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Evidence found of overpayment of worker's comp. claims

An internal audit done by the City of Los Angeles has found evidence of overpayment of worker's compensation claims by the city. According to the City Controller, the city makes more payments to workers for disability and has a poorer track record in preventing overpayment of worker's compensation claims than any other governmental agency in California.

The audit also revealed that the city spent $5.2 million more in payments for the first year of a worker's injury than other cities, and that there was a 52 percent increase in the number of claims, particularly from firefighters and police officers.

The city's worker's compensation policy is to pay workers their full salary for the first year that they are injured, and the state pays 70 percent of their salary. Because worker's compensation benefits are exempt from taxation, the city's policy means workers could make more on disability than they could by working.

Auditors recommended negotiating with the public sector unions to reduce the amount of payments and provide better training for workers to avoid accidents. They also recommended tighter controls over payment of benefits to avoid overpayments.

Although public employees such as police officers and firefighters are the frequent beneficiaries of worker's compensation benefits, they also face environmental hazards such as fire or dangerous weather, or deal with dangerous situations, such as violent crime, so the potential for a workplace accident or injury is very high in those occupations.

Any worker injured on the job is entitled to claim worker's compensation benefits, so that they may avoid destitution due to their injury. The benefits cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses incurred by the injured workers. All those injured on the job have the right to worker's compensation.

Source: Daily News Los Angeles, "Workers comp audit finds overpayments in Los Angeles program," Rick Orlov, April 17, 2013

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