It is no secret to anyone that has been through a serious on-duty injury that workman’s comp has become a bureaucratic nightmare.
The City’s third-party administrator of workman’s comp insurance is Tristar. In most cases Tristar’s first inclination is to deny costly treatments/procedures, but at the same time attempt to get you back to work quickly. If those two things seem diametrically opposed to each another, it’s because they are.
Issues with workman’s comp is nothing new but the frequency with which it is happening is increasing. As we saw the pattern developing a few years ago, the HPOU introduced a free service to the membership, Doctors Council of Texas. This is a network of doctors who are experienced in the workman’s comp field (and paperwork) and officers have seen success in having their treatment go smoother if they contact Doctors Council after an on-duty injury.
In addition, board members of the HPOU have learned the details of workman’s comp law to the best of our ability in order to deal with the division of Workers Compensation with the City. We have experienced great success in getting treatment approvals faster and getting people back to work quicker. However, it was not enough.
That is why one of my first acts as president back in January was to visit with our exceptional legal team members and informed them that one would have to begin cross training as a workman’s comp attorney. Chad Hoffman graciously volunteered to take on this herculean task.
This service was not immediately announced because Chad needed and will continue to need time to get up to speed on this whole new area of law. I am proud to announce that we will now have an in-house legal counsel at the HPOU for workman’s comp. This is an extremely cost-effective way to provide a much-needed service to the membership without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars having a specialist on retainer.
As we begin ramping up this service, there is a favor I need to ask of all of you. If you are experiencing issues with workman’s comp or you know someone who is, please reach out and tell us. If you don’t contact us and let us know you are having problems, we are unable to assist you.
Please don’t suffer in silence and hope the system will take care of you, because the laws are stacked against the employees.
In addition to offering Doctors Council of Texas and now in-house legal counsel to combat the many problems of workman’s comp, we will be exploring options in the contract to supersede the restrictive state laws surrounding workman’s comp. We will attempt to put a process in place that can speed up getting treatments/procedures approved so that we can get officers healthy and back to work quicker.
Contract negotiation time is upon us. We have sent notice to Mayor Turner and the City legal team that we would like to begin negotiations the week of March 5. For those that have not been here for a contract negotiation or don’t remember from the last one, negotiations last anywhere from six to eight months and when we have a completed product it will be rolled out to the full membership for a vote.
The contract negotiation team will consist of myself, Ray Hunt, Doug Griffith, Ken Nealy, Tom Hayes, Marco Lopez, Thomas Hardin and our attorneys Bob Armbruster and Aaron Suder.
This team will of course be supplemented with input from the entire HPOU Board, which will be constantly briefed on what is going in the negotiating room.
I must remind you that we must keep the negotiations confidential, although I know everyone cannot resist asking (I get it) but try to be respectful of the process and know that we all have a vested interest in securing a good contract.
After all, my wife (also an HPD officer) is not going to be happy unless I get her a raise!
As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call, text, email, message on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi), away.