Information Assistance Officers & Your Workers’ Compensation Case: What You Need to Know

In the State of California, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board provides support for unrepresented injured workers. In order to assist unrepresented injured workers, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board makes available Information and Assistance Officers. This article will discuss Information and Assistance Officers and their role in assisting workers.

What is an Information and Assistance Officer?



Per the DIR, the DWC Information and Assistance Unit provides information and assistance to employees, employers, labor unions, insurance carriers, physicians, attorneys and other interested parties concerning rights, benefits, and obligations under California’s Workers’ Compensation Laws. The Unit is intended to play a major role in reducing litigation before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) and is often the first DWC contact for injured workers.

How do I get in contact with an Information and Assistance Officer?

Per the DIR, at the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC) 22 district offices plus satellites located around the state, sometimes called Workers Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB), employers, injured workers and others can receive judicial services to assist in the prompt and fair resolution of disputes that sometimes arise from workers’ compensation claims. Local district offices of the WCAB are a major part of the workers’ compensation court system. At these local district offices, Judges make decisions about individual cases.

Most offices have Information and Assistance (I&A) Officers on staff who provide a variety of services to injured workers, employers and others. A primary duty of I&A officers is to help injured workers who don’t have attorneys navigate the workers’ compensation system. They have an 800 number, 1-800-736-7401, for recorded information from I&A staff 24 hours a day. Also, you can contact a local office during business hours to reach a live person.

How do I contact the Information and Assistance Unit?

There are a few different ways that you can contact the Information and Assistance Unit. You can contact them concerning specific information related to your case. Also, you can contact them concerning workers’ compensation law in general.

If you need assistance specifically concerning your case, you can call your local WCAB offices to make contact. They will usually schedule you for an appointment.

Are there additional types of services that the Information & Assistance Officer provides?

The WCAB provides additional assistance by providing general information.  They have an information phone line as well as provide workshops.

If you want general assistance, they offer recorded information by calling 1-800-736-7401. This is for recorded information that helps injured workers, employers and others understand California’s workers’ compensation system, and their rights and responsibilities under the law.

For workshops, the Information and Assistance Unit offers free presentations concerning workers’ compensation and they address the following: rights to medical treatment, disability payments, returning to work after the injury, resolutions of disagreements over the claim.  The workshops consist of a presentation followed by a question and answer session.  The workshops are designed for injured workers who recently filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.   They also indicated that they can be of benefit to others. They are open to the public.   They are generally held on a monthly basis.

The locations that currently provide workshops include:

  • Anaheim
  • Bakersfield
  • Eureka
  • Fresno
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Marina Del Rey
  • Oakland, Oxnard
  • Pomona
  • Redding
  • Riverside
  • Sacramento
  • Salinas
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Ana
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Rosa
  • Stockton
  • Van Nuys

Are Information and Assistance Officers helpful?  

Yes. They are helpful in many ways. Information and Assistance Offices are familiar with a multitude of things.   They are very familiar with the workings at their local WCAB offices. They are familiar with all of the DWC Staff at the WCAB including the Workers’ Compensation Judges. They have ongoing relationships with these individuals which allows them to effectively assist and provide information to those seeking information.   Further, they have access to the case files through the State of California’s EAMS system and can obtain and review documents within the individual case files.

From Your Observations, What Do I & A Officers Do?

From my observations at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the I & A officers do a variety of things. They meet with the unrepresented injured workers at scheduled times. It appears that they prefer that appointments are scheduled. There may be the possibility of doing a walk-in meeting as well.   It appears that they take their time and try to be as informative as possible. They can provide various forms to Injured Workers and they can assist them with those forms.  They can assist in walk-through settlements for Injured Workers that are in pro per. Also, when there is an Injured Worker whose case is on a calendar, they make the appearance on the hearing with the Injured Worker and show up before the Judge. This is usually for Conferences, Status, Priority, and Mandatory.  I have seen I & A Officers interact with the Disability Evaluation Unit and have discussions with Judges to get their opinions on various issues concerning the unrepresented worker.   They tend to be good at issue spotting and they have good knowledge of the insurance companies, doctors and attorneys that they may have encountered.

As an Attorney, How Do You Find I & A Officers, Are They Helpful?

Yes. They are helpful. I have no problem having someone interact with an I & A Officer.  In the past, I have never questioned any advice that had been provided by the Information and Assistance Officers. Their information is accurate.

Is there a difference between an Applicant’s Attorney and an Information and Assistance Officer?

Yes.  Applicant’s Attorneys are advocates on behalf of injured workers. In addition to providing information to the injured worker, they take on an advocacy position on behalf of the injured worker. They formulate discovery plans, litigation strategies, and settlement planning.

Applicant’s Attorneys provide a considerable amount of assistance to injured workers. They conduct discovery such as order records and schedule medical treatment and examination for Injured Workers.   Further, they possess knowledge concerning doctors and are able to use it for the advantage of their client.  They are able to defend an Injured Worker in a deposition. They are able to depose doctors and witnesses. They are able to conduct trials. They are able to final petitions for removal and reconsideration.   They are able to file appeals as well.

In sum, advocacy takes a level of experience that an I & A Officer does not deal with concerning workers’ compensation litigation. I & A Officers do not perform discovery on behalf of Injured Workers.

Where Can I Get Legal Advice? 



If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.

Durable Medical Equipment & Workers’ Compensation: What You Need To Know

Durable Medical Equipment is an important component of medical care for Injured Workers in their attempt to recover from their injuries or maintain their abilities to perform activities of daily living.  This article is intended to discuss Durable Medical Equipment within the workers’ compensation system.

It is not uncommon that Injured Workers, during the course and scope of their claim, receive correspondence from the Insurance Company which has the abbreviations “DME” within it. The term “DME” refers to the term Durable Medical Equipment.  Further, many Injured Workers, as part of their treatment, are prescribed Durable Medical Equipment.  Sometimes, the Insurance Company approves the durable medical equipment for Injured Workers. Other times, the Insurance Company denies the provision of that equipment.

Some Durable Medical Equipment can be required by Injured Workers on a temporary basis. Some Durable Medical Equipment can be required on a permanent basis.

Durable Medical Equipment plays an important role is helping Injured Workers recover from their industrial injuries.  Durable Medical Equipment can be necessary to recover from surgical procedures. Durable Medical Equipment may be necessary for hospitalization and extended convalescence. For Injured Workers with Chronic Conditions, Durable Medical Equipment can be necessary for continuous treatment and for the administration of medications.

For those Injured Workers who are severely disabled, Durable Medical Equipment may be important to assist them in performing activities of daily living.  This Durable Medical Equipment can allow them to ambulate and perform other activities of daily living.

What Is The Authority For Durable Medical Equipment For Workers’ Compensation? 


California Labor Code Section 4600(a) provides for “[m]edical, surgical, chiropractic, acupuncture, and hospital treatment, including nursing, medicines, medical and surgical supplies, crutches, and apparatuses, including orthotic and prosthetic devices and services, that is reasonably required to cure or relieve the injured worker from the effects of his or her injury shall be provided by the employer. In the case of his or her neglect or refusal reasonably to do so, the employer is liable for the reasonable expense incurred by or on behalf of the employee in providing treatment.” [emphasis added]

What are Examples of Durable Medical Equipment?

Durable Medical Equipment


Durable Medical Equipment include air-fluidized beds and other support surfaces, blood sugar monitors, blood sugar test strips, canes, commode chairs, continuous passive motion machines, continuous positive airway pressure devices and accessories, crutches, enteral nutritional supplies and equipment, glucose control solutions, hospital beds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, infusion pumps and supplies, lancet devices and lancets, nebulizers and nebulizer medications, oxygen equipment and accessories, patient lifts, suction pumps, traction equipment, walkers and wheelchairs and scooters.

What are examples of Durable Medical Equipment within Workers’ Compensation?


Durable Medical Equipment is provided for many reasons within workers’ compensation.   Frequently, when Injured Workers have surgery, they are provided such items as commode chairs, canes, and walkers.   For people with chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes, they are provided blood pressure monitors and diabetic test strips which are provided on a permanent basis. With respect to severely permanently disabled workers, items such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, scooters, and lift devices may be provided.

Can there be problems within Workers’ Compensation obtaining Durable Medical Equipment?


Yes. All medical treatment within workers’ compensation is subject to both Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review.  Doctors are required to provide a “Request for Authorization” for such equipment.  The Insurance Companies are allowed to review the “Request for Authorization” and either approve it or send the request to Utilization Review.   If the item is denied by Utilization Review, the Injured Worker is entitled to seek an Independent Medical Review of the Utilization Review Determination.

Can Durable Medical Equipment Impact One’s Whole Person Impairment And Permanent Disability?


Yes. There are certain provisions of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition, in which impairment is based upon the employment of Durable Medical Equipment.

One example of the impact of Durable Medical Equipment on Permanent Disability is with respect to lower extremity injuries such as to the hip, knee or foot.  For lower extremity injuries, use of assistive devices in ambulation can be a factor in assessing a level of impairment.  Per the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment,  Fifth Edition, Whole Person Impairment ratings can be based upon the use of a cane(s), short leg brace, a crutch(es), long leg brace, and use of a wheelchair. See Page 529, Table 17-5.

Has There Been Any Caselaw Concerning Durable Medical Equipment?


Yes.  There has been considerable reporting of case law decisions on DMEs.  The general issues for DMEs are essentially the Injured Worker’s entitlement to the DME and the reimbursement for the DME from a provider. For Injured Workers, these cases are interesting because they discuss a large variety of DMEs that are available to injured workers. Within the cases, there are DMEs which serve many purposes. These include post-operative care needs as well as continuing care needs.

Further, legal reporting services also report on IMR decisions as well.

In Ocean View School District vs. WCAB (2007) 72 C.C.C. 1683 (writ denied), an Insurance Carrier was ordered to pay for DMEs which involved a rechargeable IPG battery.  In Dubon v. World Restoration (2014) 79 C.C.C. 1298 (Panel Decision), there were issues discussed of how a surgery allowed for certification of approval of some DME including a post-op use of LSO [lumbosacral orthotic] brace, DME [ durable medical equipment] purchase elevated toilet seat, DME purchase front wheeled walker, [and] DME bone growth stimulator.” In the case, there was no authorization of a “[t]hermo cool unit post-op, DME grabber, combo care 4 stim unit, and “DVT [deep   vein thrombosis] Max Unit.”

Where Can I Get Advice? 


If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.

Are Strokes/Cerebral Vascular Accidents (CVAs) a Presumptive Injury for Law Enforcement and Safety Officers Under California Law?

An important question for California Law Enforcement and Safety Officers is whether a Stroke or Cerebral Vascular Accident is considered as a presumptive injury within the California Labor Code.

A presumption, for California Law Enforcement and Safety Officers, affords the Injured Worker an evidentiary advantage in proving up their work injury claim. This article is intended to discuss the nature of Strokes/Cerebral Vascular Accidents and whether the presumption is applicable.

What is a Stroke?



A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. As a result, the brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients.

There are different types of strokes. There are Ischemic Strokes which may be caused by a blocked artery. This can be from a blood clot or fat that was broken off in the artery. These Strokes can include Transient Ischemic Attacks(TIA) which do not cause permanent damage.

Ischemic Strokes occur when the when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow. There are different types of these. There are Thrombotic Strokes in which a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one of the arteries that supply blood to your brain. A clot may be caused by fatty deposits (plaque) that build up in arteries and cause reduced blood flow (atherosclerosis) or other artery conditions. An Embolic Stroke occurs when a blood clot or other debris forms away from your brain — commonly in your heart — and is swept through your bloodstream to lodge in narrower brain arteries. NOTE: this condition may contain heart involvement.

A Hemorrhagic Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. This can be caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure/hypertension, overtreatment with anticoagulants, weak spots in your blood vessel walls aka aneurysms, and a rupture of an abnormal tangle of thin-walled blood vessels (arteriovenous malformation.)

Types of Hemorrhagic Strokes include: 

Intracerebral hemorrhages occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills into the surrounding brain tissue, damaging brain cells. Brain cells beyond the leak are deprived of blood and are also damaged.

This may be caused by high blood pressure, trauma, vascular malformations, use of blood-thinning medications and other conditions which may cause intracerebral hemorrhage.

Subarachnoid hemorrhages occur when an artery on or near the surface of the brain bursts and spills into the space between the surface of the brain and the skull.

As noted above, there is a multitude of possible causes of the various forms of strokes.

If one has Hypertension and has a Stroke, Does that make the Stroke a Presumptive Injury?

 

First, there must be a presumption that applies to a medical condition for which was a causative Factor concerning the Stroke. The most common one which would apply is the Heart Presumption. The Heart Presumption applies when there is trouble to the heart. If the stroke was not caused by a presumptive condition, then the stroke would not follow as a presumptive medical event. Therefore, the answer to the question is both Yes and No.

Heart Trouble, which can be a presumptive injury, does not include hypertension. For hypertension to carry the presumption, there must be some damage to the heart in addition to the hypertension being present. This heart trouble can include conditions such as left ventricular hypertrophy which is the thickening of a wall in the heart. In sum, hypertension is and of itself is not considered as “heart trouble” which can bring rise to the presumption.

In one case, it was noted that “a hypertensive injured worker eligible for the presumption may not be afforded the presumption on a stroke if there was “[no] evidence of hypertensive heart disease.” Hart v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd., 82 Cal. App. 3d 619, 147 Cal. Rptr. 384, 1978 Cal. App. LEXIS 1706, 43 Cal. Comp. Cases 757. In sum, the “Heart Presumption” per Labor Code Section 3212 applies to “Heart Trouble” and not Hypertension. Therefore, there needs to be additional findings beyond hypertension to qualify for the presumption.

Are there Caselaw Decisions in which there was a finding that Presumptive Heart Trouble Caused a Stroke?

Yes. Applicant’s heart trouble that diverted the clot to Applicant’s brain, causing his injury(stroke.) City of Sunnyvale vs. WCAB 61 Cal. Comp. Cases 853, 1996 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 3268 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. July 19, 1996) (writ denied)

Are there Caselaw Decisions in which there was a finding that a Presumption did not apply to a Stroke?

Yes. “The simple facts of this case are that the employee’s disability manifested itself from the process of the disease in a part of the body removed from the heart.” The Permanente Medical Group vs. WCAB 42 Cal. Comp. Cases 388, 1977 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 2691 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. May 17, 1977)

If the Presumption does not apply to my claim for stroke, should I still pursue a case?

Yes. Even if there is no presumption, it does not preclude an Injured Worker from obtaining a finding of industrial injury for a stroke. If an industrial injury is found, an Injured Worker is entitled all of the workers’ compensation benefits including total temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, medical care, future medical care, death benefits, and the supplemental job displacement voucher.

Besides the Peace Officer/Safety Officer Presumptions, Are there any other presumptions that can apply to a stroke case?



Yes. In the event of a serious stroke that causes massive injury, there is another Labor Code presumption which may apply. Labor Code Section 4662 applies in cases involving permanent disability as follows section(a) Any of the following permanent disabilities shall be conclusively presumed to be total in character: (1) Loss of both eyes or the sight thereof, (2) Loss of both hands or the use thereof, (3) An injury resulting in practically total paralysis, and (4) An injury to the brain resulting in permanent mental incapacity.

Where Can I Get Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.

The Stressors at Work that Can Cause Psychiatric/Stress Claims: What Work Events and Environments that the Department of Industrial Relations believes can cause Workers’ Compensation Psychiatric/Stress Claims: What You Need to Know!

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) propounded information for Employers concerning the prevention of work-related psychiatric injuries or psychiatric workers’ compensation claims. The Labor Code requires that Employers be provided information concerning psychiatric injury prevention programs when a claim has been filed against them. See Per Labor Code 3208.3 (i.)

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HEADACHES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

California Workers’ Compensation Law allows for Injured Workers to claim work injuries in the form of Headaches. Headaches Injury claims can be complicated. This article is intended to discuss workers’ compensation and the issues related to filing a claim for Headaches.

Headaches are a serious concern in the workplace. It is reported that “the time off work due to the headache disorders is substantial.” See Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 1992; 46: 443-446 Impact of a headache on sickness absence and utilization of medical services: a Danish population study Birthe Krogh Rasmussen, Rigmor Jensen, Jes Olesen. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment 5th Edition reports that Headache Disorders are a major cause of work loss. See P. 567. Continue reading