Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Does My Neighbor Get Disability and I Can't?

By Tereasa Rerko, Esq.

We are often asked to explain to clients why they don’t financially qualify for disability benefits, even though they worked most of their lives. A client might see a neighbor receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, and that neighbor never worked. What the client may not realize is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits to qualified individuals both with and without a work history.

The neighbor is probably receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), which are benefits for disabled individuals without a current work history. In order to receive SSI benefits, a person must not only be disabled under the SSA rules, but must also meet extra guidelines regarding income and assets. These guidelines are very strict regarding maximum monthly income and total assets. If those guidelines are exceeded, the person will not be eligible to receive SSI benefits - even if they are disabled. Also, SSI benefit amounts are generally the same for every person who receives them.

On the other hand, Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) are based upon your own personal lifetime earnings record and your ability to show that you are disabled within a certain time frame. This time frame typically expires five years from when you last worked, although you need to have made enough money in past calendar quarters as well. (You might compare it to unemployment compensation, where you need to earn at least a minimum amount of income in the correct calendar quarters or you won’t qualify for unemployment benefits even if you lose your job.) The amount of SSD benefits that a person may receive is based completely upon that person’s earnings history and, like snowflakes, no two are alike. Suffice it to say, most monthly SSD payments are much higher than the SSI monthly benefit.

The one thing that both SSD and SSI do share is the set of rules that SSA uses to decide if you are indeed disabled. The rules are exactly the same for both programs. Generally speaking, in order to qualify as "disabled" under the rules of SSA, a person must be unable to perform the duties of their past occupations and also the duties of any other occupation that exists in the national economy.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Veterans Administration to Reopen Gulf War Illness Claims

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department (VA) announced that it will be re-examining veterans’ disability claims for thousands of Gulf War veterans in the coming years.

According to a Congressional report in 2008, approximately 175,000 to 210,000 Gulf War veterans experience a pattern of symptoms that include rashes, joint and muscle pain, sleep issues and gastrointestinal problems. This is known collectively as Gulf War Illness. While the actual cause of the problems is unclear, independent studies have focused on pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide pills, which were provided to troops for protection against possible nerve agents from Iraqi troops. A study by the Gulf War Veterans’ Illness Task Force is near completion and will hopefully shed more light on not only the cause but also treatment for this illness.

To accomplish the re-examination of claims, the VA first plans to review its own regulations to better accommodate the Gulf War Illness syndrome. Once the VA completes this review, veterans will then be invited to have rejected claims reconsidered.

Re-examination of claims, better health care services, and the reduction of the veterans’ claims backlog have been priorities of the Obama Administration. The Administration recently announced a $125 billion budget next year for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To have attornys Michael V. Quatrini or Brian Patrick Bronson evaluate your Veterans' Disability Claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.


Monday, July 19, 2010

U.S. Veterans Administration Eases Rules for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In a monumental policy shift, the U.S. Veterans Administration published new regulations for the compensation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD as it is commonly known, is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war Veterans. Symptoms of PTSD can include, but are not limited to, recurrent thoughts of a traumatic event, reduced involvement in work or outside interests, emotional numbing, hyper-alertness, anxiety and irritability.

Prior to the rule chance
Veterans had to pinpoint the "stressor" that caused their stress disorder, and, needed to produce evidence to corroborate that the stressor occurred. Claims adjudicators working for the VA were then forced to
to corroborate that the non-combat Veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This exhaustive research took a great deal of time and added to the already slow claims process.

With the rule change Veterans are no longer required to produce evidence corroborating the s
tressor if a VA doctor confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

According to the guidelines set by the Veterans Administration the new rules will apply to claims:
  • received by VA on or after July 13, 2010;
  • to received before July 13, 2010 but not yet decided by a VA regional office;
  • to appealed to the Board of Veterans' Appeals on or after July 13, 2010;
  • to appealed to the Board before July 13, 2010, but not yet decided by the Board; and
  • pending before VA on or after July 13, 2010, because the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated a Board decision and remanded for re-adjudication
The new rules, which were developed in response to recent scientific studies linking a Veteran’s deployment in a war zone to an increased risk of PTSD, are being hailed as a major step forward for Veterans.

For an official list of Questions and Answers on the new regulations, please visit the link to the Veterans Administration website below:


Quatrini Rafferty will continue to analyze the new regulations and any other guidance from the VA as it becomes available.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Co-Authored by Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr. named a "Best Buy"

The Pennsylvania Bar Institute recently named "Workers' Compensation: Practice and Procedure" one of its "Best Buys" for 2010. Vince Quatrini has co-authored the book, which is known informally amount workers' compesation attorneys and judges as the "Bible" for anaylsis of caselaw and regulations, for 20 years.

The book has been previously honored as "Outstanding Achievement in Best Programs" in 1999 and "Professional Excellence in Technology" in 2000 by the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA).


For more on Vince and the Workers' Compensation Department at Quatrini Rafferty, please visit our website at http://www.qrglaw.com/ or contact us by phone at 1-888-288-9748.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Friday, June 25, 2010

Your Disability Benefit: It Is What It Is

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney A. Tereasa Rerko and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

Quite often, I am asked how much monthly income a person will receive if they are approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. My answer is always, "It depends." What it depends upon is your individual earnings history. Monthly SSD benefits are similar to snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. Even if your neighbor or relative is working for the same employer and making similar wages, the calculation of your SSD benefits may not be the same.

SSD benefits are calculated using your unique work history, which includes your earnings for all jobs that you have worked during your lifetime. At the time you are determined to meet the disability requirements of SSD, your benefits will be computed using that work history. The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at not only how much was earned, but when the income was earned. That income is then subjected to a complex formula to calculate your disability benefit amount.

It is always a good idea to check your earnings history on file with the SSA for accuracy. As long as your earnings history recorded by the SSA is correct, there is really no way to increase the monthly disability benefit amount. However, if your earnings history is not complete or accurate, then the calculations used to determine your monthly benefit amount will be incorrect. We suggest that you make any corrections to that record as soon as possible. To obtain a copy of the earnings record that SSA has on file, a simple request form needs to be completed. To obtain that form, contact your local SSA office, go to http://ssa.gov/, or contact our office.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tribune Democrat: School Closure Hearing Delayed

GREENSBURG — A hearing scheduled today in the ongoing battle over a school near New Florence has been canceled.

The hearing – on the preliminary objections filed by Ligonier Valley School District in response to a lawsuit by a citizens group seeking to keep the school open – had been scheduled in Westmoreland County Court before Judge Gary P. Caruso. The citizens group, Save Our Rams Education, filed a lawsuit against the district in May.SORE is seeking an injunction to block the planned closure of Laurel Valley Middle-High School. The district plans to send those students to its other middle and high schools in Ligonier in the fall.

One of the objections the district had was that the lawsuit did not contain enough details, said district Solicitor Dennis Rafferty. The citizens group filed an amended complaint that contains more details, putting a halt to today’s hearing and causing the process to start over again, he said.

The school district believes the amended lawsuit still doesn’t contain enough details and expects to file another preliminary objection, Rafferty said. A hearing on the objections probably will be held in July, he said.Judge Gary P. Caruso has scheduled Aug. 2 and 3 as the dates for the hearing on the injunction request.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

QR Partner Dennis B. Rafferty Quoted in the Tribune Democrat

School hearing slated

Citizens group, district at odds over Laurel Valley closing

GREENSBURG — A Westmoreland County judge has scheduled a hearing June 22 on the preliminary objections the Ligonier Valley School District has filed in response to a lawsuit by a citizens group seeking an injunction to block the closure of the Laurel Valley Middle-High School near New Florence.

Dennis Rafferty, school district solicitor, filed the objections Tuesday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.

On May 10, the citizens groups, Save Our Rams Education, filed a lawsuit that asks a judge to overturn the board’s April 19 decision to close the school.

Rafferty said the hearing on the objections was scheduled for 2:45 p.m. before Judge Gary P. Caruso.

If the case is not settled then, the judge scheduled Aug. 2 and 3 as the dates for the hearing on the injunction, he said.

Rafferty said he will be assisted at the court proceedings by the Pittsburgh law firm of Anderson and Price, whose services were obtained through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The citizens group is being represented by Gary J. Matta, a Pittsburgh lawyer.

Rafferty said one of the preliminary objections is that the district should not be prevented from closing the school.

Another objection is that in addition to the school district, the lawsuit

names all board members who voted

to close the school and the superintendent.

“We’re contending that they should not be named in the suit because they have immunity under Pennsylvania law,” Rafferty said.

No other points are being addressed specifically, he said.

One of the points being raised by the citizens group in the lawsuit is that students will be forced to undergo long and arduous bus trips over dangerous roadways.

Rafferty said that Pennsylvania law says that school boards can make decisions on closing schools so long as they take all relevant factors into consideration.

So even though there is no question that there will be long bus rides, the bus rides were

factors that were taken into

consideration by the board, he said.

“In spite of that, they still felt it was in the best interest of the district and taxpayers to close the school,” he said.

Another point raised in the lawsuit is that sending Laurel Valley middle and high school students to the Ligonier Valley Middle School and Ligonier Valley High School will create serious overcrowding.

Rafferty said the same analysis for the bus rides applies to each point the citizens group raises in the lawsuit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dennis B. Rafferty Featured in Pittsburgh Tribune Review Article

By Jewels Phraner
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Westmoreland County judge will hear arguments June 22 in a case involving the decision to close Laurel Valley Middle/High School.

The Ligonier Valley school board voted 8-1 in April to close the complex in the northern end of the district.

Shortly after the decision, 13 district residents filed a complaint against the district, the eight board members who voted in favor of the plan and Superintendent Christine Oldham. Director Victor Sansing voted against the closing.

District Solicitor Dennis Rafferty said the hearing is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. before Judge Gary P. Caruso.

If the case is not decided at that time, an injunction hearing is scheduled Aug. 2 and 3, he said.

The citizens' complaint alleges the school board acted illegally and violated public trust. It also alleges the decision to close the school was arbitrary, capricious, done in bad faith and "motivated by reasons unrelated to providing quality education."

The citizens are represented by Pittsburgh attorney Gary Matta.

Rafferty will represent the district, along with attorneys John Smart and Lee Price of Pittsburgh's Andrews & Price. Rafferty said Smart and Price's services were obtained through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The district responded to the complaint June 1, arguing that the plaintiffs do not meet the burden of proof established in previous court cases.

According to the district's response, courts historically have chosen not to interfere with decisions of governmental bodies unless officials have acted in bad faith, abused their power or acted capriciously or fraudulently.

The district's decision to close the school is neither arbitrary nor capricious, Smart contended.

"Arbitrariness and caprice are not to be confused with bona fide differences of opinion, allegedly unwise acts or asserted mistakes in judgments," the district said in its response.

Residents opposing the closure filed for an injunction that would stop the district from moving forward with the closure.

The group says that unless the district stops proceeding with the plan to move Laurel Valley students in grades six to eight to Ligonier Valley Middle and students in grades nine to 12 to Ligonier Valley High schools, the district will cause "immediate and irreparable harm."

The district argued that no such injunction is required.

"To the contrary, (the district) will suffer harm if the preliminary injunction is granted," Smart stated in his response.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Summary: Long-Term and Short-Term Disability

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney Brian Patrick Bronson, Esq. and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

As an employee you may be entitled to various employee benefits from your employer. These benefits may include health insurance, family medical leave, short-term and long-term disability benefits , and sickness and accident benefits. However, these programs can be confusing at the time when you need them most — when you have suffered either an injury, illness, or accident that prevents you from returning to work. The last thing on your mind at this point in time is getting through the required paperwork before you concentrate on your own recovery. However, this is the time that you need to be most diligent in protecting the benefits to which you may be entitled through your employment.

Your employer is not required to carry short-term and long-term disability benefits. However, many employers do provide these benefits. Unlike workers' compensation, short-term and long-term disability benefits are not limited to “work-related” injuries . These benefits cover any type of disability regardless of the cause.

You should be aware of the coverages provided by your employer and the terms and conditions of your particular benefits. Short-term and long-term disability benefits may be covered by a contract that the employer has entered into with an insurance company on behalf of all eligible employees. The terms of these contracts can vary drastically from policy to policy in terms of duration of benefits, definition of disability, deductible sources of income, and rehabilitation incentives. You should obtain a copy of your disability policy. Federal regulations require employers to provide copies of these policies within 30 days of a written request. You may also have been provided with an employee manual or Summary Plan Description (SPD). These documents can be very helpful in explaining your rights to employee benefits.

Employee benefits such as short-term and long-term disability are regulated by the federal government through a complex scheme of laws pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA). ERISA sets forth strict deadlines regarding all aspects of the processing of these claims that both you and the insurance company must follow. If you fail to file your claim or appeal of benefits denial timely, you may lose your right to sue your employer in court. If you have already filed a claim or an appeal and have not heard anything from the insurance company, you should not allow time to pass without knowing the deadlines that apply in your particular case. ERISA is complex and difficult to thoroughly discuss in this article; however, you must be vigilant in protecting your right to employee benefits.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your short-term and long-term disability benefits, please contact Brian Patrick Bronson at our Greensburg or Latrobe offices at (888) 288-9748 or www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Social Security Administration Announces Approval/Denial Numbers for Hearing Offices

The Social Security Administration recently released information on the number of favorable and unfavorable awards for 2009 at the regional hearing offices. Quatrini Rafferty attorneys actively try social security cases in front of the judges from each office.

This data includes social security disability (SSD) and supplemental security income (SSI) hearing results through December 2009. Out of the 860 decisions issued through the Pittsburgh Hearing Office, 538 were favorable awards (this includes fully favorable and partially favorable decisions) and 322 were denials.

The Johnstown Hearing Office (including hearings held at remote locations such as Latrobe, Dubois, and Altoona) awarded 549 cases while denying 247.

The Cranberry/Seven Fields Hearing Office issued 660 awards and 385 denials.

Finally the Morgantown, WV hearing office awarded 426 cases while denying 286.


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, February 22, 2010

UPDATE: COBRA Continuation Coverage Assistance Under ARRA

In February and October 2009, the Quatrini Rafferty blog authored posts detailing COBRA assistance through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka: Stimulus Bill.) This is intended as a follow-up.

The following article was posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's website:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as amended on December 19, 2009 by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (2010 DOD Act) provides for premium reductions for health benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly called COBRA.

Eligible individuals pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums and the remaining 65 percent is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a tax credit.

To qualify, individuals must experience a COBRA qualifying event that is the involuntary termination of a covered employee's employment. The involuntary termination must occur during the period that began September 1, 2008 and ends on February 28, 2010. The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage that began on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to 15 months.

For more information, visit the Department of Labor's website:


- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Social Security Administration Adds 38 New Diagnoses to Compassionate Allowance List

The Social Security Administration maintains a Compassionate Allowance List (CAL) as a way to quickly identify medical conditions that will likely qualify for disability benefits, lessening the wait time for a decision.

When Social Security receives a claim that alleges a condition listed on the Compassionate Allowance list, the case is marked as expedited. While a favorable decision is not guaranteed based on the condition being listed on the CAL, it may decrease the wait time a claimant typically faces. If Social Security is not able to make a favorable decision after examining the case under the CAL guidelines, it will then be processed as a non-expedited claim.

As of March 1, 2010, Social Security has expanded the initial CAL to include 38 new medical conditions. The 38 new Compassionate Allowance conditions are:

1. Alstrom Syndrome
2. Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
3. Ataxia Spinocerebellar
4. Ataxia Telangiectasia
5. Batten Disease
6. Bilateral Retinoblastoma
7. Cri du Chat Syndrome
8. Degos Disease
9. Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
10. Edwards Syndrome
11. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
12. Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
13. Glutaric Acidemia Type II
14. Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), Familial Type
15. Hurler Syndrome, Type IH
16. Hunter Syndrome, Type II
17. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
18. Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa, Lethal Type
19. Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses
20. Leigh’s Disease
21. Maple Syrup Urine Disease
22. Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
23. Mixed Dementia
24. Mucosal Malignant Melanoma
25. Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy
26. Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses, Infantile Type
27. Niemann-Pick Type C
28. Patau Syndrome
29. Primary Progressive Aphasia
30. Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
31. Sanfilippo Syndrome
32. Subacute Sclerosis Panencephalitis
33. Tay Sachs Disease
34. Thanatophoric Dysplasia, Type 1
35. Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
36. Walker Warburg Syndrome
37. Wolman Disease
38. Zellweger Syndrome


If you have been diagnosed with one of the conditions listed on the CAL, please contact the Quatrini Rafferty Social Security Department at either our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Friday, February 12, 2010

WC Benefits And Retirement Benefits Don’t Mix

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney Peter J. Gough and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

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.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued two decisions, both of which involved injured workers who were receiving workers' compensation benefits at the same time they were receiving pensions and/or Social Security retirement benefits. The Court concluded that if the injured worker receives a pension or Social Security retirement benefits, that worker is presumed to have been voluntarily removed from the work force - in other words, "retired." For that reason, that worker will not be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

In the first case, the Court held that an injured worker who accepts a pension is not entitled to workers' compensation unless that worker establishes that a) he or she is actively seeking employment, or b) the work-related injury forced him or her to retire from working any job in the entire labor market and not just from performing the pre-injury job.

A short time later, the Commonwealth Court made life even harder for injured workers. In the second decision, the injured worker applied for and received a disability pension. Then, he testified during his workers' compensation case that he did not actively seek employment for a period of time after receiving the pension. The Court again found that the injured worker had retired during the time that he did not actively seek work. Thus, he was not entitled to workers' compensation wage loss benefits.

Moreover, the Court laid out in detail what injured workers must do to demonstrate that they are not retired. Simply put, the Court said that searching the internet or newspaper ads for jobs is just "window shopping" and does not constitute a true job search. To show a good faith effort to find employment, one must prove that job applications were submitted.

What this means is that injured workers who are currently receiving benefits and who are receiving, applying for, or considering taking pensions and/or Social Security retirement benefits must be actively looking for work on a regular basis in a meaningful manner. These workers have to read the classifieds and then contact potential employers about the jobs. The worker must keep a diary or calendar detailing the jobs they looked into, the employer's name, when they applied, with whom they spoke, and any other important details.

Further, injured workers must never describe themselves to their physicians, employer, co-workers or anyone as "retired" or "resigned."

In sum, an injured worker who is considering retirement must be cautious.

The best way to deal with this is to see a workers' compensation attorney at QuatriniRafferty before applying for retirement, pension or Social Security benefits. To have attorney Peter J. Gough and the Quatrini Rafferty Workers' Compensation department evaluate your Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

If you are already receiving workers' compensation and retirement benefits, start applying for jobs, keep the diary, and see your Quatrini Rafferty attorney as needed.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quatrini Rafferty Announces New Practice Area: Veterans' Disability

The attorneys at Quatrini Rafferty are pleased to announce a new, full-time practice area: Veterans' Disability. QR attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson and Michael V. Quatrini were recently certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to represent members of the armed services who suffer service connected disabilities or diseases.

In short, Veterans' Disability is available to members of the armed services who suffer physical or psychological injuries or diseases while on active duty. This even includes injuries or diseases that were made worse by active duty military service.

The amount of the monthly benefit depends on the degree of disability. In certain instances, additional benefits are payable where there is a loss of limbs, a spouse/children/dependent parent, or a seriously disabled spouse.

Applying for Benefits

The process for obtaining benefits is similar to Social Security Disability. The veteran submits an application, through our office, outlining his or her injuries, and detailing the connection between the injuries and a particular event during their time in service.

A specific description of the precipitating event is critical, along with medical evidence supporting the connection between the event and the injury. Official military documentation of the event is very beneficial to the claim, as are testimonies from fellow services mates. We will also need discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent). It should be noted that disability benefits are not available for those who were discharged under dishonorable conditions.

Some conditions, depending on the dates and locations of your active duty, are eligible for "presumptive" status, meaning that the VA process presumes that active duty service caused these conditions. It is then up to the VA to disprove the connection. These include, but are not limited to, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), Hodgkin's disease, prostate cancer, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Prisoners of war, for any length of time, can receive presumptive status for psychosis, anxiety, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and a few other medical complications.

Once the application is complete it is submitted to a local office for review. The local office makes a decision as to whether the claim is (1) service connected, and if so, (2) the percentage of disability assigned to the injury.

The Appeal

Where the local office either denies the claim (i.e. saying the injury is not service connected) or assigns a low, or zero, percentage of disability to the condition(s), the claim can be appealed to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veteran' Appeals. This must be done within one year of the initial decision.

There is some bad news:the average wait time for a hearing is 971 days.

Prior to the hearing, we will meet with the veteran to review the initial decision, the veteran's file and collect additional, updated medical evidence.

The Hearing - Veterans' Law Judge at the Board of Veterans' Appeals

Again, similar to the Social Security Disability process, the hearing will involve testimony from the veteran concerning the disability - how is happened, how is it limits the individual, etc.

After the hearing, the BVA can do one of two things: they could affirm the Regional Office's denial of your claim. Or, they can reverse the decision made by the Regional Office and grant you benefits.

Should the BVA affirm the denial of your claim, the next appeal would go to US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

To have attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson or Michael V. Quatrini evaluate your Veterans' Disability claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quatrini Rafferty Attorney Michael V. Quatrini Leads the Way With Legal Technology

Quatrini Rafferty attorney Michael V. Quatrini recently co-authored an article on legal technology in "The Sidebar", a publication produced by the Westmoreland Bar Association.

In addition to producing the article Michael will be presenting monthly technology seminars on legal technology to other attorneys in the bar association.

A full copy of the article can be found here. A description of the technology seminar can be found here.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, January 25, 2010

QR In the Community: Greater Latrobe Welcomes Grants

The following is an excerpt from the January 21, 2010 Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, "Greater Latrobe Welcomes Grants," authored by A.J. Panian, which detailed recent donations made to Greater Latrobe School District:

"Greater Latrobe School Board on Tuesday accepted a bevy of grants and donations...The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County gave the district $2,565 via the Quatrini Rafferty Attorneys-at-Law's participation in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program."

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) enables companies to support local non-profit charities instead of sending their tax dollars to Harrisburg. Since the inception of the program, 3,600 Pennsylvania business have pledged in excess of $350 million dollars to local charities and school districts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Decision on Refusal of Resonable Medical Care

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's recent opinion in Bereznicki v. WCAB (Eat N' Park Hospitality Group), No. 1047 C.D. 2009 (October 19, 2009) debated the issue of an employee's refusal of medical care.

Section 306(f.1)(8) of the Act states that, if an employee refuses reasonable treatment, the employee shall forfeit all rights to compensation for any increase in incapacity resulting from such refusal. Treatment is reasonable if it is highly probable that the treatment will cure the health problem and enhance the claimant’s prospects for gainful and fulfilling employment. Kneas v. Workmen’s Compensation Appeal Board (Cross Country Clothes), 685 A.2d 248 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996), appeal denied, 548 Pa. 650, 695 A.2d 788 (1997).

The Workers' Compensation Judge found that employee should not refuse a recommended medicine detox program

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

In concluding that the Employee should have attempted the detox program, the Court remarked that:

"In this case, a detox program would wean Claimant from toxic doses of medication, curing that health problem, allowing Claimant to return to normal functioning and enhancing her prospects for gainful and fulfilling employment. Although such a program would not return Claimant to her pre-injury job, her refusal of such treatment certainly increases her incapacity."

Read the entire opinion here.

To have one of the Quatrini Rafferty attorneys evaluate your Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation case, please contact our Greensburg or Latrobe offices at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

reasonable or unreasonable medical treatment workers compensation attorney pennsylvania greensburg latrobe pittsburgh westmoreland county allegheny county workers comp lawyer

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pennsylvania Announces Average Weekly Wage for 2010

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced that the maximum Average Weekly Wage for Workers' Compensation claims occurring on or after January 1, 2010 will be $845.00.

For purposes of calculating the update to payments for medical treatment rendered on and after Jan. 1, 2010, the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage is 1.1 percent.

Please see the chart and the helpful explanation below:

Under the Workers' Compensation Act, injured workers are entitled to indemnity (wage-loss) benefits equal to two-thirds of their weekly wage for a work-related injury. However, there are minimum and maximum adjustments provided in the Act, and the benefit rate is set using the annual maximum in place at the time of injury. The maximum is based on the Department of Labor and Industry's calculation of the statewide average weekly wage.
The following schedules provide the weekly rates from calendar year 2005 to 2010.

When referring to the schedules, read down the column for the
calendar year during which the injury occurred.
For example, the maximum weekly compensation rate for calendar year 2010 is $845.00. The second block represents the weekly compensation rate to be 66 2/3 percent of the employee's average weekly wage if the average weekly wage falls between $1,267.50 and $633.76.
The third block reflects a weekly compensation rate of $422.50 if the employee's average weekly wage is between $633.75 and $469.44.
The last block is 90 percent of the employee's average weekly wage if his/her average weekly wage is $469.43 or less.

To have one of the Quatrini Rafferty attorneys evaluate your Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation case, please contact our Greensburg or Latrobe offices at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Supplemental Security Income Guidelines Stay the Same In 2010

Click chart for enlarged view

To learn more about eligibility for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe offices at 1-888-288-9748 or head to our website www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

QR Legislative Alert: Social Security Holds Hearings on Compassionate Allowances for Schizophrenia

The Social Security Administration recently announced that it will hold additional hearings on the issue of "Compassionate Allowances for young individuals with schizophrenia. The following was posted on their website:

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today hosted the agency’s fifth public hearing on Compassionate Allowances. Commissioner Astrue was joined by Philip Wang, M.D., Dr. P.H., National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, and Social Security executives. They heard testimony from some of the nation's leading experts on schizophrenia about possible methods of identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for young adults with schizophrenia.

"Schizophrenia is a devastating disease that affects more than two million Americans, primarily individuals in their teens and twenties," said Commissioner Astrue. "The onset of schizophrenia has life-changing consequences, which can include unemployment and homelessness." This hearing will help us to potentially identify the most severe cases and consider bringing them under our Compassionate Allowances umbrella."

In October 2008, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security's standards. To learn more and to view a web cast of today's hearing, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

"Our Compassionate Allowances and Quick Disability Determination processes are making a real difference by ensuring that Americans with devastating disabilities quickly receive the benefits they need," Commissioner Astrue said. "This fiscal year, we expect to fast-track about 150,000 cases and we plan to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes in the coming months."

The Social Security Administration already has schizophrenia regulations, or Listings, for both children and adults (Listings 112.00 and 12.03). It currently defines schizophrenia for children as the "onset of psychotic features, characterized by a marked disturbance of thinking, feeling, and behavior, with deterioration from a previous level of functioning or failure to achieve the expected level of social functioning."

To learn more about eligibility for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, contact our office at 1-888-288-9748 or head to our website www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Personal Injury Cases: Picking Up the Pieces

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney Joyce Novotny-Prettiman and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

As attorneys for injured people, we talk to clients every day about the potential value of their personal injury claims. On the opposite side of the case, the insurance company is making its own determination of the value of the claim in defense of the person(s) at fault. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, the ultimate decision of the value of the claim is made by a jury. The civil law provides only one way to compensate people who are injured because of another person's carelessness: money damages. Many factors are taken into consideration when clients, attorneys and juries review these cases. There are two types of damages in personal injury cases: economic and non-economic losses.

Economic damages are things that can be assigned a "price tag," such as lost wages, medical bills or out-of-pocket expenses. When someone is injured, they may not be able to return to work while receiving medical treatment. Some people suffer injuries that are serious enough to cause the complete loss of a job or require a career change. This type of economic damage is known as a loss of earning capacity. In the most devastating cases, when an accident causes fatal injuries, a family may suffer many economic damages, including loss of support and the loss of the services that the victim provided to a spouse and children left behind.

There may also be medical bills that go beyond those covered by insurance. Auto insurance is the primary source of coverage for medical expenses. Pennsylvania law requires a minimum of $5,000 medical coverage. The next source is private health insurance. However, private health insurance carriers may require repayment of medical bills associated with the accident. In any event, most people must pay deductibles and co-payments as required by their private health insurance, and these out-of-pocket expenses can be included in the calculation of economic damages. Some people will have future medical bills that can be estimated by a doctor and these bills are part of an economic damage claim.

The more complicated part of evaluating a claim involves the analysis of non-economic damages: the fright of being involved in an auto collision; the pain that is associated with an injury; the worry and concern about medical bills and the inability to support a family and pay bills on time. These are the types of things that weigh heavily on the minds of our clients after an injury.

The most significant piece of the damage puzzle is the extent of the injuries sustained. Medical treatment provided immediately after an accident is important, but so is all follow-up care. It is very important to listen to the instructions of medical professionals during this process. Treatments may last over an extended period of time and require a patient to be dedicated to completing the recommended treatment plan. It is equally important to let doctors know the problems that continue during the healing process so that additional testing or treatment may be ordered. The "value" of this portion of the claim is based upon the injuries suffered, the length of treatment required, and any resulting permanent limitations or disabilities. It is critical to have proper medical documentation so that the details associated with medical treatment are clear.

We always advise our clients to pay close attention to their doctor's orders and emphasize that most people will have a better chance at a full recovery by doing so. Just as each accident is different, the value of a claim differs greatly because each person will go through different treatment and will have different concerns following an injury. As you can see from this short discussion, the issue of damages can be very complicated and you need an attorney to assist you with evaluating and pursuing this type of claim

To have Joyce Novotny-Prettiman and the Personal Injury Department of Quatrini Rafferty evaluate your personal injury case, contact us at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website www.qrlegal.com.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Collborative Law: The "No Court Approach"

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney David S. DeRose and originally appeared in our newsletter, the Legal Update. In our office David S. DeRose and James A. Horchak, Esq. were recently certified as Collaborative Law professionals by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals and are members of the Collaborative Lawyers' Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania (www.clasplaw.org).

Collaborative Law is an alternative to traditional litigation. A collaborative attorney works for a client through a process of direct negotiations to seek a timely and complete solution that both clients agree serves their best interests. The collaborative process can be applied to a number of areas of law, including divorce, custody, support, real estate disputes, monetary disputes, constitution claims and other similar cases.

If parties choose this process, they agree to participate in a collaborative effort to reach a consensus. This means that each party needs to retain an attorney who is willing to represent the client on a collaborative basis. An attorney who participates in the collaborative process is disqualified from pursuing a client's claim in court. The idea is to focus on resolution and not permit interference from the threat of a court proceeding. The parties participate in a series of meetings with their counsel. Full disclosure of all information that would be necessary to resolve the case is required. Parties may jointly retain other experts to aid in the process, such as land surveyors, real estate appraisers, financial experts and counselors.

For example, this concept can be easily applied to parties who are contemplating divorce but are willing to work toward a constructive settlement of the financial and custody issues. The parties pledge to work together to determine all of the assets and obligations of the marriage which both sides will use to support a dignified dissolution of the marriage. In order for a client and an attorney to work as a team and successfully interact with the other spouse and attorney, both parties may find input from a financial advisor or a real estate appraiser helpful in leading to a solution. This all becomes part of the collaborative process and hopefully results in a solution that saves both parties time, money, heartache and the aggravation that could flow from litigation. Should the collaborative process break down, then both collaborative attorneys must withdraw and instruct both clients to retain other counsel to litigate the matter in court.

If you believe that a matter in which you are involved can be resolved through collaboration, please contact us to discuss this alternative. We look forward to pursuing this method of dispute resolution and working with other collaborative practitioners to help clients arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Friday, January 1, 2010

Michael V. Quatrini to Serve on Steering Committee for U.S. Congressman John P. Murtha

Quatrini Rafferty attorney Michael V. Quatrini was recently asked by U.S. Congressman John P. Murtha to serve on the steering committee for his re-election.

In addition to commenting on general campaign strategy and fund raising, Michael will advise on issues such as Social Security Disability and Veterans' Disability issues.

To learn more about Pennsylvania's longest serving member of Congress, see the following website:

- Quatrini Rafferty -