got a letter from the attorney saying they were withdrawing from the contract," Novotny-Prettiman said.

The school board voted Monday to release the Smiths from the deal.

Superintendent Sharon Marks said the district will explore other options.

"We were disappointed," Marks said. "Obviously, we wanted to sell the property. It would be a good boost not only for us, but for the city. It just didn't happen. We'll go from there."


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pennsylvania Legislation Equalizes Treatment for Fallen Heroes

A bill equalizing benefits for first responders was passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature and is on its way to Governor Rendell for signature.

Pennsylvania State Senator Sean Logan, who sponsored the bill, released the following press release detailing the new program:

The State Senate today unanimously concurred in House amendments to state Sen. Sean Logan’s (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) bill that would ensure that the families of public safety employees killed in the line of duty receive death benefits.

The bill, Senate Bill 369, now awaits the governor’s signature.

“By sending this bill to the governor, we are honoring the memory of police officers and emergency personnel whose lives and deeds exemplified true heroism,” Logan said. “I am proud this bill has made its way through both chambers and hope that Governor Rendell will sign this bill into law quickly.”

The Logan bill will guarantee killed-in-service death benefits to all spouses or minor children of a paid firefighter, law enforcement officer and ambulance service or rescue squad member equal to the amount of the decedent’s monthly salary.

“The overwhelming bipartisan effort on this bill again proves the state’s dedication and gratitude to police officers and other emergency responders,” Logan added. “They can now be assured that if something were to ever happen to them in the line of duty, that their loved ones will be okay.”

Under previous law, pension and workers’ compensation payments provided death benefits that covered a portion of the salaries of troopers, officers, firefighters and emergency personnel in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and third-class cities that were killed in the line of duty. Under the bill, the state will now pick up the remaining share.

Prior to this bill, boroughs and townships paid the entire cost of benefits for their police. Senate Bill 369 shifts these costs to the state. A Senate actuarial study estimated the annual cost to the state to be $9,000 for each officer killed in the line of duty.

Sen. Jane C. Orie, Majority Whip (R-Allegheny) added, “I was very pleased at the bipartisan effort that moved this essential legislation protecting the families of fallen police officers and other emergency responders through both chambers and onto the Governor.”

Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) noted, “I am proud to have co-sponsored Sen. Logan’s much-needed legislation. The protections offered by this bill for families should something tragic take place will surely make these brave men and women sleep a little easier at night.”

Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Phila.) added, “It is unfathomable that we have not offered these protections to these men and women that put their lives on the line for others day in and day out prior to Sen. Logan’s legislation. All Pennsylvanians are lucky to have such a dedicated public safety force and this gesture shows them that they are appreciated.”

Since 2002, 32 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty. Of these officers, nine were members of the current pension plans providing the killed-in-service benefit. The surviving beneficiaries of the remaining 23 law enforcement officers and an additional 15 firefighters were not eligible for the benefit because these public safety employees were not members of the Act 600 pension plan.

See the text of the legislation here.

To learn more about additional benefits for first responders under the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act and Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, contact Quatrini Rafferty at 888-288-9748 or email us.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

COBRA Subsidy Set to End; Effect of Health Care Bill?

In February, the Quatrini Rafferty blog posted several articles on federal subsidies for COBRA premiums.

With the COBRA program entering its eighth month, and with the subsidy set to end at the end of 2009, National Public Radio discusses the success of the program and its future.

Health Insurance Help For Laid-Off Workers May End

by Sarah Varney

If you have ever lost a job and the health benefits that went with it, you have probably heard of COBRA, the program that requires employers to extend your health coverage for a price.

That price, however, is one that all but a fraction of laid-off workers find much too high. The federal stimulus bill has helped some workers by lowering those payments, but that help may soon run out.

Nicole Pelton, who lost her job in March as a marketing manager in Silicon Valley, says she doesn't want to worry about taking her kids to the emergency room and having no way to pay for it. After the shock of being unemployed eased, she says she worried most about keeping her young family insured.

Help From Subsidy

That's where COBRA comes in — or at least it's supposed to.

"That was going to be about little over $1,000 a month. That was probably more than half the unemployment benefits," Pelton says.

Like countless unemployed people before her, Pelton found that the COBRA coverage was out of her reach — she would have to pay the entire premium.

Then, she found out the federal government would cover two-thirds of the cost for nine months, through a new program approved by Congress in February as part of the stimulus bill. She signed up, and now she pays about $350 a month to cover her family. It is still a big expense, but Pelton and her husband have managed to pay the bill.

"The subsidy came at a good time because it was very expensive, the monthly amount we paid," she says.

The subsidy appears to be having the effect Congress and the Obama administration wanted. No one really knows yet how many people have actually signed up for COBRA. One survey of large companies found that the percentage of eligible laid-off workers who continued their employer health insurance doubled from 19 percent to 38 percent after the subsidy kicked in.

But if the government is picking up most of the bill, why isn't the program even more popular?

Still Expensive

Marian Mulkey, a COBRA researcher at the California Health Care Foundation, says the newly unemployed are being asked to pay 35 percent of the cost even though they don't have jobs.

"That's still a large cost you're being asked to maintain month after month, when you're doubtless facing many other economic challenges and balancing your household budget," Mulkey says.

That's not possible for many families. Even with the federal subsidy, a parent earning minimum wage would still need to pay about a third of her monthly income to afford family coverage. Mulkey says that to make the COBRA coverage more affordable, the subsidy needs to be higher.

Rohan Vaidya earns far more than minimum wage. He was laid off from the software giant Oracle in January. His COBRA subsidy expires in November, and his health coverage will go from $140 a month to $400. Vaidya says he will switch to a cheaper plan.

"I'm 28 years old. I'm relatively healthy, so I don't need comprehensive everything — health, dental and vision," he says. "So something basic is what I'll sign up for."

Under current plans, the COBRA subsidy will expire Dec. 31. Congress may consider extending the subsidy early next year, though there are no details yet on how long it might last.

But all this could be moot if Congress passes even a modest health care bill. Unemployed workers and others who are uninsured could be given a choice of more affordable health plans. There would be government subsidies for those who can't afford it, and insurance companies couldn't deny families like Pelton's because of pre-existing conditions.

In effect, the need for COBRA could simply go away.


You can also listen to the program or download the Podcast here

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pennsylvania Now In Compliance with Federal Guidelines On Mental Heath Treatment

The following article was posted by WDUQ on their website.

The Pennsylvania House has passed a measure that would bring the state into compliance with three federal insurance laws. House Bill 1593 begins with a mandate that insurance plans offered in the state provide benefits for mental health and substance abuse treatments on a scale comparable to treatment limitations applied to medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan. That would bring the state into compliance with the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Matzie of Ambridge also brings the state into compliance with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The act prohibits discrimination in premiums or contribution amounts on the basis of genetic information of a covered individual or family member. It also prohibits an insurer from requesting genetic testing from an individual trying to obtain coverage. Finally, HB 1593 forces insurance companies operating in Pennsylvania to offer one year of coverage to a dependent child in college who must take a leave of absence from school for medically necessary reasons. Michelle’s Law requires the coverage. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration, but Matzie says there is a similar version in the upper chamber that may be considered first. He says he does not care which bill is ultimately signed into law as long as the changes are made.

If the state does not pass the legislation any complaints from policyholders would have to be filed with the federal government rather than the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Matzie says complaints filed in Washington take much longer to process and are much more complicated to file.


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, October 12, 2009

David S. DeRose and James A. Horchak Certified in Collaborative Law

Quatrini Rafferty attorneys David S. DeRose and James A. Horchak were recently certified as Collaborative Law professionals by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals.

The International Association of Collaborative Professionals describes the program as "a solution-oriented approach for clients determined to prevent permanent damage to relationships -- even difficult relationships. Characterized by dignity and fairness, Collaborative Practice is especially useful in divorce, child custody, and civil disputes where parties agree to maintain collaborative standards. The effects of divorce on children and the quality of life after divorce are especially relevant in Collaborative Practice."

For more information about how the Collaborative Law process can fit into your situation, call Quatrini Rafferty at 724-837-0080 or email us.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jessica L. Rafferty Passes Pennsylvania Bar Examination; Joins Quatrini Rafferty as Associate Attorney

Quatrini Rafferty is pleased to announce that Jessica L. Rafferty has joined the firm as an Associate Attorney after passing the Pennsylvania Bar Examination.

Jessica, who is the oldest daughter of founding partner Dennis B. Rafferty, is a graduate of Bucknell University and the George Mason School of Law.

Congratulations Jessica!

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Donates / Participates In Allegheny County "Backpack Program"

Quatrini Rafferty attorneys were excited to help out with the 2009 "Backpack Program", which is sponsored and run by the Public Service Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association. This year more than 85 volunteers gathered to stuff backpacks with school supplies for 700 students at Arsental, Martin L. King, and Woolslair Elementary Schools. This year's event marked a record number of backpacks for the project.

Quatrini Rafferty donated 700 pencil top erasers to the event and QR attorney Michael V. Quatrini volunteered his time stuffing the backpacks.

Read more about the packing event on the Allegheny County Bar Association website

http://www.acba.org/ACBA/pdf/TLJ/LJv11-19_091109r.pdf

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, October 5, 2009

What are "Specific Loss Benefits" in Workers' Compensation?

A Quatrini Rafferty blog article by Michael V. Quatrini, Esq.

If you are injured at work or suffer from an illness related to work, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides you with rights to get your medical expenses and wage-loss benefits covered until you’re able to return to full time work.

But if you have unfortunately lost the use of certain body parts, specific payments might be available. Body parts covered by the act include:
  • thumb
  • finger
  • hand
  • arm
  • leg
  • foot
  • toe
  • sight
  • hearing
The loss can be be as large as payment for the full body part, or, as small as a payment for a portion (half, third, etc) depending on the body part.

In addition to specific payments for loss of a specific body part, compensation may be available for serious and permanent "disfigurement" (i.e. scarring, burns, skin discoloration and/or bruising, etc.) on the head, face or neck. Any other scarring on the body, despite being caused by a work injury and despite being disfiguring, is sadly not compensable.

Under the Workers' Compensation Act it is up to the Workers' Compensation Judge assigned to your case to personally view the scar, discoloration, etc., to determine whether it is or is not disfiguring.
Several of the factors a WCJ should take into consideration are: (1) the texture and color of the employee's skin (2) the manner in which the scar has healed (3) the skill with which the surgeon, in the case of a surgical scar or laceration, has achieved his or her task, and (4) the pre-existing appearance in general, of the injured employee.

If
you have additional questions about specific loss benefits, please contact one of the workers' compensation attorneys at Quatrini Rafferty by calling us at 1-888-288-9748 or by writing us an email.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Expungement Law Expanded in Pennsylvania

A Quatrini Rafferty newsletter article by criminal defense attorney Brian Patrick Bronson, Esq.

A new provision in Pennsylvania law alters the criteria for expungement of criminal records for summary offenses. Expungement is the process that removes past criminal offenses from your record.

Prior to the passage of this law, an expungement could only be granted under specific circumstances. Expungements were limited to juvenile court convictions and to adult criminal charges that were dismissed by a judge or withdrawn by the Commonwealth.

Now, the law permits people convicted of a summary offense to apply for expungement five years after conviction as long as they were not arrested or prosecuted within that time. Examples of summary offenses are underage drinking, disorderly conduct, harassment, and retail theft. However, the law will no longer allow relief for people that committed certain crimes against victims under the age of 18. Even if a matter is expunged for public purposes, law enforcement agencies retain access to this information.

The new law does not change the fact that convictions for more serious offenses known as misdemeanors and felonies are still not expungable in Pennsylvania. The only available option to expunge these records would be a gubernatorial pardon, which is time consuming and difficult to obtain.

To explore whether you may qualify under this new provision, contact Brian Bronson at 724-552-2755 for an appointment.


- Quatrini Rafferty-

pennsylvania criminal defense attorney brian patrick bronson for westmoreland county

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Decision on Reasonable Contest

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's recent opinion in Thompson v. WCAB (Cinema Center), No. 621 C.D. 2009 (August 14, 2009) debated the issue of reasonable contest.

In Thompson, the injured employee was walking to work when she hit a “lip” in the parking lot where the concrete and asphalt meet and she fell onto her side.

The employer denied the workers' compensation claim, contesting that the employee did not fall on the employer's premises. The employee argued that the employer's contest was unreasonable.

A representative of the employer testified that they own the building but does not own the sidewalk or parking lot. Instead the owner of the entire strip mall owns that property and the employer pays a fee for use and maintenance of “common areas,” which include the sidewalk and parking lot.

The Workers' Compensation Judge found the employee was injured on the employer's premises, but denied the claim for unreasonable contest.

The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the decision of the workers' compensation judge.

In concluding that a reasonable contest did exist, the Court remarked that

"the mere fact that the employer leases or even owns a parking lot or garage where the employee was injured is not dispositive of the question of whether a parking area is part of the employer’s 'premises.' Such a determination requires an examination of many other facts, such as the employer’s requirements on parking. Here, the Employer did not own the sidewalk or parking lot but, rather, paid a Landlord a fee for maintenance and the non-exclusive right to use those areas. However, Employer did not mandate where employees should park and the entire parking lot was open for use by members of the public. Although Employer did not prevail, the record shows that there was a genuinely disputed issue as to whether the area where Claimant fell was Employer’s “premises” for purposes of the Act."

Read the entire opinion here.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

reasonable contest workers compensation commonwealth court Pennsylvania workers compensation attorney workman comp injury

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability from N.O.S.S.C.R.

While the Quatrini Rafferty website has plenty of Frequently Asked Questions for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), we wanted to highlight the helpful FAQ section hosted by the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives.

They can be found here: http://www.nosscr.org/faq.html

Established in 1979, the N.O.S.S.C.R. is an association of over 3,900 attorneys and other advocates who represent Social Security and Supplemental Security Income claimants. Members are committed to providing high quality representation for claimants, to maintaining a system of full and fair adjudication for every claimant, and to advocating for beneficial change in the disability determination and adjudication process.

Quatrini Rafferty attorneys A. Tereasa Rerko, Brian Patrick Bronson and Michael V. Quatrini are all members of N.O.S.S.C.R..

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Panel Physicians for Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation

The Summer 2009 edition of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's publication "News and Notes" posted a helpful article concerning panel physicians for workers' compensation:

Who’s on Your Panel?

Employers who have established a provider panel for injured workers are reminded that their list should include a variety of specialists appropriate to the types of injuries anticipated. The panel must have a minimum of six health care providers listed, three of which must be physicians. The PA Workers’ Compensation Act requires employers to reimburse injured workers for treatment rendered by a provider of the worker’s choosing where the treatment is necessary and reasonable for the type of injury involved and where no suitable provider (e.g., chiropractor, occupational therapist, physical therapist, etc.)
is included on the provider panel.


The full edition of "News and Notes," which contains updated information for workers' compensation and other L&I topics, is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's website:

http://www.dli.state.pa.us/landi/lib/landi/bwc/newsletters/2009_summer.pdf


- Quatrini Rafferty -
Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation - Social Security Disability - Pennsylvania Work Injury - Westmoreland County Work injury - Allegheny county work injury - Latrobe Work injury - Indiana Work injury - Blairsville work injury - Johnstown work injury

Monday, September 28, 2009

QR Commentary: The Myth of "Tort Reform"

As the health care debate drags on into the Fall, many of us have heard about the need for "tort reform" to bring down the cost of health care. "Tort reform" critics argue that

But, this is hardly a new idea, and, while we support a more efficient health care system with less preventable errors, we strongly discourage the taking of people's civil rights.

The following article from Politico.com sets the facts straight:

  • Forty-six states have already done it, and costs have continued to skyrocket;
  • The Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office have said tort reform will save practically no money, and they found no evidence of defensive medicine;
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0909/27549.html#ixzz0SQIkitYN

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Growing Risk of Mortgage Modification Scams

With more people at risk of losing their jobs, and in turn their homes, there is a growing risk that companies will take advantage of those in a tight financial spot.

Today's version of Marketplace, a radio program produced for NPR by American Public Media, highlighted the ever growing risk of fraud by mortgage modification companies:

"Dubious mortgage-modification firms like 21st Century Legal Services help homeowners renegotiate their mortgages, but only in exchange for big upfront fees. Steve Henn reports on how these companies rip off desperate homeowners, then disappear."

Listen to the audio version here

Or, read the full transcript of the story here

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, September 3, 2009

National Public Radio Spotlights the Social Security Backlog

National Public Radio highlighted the Social Security Disability backlog on its daily program, Morning Edition. The piece outlines the steps of the social security process, details the already long wait for a hearing, and how the bad economy is putting even more pressure on the backlog.

Click on the link below to listen:

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=112397747&m=112397705

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Spring / Summer Edition of "Legal Update" Now Available

The Spring/Summer edition of Quatrini Rafferty's acclaimed newsletter is now available on our website!

Click here to read the entire issue or on the links beside the following articles:


Recently, while in Washington, D.C., I either dropped my wallet or someone"borrowed" it from my back pocket. I am fairly cautious about how I safeguard my valuables when I travel, but not this time.



If you receive Medicare and have low income and few resources, help may be available to you. If you apply for state assistance, the state may pay your Medicare premiums and, in some cases, other Medicare expenses such as deductibles, coinsurance, or premiums and prescription co-payments related to the Medicare prescription drug program (Part D). Only your state can determine if you qualify.



Every so often the Pennsylvania courts issue decisions which result in attorneys rushing to contact their clients with advice. Now is one of those times. We want you to be aware of a change in the law which could result in the loss of your workers' compensation benefits.



A new provision in Pennsylvania law alters the criteria for expungement of criminal records for summary offenses. Expungement is the process that removes past criminal offenses from your record.


A new Right to Know Law in Pennsylvania took effect on January 1, 2009. Although Pennsylvania has had an open records law since the late 1950's, the scope of that law was never clear and it was not applied uniformly throughout the state.


In the Winter 2009 edition of Legal Update, we discussed the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, effective July 1, 2009.



Have you noticed more money in your paycheck lately? This increase was the result of the "Making Work Pay Credit." This federal tax credit provides up to $400.00 for individuals and up to $800.00 for married taxpayers filing joint returns for 2009.


If you liked this edition of the QR Newsletter, be sure to check out our website for past issues/articles on similar topics.


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Announces Inaugural "Client Appreciation Picnic"

The attorneys and staff at Quatrini Rafferty are pleased to announce that they will be hosting the first ever "Client Appreciation" Picnic. Friends, clients and family of the firms can plan for door prizes, food and games for the kids.

Who is Invited:

All past and present clients. . . bring your family along for the fun!

Where:

Pavilion #7 at Twin Lakes Park, Greensburg, PA

When:

Friday, August 14, 2009 from Noon 'til 7 p.m.


We would kindly ask that you and your guests RSVP no later than August 6, 2009, by contacting

Terri Ross 724-552-2752 or e-mail tmr@qrlegal.com

Thanks and we hope to see you there!


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ronald J. Fonner Serves As Panelist For Annual Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Conference

Quatrini Rafferty partner Ronald J. Fonner was a featured panelist at the statewide Workers' Compensation Conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Mr. Fonner's portion of the seminar addressed medical cost containment in the workers' compensation system, including the legal ramifications of a panel physican, legal considerations on a utilization review appeal, basic procedures of hearings, compelling an independent medical examination (IME), the physician's comments on an IME, the rights of parties (including providers) and litigating a fee review appeal. More details on the conference can be found on the Department of Labor and Industry's website:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., Named Pennsylvania "Super Lawyer" For Sixth Consecutive Year


In June 2009, Quatrini Rafferty managing partner Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., was named a Pennsylvania "Super Lawyer" by Pittsburgh Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine and Law and Politics Magazine. This is the sixth consecutive year for Quatrini.
Pennsylvania Super Lawyers is published in June in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Magazines, which has a monthly readership of more than 486,000. Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine is delivered to Pennsylvania lawyers, the lead corporate counsel of the Russell 3000 companies and all ABA-approved law school libraries, to reach more than 49,000 readers. Law and Politics Magazine selects "Super Lawyers" from a poll distributed to all lawyers in Pennsylvania. Only 5% of the lawyers in Pennsylvania are selected as Super Lawyers by Law and Politics.
Quatrini concentrates his practice in the exclusive representation of injured employees in workers’ compensation cases. He is a past chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Law Section of the Pennsylvania BarAssociation. Since the late 1990s, he has served on the Workers’ Compensation Rules Committee, appointed by the Secretary of Labor and Industry. Mr. Quatrini is one of a statewide team of attorneys who co-authors (since 1992) the publication Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Practice & Procedure. He is a member of the Westmoreland County and Pennsylvania Bar Associations, the Westmoreland County Academy of Trial Lawyers, and past president of the Westmoreland County Bar Association.
Congratulations to Vincent Quatrini on this remarkable achievement.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Announces Grant To Retrain Veterans

The Department of Labor and Industry recently announced a grant in the amount of $311,000 to help retrain veterans for welding jobs. The grant, which will be used by the Steamfitters Local, will fund the Returning Veterans Welding Program, which is scheduled to start in the fall. The veterans will receive 96 hours of beginner welding training during an eight-week period.

An article covering the program in detail can be found on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette website:

http://www.pittsburghpostgazette.com/pg/09147/972933-407.stm

Anyone interested in applying for a position in the Returning Veterans Welding Program should contact Steamfitters Local at 800-253-6960 or 412-381-1133

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., Begins Work On New Edition of Pennsylvania "Workers' Compensation: Practice and Procedure"


Quatrini Rafferty partner Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., recently traveled to Harrisburg, PA to begin work on the 2010 edition of the Pennsylvania Bar Insitute's publication "Workers' Compensation: Practice and Procedure."


The workers' compensation manual, widely referred to as the "Bible" in workers comp circles, is touted by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute as "a complete survey of the substantive law of workers’ compensation practice, the Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act." PBI also notes that "this book can be found in the chambers of the Commonwealth Court and on the desks of the commissioners of the Appeal Board, workers’ compensation judges, lawyers, and claims personnel throughout Pennsylvania."


Quatrini, who has served as a co-editor of the manual since 1989, will also serve as a moderator for the continuing legal education seminars that accompany the manual's publication.


Publication is scheduled for Spring 2010.



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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

QR Legislative Alert: Elimination of Civil Legal Services Funding

Quatrini Rafferty received an email from the Pennsylvania Bar Association which issued the following warning about the reduction in Civil Legal Services Funding:

The Pennsylvania Senate introduced SB 850 as their proposed 2009-2010 state budget on Friday, May 1st. That legislation is poised to be voted on, and adopted, by the Senate tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6th. SB 850 eliminates all state funding (all $3,172,000 of the state's appropriation) for civil legal services. Access to justice is a major concern to the members of the PA Bar Association. The reduction of funding for legal services at a time of substantially increased need due to current, severe economic recession is remarkable.
Please call your state senator immediately. Implore him/her to restore the state appropriation for civil legal services. Tell him/her that access to justice for the poorest among us is not an appropriate "bargaining chip" for budget negotiation.


As the PBA urges, please contact your State Senator and/or your local Representative immediately to share your opposition to the reduction. You can find either one through the link below:

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/find.cfm

Thank you.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Article from Quatrini Rafferty "Legal Blog" Featured on OpenCongress.org

We here at the QR Legal Blog are excited to report that OpenConress.org has featured the April 20, 2009 blog article entitled "Bill Introduced to End Two Year Waiting Period for Medicare" on their site:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1719/show


According to its website, OpenCongress is "a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource with a mission to help make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement." The website is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation.


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Congratulations to 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon Participants!



The attorneys at Quatrini Rafferty would like to extend their congratulations to all of the runners competing in the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon, and, to the City of Pittsburgh on a successful event!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

New Secretary of Labor Confirmed by Pennsylvania State Senate

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Labor and Industry, the administrative body that oversees workers' compensation and unemployment in Pennsylvania, recently announced that Sandi Vito will formally take over as Secretary of L&I effective April 22, 2009. The Bureau issued a press release announcing the appointment, which we have reprinted below:

Senate Confirms Sandi Vito as Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor & Industry
HARRISBURG – Sandi Vito, named by Governor Edward G. Rendell to serve as Secretary of Labor & Industry, was confirmed today by the Pennsylvania Senate.
Vito is Pennsylvania’s 32nd Secretary of Labor & Industry, and the second woman to hold the post.
“Sandi has done a tremendous job as acting secretary of Labor & Industry, especially during these challenging economic times,” Governor Rendell said. “I am pleased that members of the Senate, in their vote to confirm Sandi, have shown the same confidence I have in her.”
As secretary, Vito oversees the commonwealth’s fifth-largest agency, employing approximately 6,000 employees in 200 offices. L&I serves many worker and business interests through a variety of programs and initiatives, including unemployment and workers’ compensation, labor law compliance and vocational rehabilitation.
In addition, the department’s workforce development initiatives help Pennsylvanians obtain skills needed for in-demand jobs, and keep businesses competitive in the global economy.
Prior to being named acting secretary last year, Vito served as deputy secretary for workforce development for five years. She helped to reform the commonwealth’s workforce development system and expanded employment and training opportunities in high-skill, high-wage jobs.
“I am honored by the Senate’s vote of confidence,” Vito said. “Pennsylvania is facing significant economic challenges, but L&I is determined to help people find and maintain employment and provide the valuable services that workers and businesses need. I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly to carry out our mission, revitalize Pennsylvania’s economy and strengthen our workforce."

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Attorneys Volunteer Time for "KD and You and The Law"

Quatrini Rafferty attorneys Ronald J. Fonner and Michael V. Quatrini volunteered their time and legal knowledge on April 21st for the 25th Annual "KD and You and the Law Program" sponsored by the Allegheny County Bar Association and KDKA.

The annual event includes more than 100 attorneys answering legal questions from the general public. It is estimated more than 2,000 telephone calls were received during the event.

The video from this year's event is not online yet, but you can learn more from KDKA's 2008 coverage:

http://kdka.com/video/?id=40107@kdka.dayport.com

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Bill Introduced to End Two Year Waiting Period for Medicare

As most of our clients are aware, disabled individuals must often wait two years for medical coverage through Medicare despite being unable to work. Well, good news might be on the way!

On March 25, 2009, two bills were introduced, one in the United States Senate and the other in the United Stated House of Representative, to eliminate the waiting period over the next ten years. The authors of the bills are Democrat Senator Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico and Democrat Represenative Gene Green from Texas.

Our friends at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives authored a very concise article on the propsed change here: http://www.nosscr.org/medicarewait.html

For those that are interested, the text of the House bill is as follows:

"By Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas (for himself and Mr. TERRY):
H.R. 1708. A bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to phase out the 24-month waiting period for disabled individuals to become eligible for Medicare benefits, to eliminate the waiting period for individuals with life-threatening conditions, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Transportation and Infrastructure, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned."


http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?r111:@OR+(+@1(H.R.+1719)++@1(H.+R.+1719)++)

A version of the Senate bill, which is lengthy, is also available here:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.700.IS:

Feel free to contact your local Congressional Representative or U.S. Senator and urge them to support passage of either bill!

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

QR Endorsement: Quatrini Rafferty Endorses Daniel K. Bricmont For Commonwealth Court Judge

The attorneys of Quatrini Rafferty are pleased to announce their support for Commonwealth Court candidate Daniel K. Bricmont in the upcoming primary election election on May 19, 2009.

Dan Bricmont is an attorney at Caroselli Beachler McTiernan & Conboy. He has spent the last 20 years fighting to protect the rights of injured workers and their families. Mr. Bricmont’s practice focuses on the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Appellate practice as well as representing clients in Social Security Disability matters and advising clients regarding employment law issues such as Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, and issues arising under Collective Bargaining Agreements.

A significant portion of Dan’s practice is in the Appellate Courts. He has appeared frequently before our Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court with respect to Workers’ Compensation matters. He currently represents clients with matters pending in both Commonwealth Court and Superior Court.

Because we believe Dan shares our compassion for the rights of injured workers, we strongly encourage all of our clients to support Dan in the upcoming primary, and general, elections.

For more about Dan, visit his website: http://www.bricmontforjudge.com/

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Attorney Brian P. Bronson Welcomes New Member of the Family!

Quatrini Rafferty is proud to announce that QR attorney Brian P. Bronson and his wife welcomed a second baby boy, Brody Quinn Bronson, on Monday evening.

We wish the Bronson family heartfelt congratulations on the new addition to their family!

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Social Security Announces Stimulus Payments in May 2009

Quatrini Rafferty has recently learned that Social Security intends on disbursing stimulus payments in May 2009. We have reprinted SSA's announcment below for your convenience:

Vice President Biden Announces $250 Recovery Payments to Go
to Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries in May; Payments will inject more than $13 Billion into Economy


Vice President Joe Biden and Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that the federal government will send out $250 economic recovery payments to people who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits beginning in early May 2009 and continuing throughout the month. No action is required to get the payment, which will be sent separately from the person’s regular monthly payment. "The Social Security Administration and Commissioner Astrue have been working closely with other federal agencies to get these payments out the door in record time and into the hands of folks who need it most," said Vice President Biden. "These are checks that will make a big difference in the lives of older Americans and people with disabilities - many of whom have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis that has swept across the country."

"We have been working diligently to issue the $250 one-time recovery payments as soon as possible," Commissioner Astrue said. "The legislation requires extensive coordination with other federal agencies and I’m pleased we are on track to issue these recovery payments earlier than the statute requires. Soon more than $13 billion will be in the hands of more than 50 million Americans."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for a one-time payment of $250 to adult Social Security beneficiaries, and to SSI recipients, except those receiving Medicaid in care facilities. To receive the payment the individual must be eligible for Social Security or SSI during the months of November 2008, December 2008 or January 2009. The legislation also provides for a one-time payment to Veterans Affairs (VA) and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) beneficiaries. The VA and RRB will be responsible for paying individuals under their respective programs. However, if someone receives Social Security and SSI, VA or RRB benefits, he or she will receive only one $250 payment. People getting Social Security or SSI should not contact the agency unless a payment is not received by June 4, 2009.

For more detailed information about the $250 one-time economic recovery payments, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/payment. To learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, go to
www.recovery.gov.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation and Social Security: Can I Receive Both?

A Quatrini Rafferty Newsletter article by A. Tereasa Rerko, Esq.

If you're receiving workers' compensation benefits, it may seem that filing for Social Security disability benefits is unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. For someone who may not work for at least a year or more, there are significant reasons to consider filing for Social Security disability benefits, even before workers' compensation benefits end.

Social Security disability benefits are insurance benefits, so eligibility for receiving them has a time limit. Generally speaking, you must prove you are disabled within five years of ending your employment. For example, someone who is injured in 2001, and stops working for wages that year, must usually establish disability by some time in 2006. Waiting until the workers' compensation claim is resolved in 2008 will make it more difficult to obtain the medical evidence and testimony necessary to establish disability before 2006. Therefore, if you expect to be out of work for more than a year due to your disability, consider filing for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you stop working.

Another reason to apply for Social Security disability benefits at that time is to protect your Social Security retirement benefits. Payroll taxes support the payment of Social Security disability benefits, and payment of these taxes ends when you stop working. This means that if you leave the workforce before age 62, your retirement account will show a number of years of "zero" income. However, when you are declared disabled by the Social Security Administration, your retirement account is not affected by those years of zero income because your earnings record is "frozen" by your receipt of Social Security disability benefits.

Additionally, if you are awarded Social Security disability benefits, you become entitled to Medicare two years after you begin receiving those benefits. Even while receiving workers' compensation payments, Medicare eligibility can provide access to valuable medical insurance and prescription benefits for non-work-related conditions.

Finally, an award of Social Security disability benefits can provide you with income protection if your workers' compensation benefits are terminated. Also, an award of Social Security disability benefits gives you the opportunity to resolve your workers' compensation claim for a lump sum, knowing that you have another source of income.

Contrary to what you may have been told, it is a good idea to explore the possibility of filing for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you leave the job market due to illness or injury. Contact us at Quatrini Rafferty to discuss your specific workers' compensation or social security disability situation.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Congratulates Greater Latrobe Ice Cats on Penguins Cup, Pennsylvania Cup Victories

The attorneys and staff at Quatrini Rafferty extend our most sincere congratulations to the Greater Latrobe hockey team for their 3-0 win over Montour in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup final, and their 3-2 win over Council Rock South in this past weekend's Pennsylvania Cup final. The wins give the Ice Cats back-to-back Penguins Cup titles for 2008 & 2009, and, back to back state championships.
For the entire story on Latrobe's victory, see the write-up on the Pittsburgh Penguins website (http://penguins.nhl.com/team/app?articleid=415110&page=NewsPage&service=page) or the story in Tuesday's Post Gazette (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09083/957822-364.stm)
For coverage of Latrobe's win in the Pennsylvania Cup, see the following Pittsburgh Post Gazette article: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09088/959140-364.stm
(photo by John Heller of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
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Monday, March 9, 2009

"The Psychology of Unemployment"

The National Public Radio news program "Day to Day" ran a story this afternoon on the psychological effects of unemployment. Although the program discussed unemployment due to the current economic downturn, the attorneys here at Quatrini Rafferty felt its message could apply to those unemployed for any reason - recession, work injury, severe sickness, etc.

Listen to the full program here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101619824

If you are having trouble with the link, email us at admin@qrlegal.com and we will forward the story.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Michael V. Quatrini Successful in Federal District Court of Western Pennsylvania

On February 19, 2009, Quatrini Rafferty attorney Michael V. Quatrini obtained a Remand of a Social Security Disability case that was appealed to Federal District Court for the Western District located in Pittsburgh.

United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab agreed with Quatrini's argument that the functional capacity assessment produced by the Administrative Law Judge was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ relied on the Plaintiff’s use of drugs or alcohol as a basis for denying their application for benefits without making the requisite determinations with regard to their materiality.

The case will now go back for another hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

QR COMMENTARY: McDonald's Denies Workers' Compensation for McHero

We here at the Quatrini Rafferty blog recently heard about an astonishing workers' compensation denial and had to pass it along to our clients and friends.

We all remember the infamous "coffee spill" case from some years ago. It generated national news for the large jury verdict against McDonald's and became a poster child for out of control juries. At the time, and to this day, many individuals have been lead to believe that the Plaintiff in that case was just "out for the money."

But most people are unfamiliar with the real details behind the "coffee" matter. For starters, it is not well known that the Plaintiff was 83 years old and that the coffee was brewing at between 195-205 degrees....a temperature 20-30 degrees higher than any other restaurant. Or, that the Plaintiff in that case suffered third degree burns which necessitated $10,000 in medical bills. It is also not commonly known that the Plaintiff offered to settle for far less than the final jury verdict, a number that fairly represented her lost wages, out of pocket expenses, medical bills.

No, the public was lead to believe, by the negative public relations campaign paid for by McDonald's, that the Plaintiff was just looking to get paid.

Well, maybe McDonald's tough tactics finally caught up with them.

Last summer Nigel Haskett, an employee at a McDonald's in Arkansas, was shot when he attempted to restrain a McDonald's patron from abusing a woman in the restaurant. Due to his injuries, Mr. Haskett's medical bills totaled close to $300,000. Yet, when he filed a claim for workers' compensation, the company DENIED his claim:

"We have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

At the time, McDonald's tough stance probably seemed like a good legal maneuver. But, their insensitivity came back to bite them when the national media picked up the story.

http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4563343/12219217

Because of the embarrassing press, the owner of the McDonald's in question has now voiced his support for Mr. Haskett against the insurance company. However, the insurance company has yet to budge.

Whether Mr. Haskett will be successful is tough to tell, as we have no knowledge of the workers' compensation law in Arkansas'. But, we sure hope that Mr. Haskett gets an appropriate award for his heroism.

For for the real facts on the "coffee" case check out the link below:

http://www.social.mtu.edu/faculty/speters/WrightsMcDonaldsfacts_000.htm

For more coverage of Mr. Haskett's situation, check out the video covering the story and read an article critical of the denial below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwhw-Inji0k&feature=email

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-weiner/mcdonalds-mcscrews-hero-o_b_169048.html

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulus Package Boosts Social Security Administration

In addition to distributing direct payments to recipients of Social Security and Veterans' Disability, the stimulus package will also benefit the Social Security Administration.

In an online interview with Federal News Radio, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue
tells the that the Administration is due to receive more than $1 billion from the bill and expects its fiscal 2009 budget to be $126 million more than the President's request.

For the first time in several years, Commissioner Astrue feels that Congress "finally understands SSA's technology shortcomings" and adds that the SSA "could be in the best financial shape in a long time." In terms of numbers, the FNR article notes that approximately $500 million of the Stimulus is dedicated for the Administration's "new national computer center."

Beyond finances, the FNR article had hopeful news for those waiting for hearings, noting that "The agency also plans to hire 3,000 to 6,000 new employees in 2009 to help deal with the backlog of disability claims and increase in retirement applications that is expected over the next few years."

With all of these big plans, it will be interesting to track SSA's progress over the next few years.

To read the entire FNR article, click below:

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/index.php?nid=35&sid=1609546

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UPDATE: Stimulus Bill Expands COBRA Coverage

The following article was written by Quatrini Rafferty partner, Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., and will appear in the forthcoming Spring 2009 QR Newsletter

COBRA: THE STIMULUS LAW PUTS MEDICAL INSURANCE WITHIN REACH

COBRA is the federal law that requires Employers to allow separated employees to purchase medical insurance through the company group plan for up to 18 months after separation, at 102% of what the company is paying for that insurance.

Up until now, that 102% was well beyond the financial reach of almost all displaced workers. The new stimulus law, pushed by President Obama, and signed by Congress,provides real financial relief to displaced workers who want to stay in the company plan.

With the stimulus package, the government agreed to pay 65% of COBRA premiums for people who receive pink slips between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009. The subsidy is limited to nine months and available only to those without another source of group health insurance.

Individuals who lost jobs after Sept. 1, 2008, but who did not sign up for COBRA at that time will get a second chance to do so. Employers must send these former workers a notice by mid-April. These workers have 60 days after receipt of the notice to pay into the plan.

Eligibility does not depend on income. But individuals with income over $124,000 will have to pay tax on the subsidized amount.

The subsidy money will not come to you directly. It will be sent to your employer in the form of an offset against payroll tax liability. You send in your payment of 35 % of the premium to your former employer and the government will credit the remaining 65% of the premium against your former employer's payroll tax.

For most people, the subsidies will start March 1. If you are already in the COBRA plan with your former employer, you will not receive reimbursement for any COBRA payments you made between Sept. 1 and March 1.

These are just the highlights. Many details still have to be worked out. Quatrini Rafferty suggests that if you do not hear from your former employer in the next 45 days that you contact your employer and find out who is administering their COBRA benefits. If that doesn't work, try the Employee Benefits Security Administration, a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor, at 866 - 444 - 3272.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stimulus Bill Expands COBRA Coverage

The new Stimulus Bill signed into law by President Obama includes an unprecedented expansion for COBRA, the federal statute that provides workers and their families with access to 18 months of health benefits from their previous employer.

To this point, the former employee had to pay for his or her portion of what the employer once paid on their behalf. The new legislation lends a hand to the former employee, funding up to 65% of the COBRA premium for those who became eligible for COBRA coverage between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009. The legislation also gives the recently unemployed a second chance to enroll in COBRA coverage.

An online article in the The City Wire (http://www.thecitywire.com/index.php?q=node/2977) does a nice job of breaking down the details of the plan:

Employee Eligibility

Individuals who have been involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 with annual incomes less than $125,000 (single) or $250,000 (couples) are eligible for the COBRA premium assistance, along with their family. Qualified individuals, who initially decline COBRA coverage, would be given an additional 60 days after they receive notice of the special election period to elect to receive the subsidy. The election period begins on the date of enactment of the ARRA.

Special Enrollment

The bill allows group health plans to provide a special enrollment right to allow eligible individuals to elect different coverage under the plan in electing COBRA continuation coverage.

Notice Requirements

COBRA notices must include information on the availability of the premium assistance. Model notices from the Department of Labor are due 30 days after enactment.

Effective Date

These provisions are effective for premiums the first calendar month following the date of enactment.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Weight of Combat Gear Causing Increased Injuries in Military Veterans

A February 1, 2009 article in The Washington Post entitled "Weight of Combat Gear Is Taking Toll," discusses the significant increase in orthopedic muscle and bone injuries due to the weight of combat gear. The Army, which reported 257,000 acute orthopedic injuries last year, is studying the effects of the heavy gear and investing in lighter versions of the gear, which can weigh anywhere from 60 to 150 pounds.

Read the entire story on the Washington Post website:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/31/AR2009013101717_pf.html

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

CNN Gives Tips for Individuals Without Health Insurance

CNNHealth.com published an article today aimed at helping those without health insurance.

Story highlights include coverage of organizations who offer financial assistance for certain conditions and diseases, information on state and federal government programs and free clinics, help for prescription drugs, and companies who offer health insurance to part-time workers.

Check out the full article here:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/12/ep.health.insurance.help/index.html

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