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Who’s to blame? Opioid Epidemic, Prescription Overdoses & Deaths

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Who's to blame? Opioid Epidemic, Prescription Overdoses & Deaths

More than 15,000 Americans die every year from prescription opioid overdoses. Thousands more struggle with addiction to these powerful drugs that were originally prescribed to treat injuries or chronic pain.

Here in North Carolina, overdoses kill as many as 16 people per 100,000 residents.

Among injured and disabled people, the risk of becoming addicted to prescription painkillers is very high. Addiction is not a failure of character or willpower. These drugs are highly addictive – even when taken as prescribed.

Over time, people taking painkillers may find they need higher dosages to dull the pain. Or they may find their pills don’t last as long or they don’t help the pain at all. Patients also may experience withdrawal symptoms, including muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes and, most dangerously, slowed respiration that can lead to death.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these affects, please get help immediately from a physician or addiction specialist. Do not try to kick the addiction “cold turkey,” as this could lead to additional health problems – even death.

You also should not feel shame about a prescription-drug addiction.

Opioids are highly physically addictive drugs that have not been well regulated over the years. They have been overprescribed and marketed as a cure-all for many conditions, with little regard for the long-term consequences for patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled since 1999.”

So, who is at fault for the rising opioid epidemic and these prescription overdose deaths? Certainly not patients who trusted in the health care system to provide them with effective, safe treatment for their chronic pain.

In some areas where the opioid epidemic is most devastating, states are suing drug manufacturers, distributors, doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies for their role.

Some attorneys general and advocates are now asking in court whether the pharmaceutical companies who marketed the drugs and downplayed their addictive nature can be held legally responsible for—and made to pay for the consequences of—the crisis,” according to The Atlantic.

Physicians have a duty to understand the pharmaceuticals they prescribe to their patients. In addition, medical professionals should make sure that you have no known drug allergies that might affect the use of specific drugs.

Unfortunately, doctors sometimes prescribe the wrong medication, or prescribe a drug that interacts with another prescription, or prescribe the wrong dose.
In addition, doctors may rely on inaccurate information from the manufacturer when they prescribe these drugs. As a result, a drug company may also be at fault for injuries suffered from an accidental prescription drug overdose.

Patients or families who have been affected by prescription drug addiction should know they have legal options. If you have been affected by an accidental prescription drug overdose involving opioids or methadone, we may be able to help.

Why You Need An Attorney for Your Workers’ Comp Claim

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do you need an attorney for your workers comp claimLike most homeowners, I enjoy doing some DIY projects. But some home repairs are too complex or important to tackle by myself. That’s when I call in a professional to help.

If you’ve been trying to DIY your workers’ compensation claim, you know what I’m talking about. Dealing with the insurance company, your employer, the N.C. Industrial Commission and multiple health care providers when you’re trying to get better from a life-altering injury is overwhelming.

As devastating as a work injury can be, most people with valid workers’ compensations claims don’t get help from a qualified attorney. They try to DIY it, and in doing so, they are likely cheating themselves out of compensation they deserve.

If they’re lucky enough to have their claim approved, these injured people may find their workers’ comp checks don’t cover all the bills and lost wages.

Please don’t make that mistake.

If you’re hurt on the job, call a Board Certified Specialist at the Deuterman Law Group. We know the law, and we’ll fight for your rights.

While the insurance companies want to save money on workers’ comp claims, it’s our job to get you the maximum benefits and medical treatment you deserve. Our attorneys and paralegals care about you. We want to help you get your life back, and we’ll treat you with respect.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Don’t worry that you’ll offend your employer by hiring an attorney to help with your workers’ compensation claim. Your fight is with the insurance company, not your employer. You need someone fighting for your rights and going toe-to-toe with the insurance company’s attorneys.

The truth is, the system is so complicated that every injured worker should call an attorney.

Filing for workers’ compensation by yourself is a difficult process. There are so many deadlines and legal requirements and hoops to jump through. You don’t need to try to DIY this when there are Board Certified Specialists who handle these sorts of claims every day. Your main job should be recovery. We can take care of everything else.

If you’re already receiving a workers’ compensation check every week, our team can review those benefits to make sure you’re being paid correctly. The insurance company isn’t going to help you with that.

If there’s a problem with your benefits, we can work to fix that. Our goal is to protect your rights and to make sure you’re getting the full benefits and treatment to which you’re entitled.

Don’t Let Sneaky Politicians Rig N.C. Governor’s Election After Voters Have Spoken

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Last week, after massive statewide recounts, the N.C Board of Elections finally certified Roy Cooper had won the N.C. Governor’s election. On Dec. 5, Pat McCrory conceded the election. McCrory, in a video message, said it was time to “celebrate our democratic process and respect what I see to be the ultimate outcome of the closest North Carolina governor’s race in modern history.”

The people of North Carolina thought we could all finally move on… but we were wrong.

Yesterday the N.C. General Assembly, in a last-minute special session, introduced 28 bills aimed at subverting the will of N.C. voters and limiting the powers of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper. This is an unprecedented, last minute power grab by defeated Gov. Pat McCrory and some Republican legislators, who want to steal the N.C. governor’s election from the people of North Carolina who democratically elected Roy Cooper. Clearly, Pat McCrory and the General Assembly have no interest in celebrating our democratic process or respecting the outcome of this close race, despite what McCrory said just 10 days ago.

This attempt to sneakily pass legislation before the holidays – without opportunity for debate and without the public’s knowledge – ignores the will of North Carolina voters. It is quite possibly unconstitutional. But we can’t wait for the N.C. Supreme Court to decide whether or not these bills are constitutional as the General Assembly is also working to pack the court with justices who will allow this to happen.

We must act IMMEDIATELY to make sure these sneaky, underhanded bills do not become law. Call your state legislators first thing THURSDAY MORNING and tell them to oppose these bills. Let them know that N.C. voters will not stand for this kind of last minute, crooked politics. Ask them to respect the democratic process, instead of throwing up roadblocks to prevent Roy Cooper from doing the job he was elected to do.

Among other things, these bills, if passed, would:

  • Allow Pat McCrory, before he leaves office, to appoint a new chairman of the N.C. Industrial Commission. This person would serve a four-year term. The Industrial Commission is the court for workers’ compensation claims, and we expect anyone McCrory appoints to favor big businesses and insurance companies over injured workers.
  • Require the incoming governor’s cabinet appointments to be confirmed by the state senate.
  • Take away the incoming governor’s power to power to appoint certain State Board of Education and UNC Board of Trustees officials.
  • Take away the new governor’s ability to hire and fire some 1,200 political supervisory positions.

Don’t wait to make your voice heard on this important matter. This special session is expected to close this week, and lawmakers could vote on these bad bills as early as THURSDAY MORNING.

If you need help with what to say, consider this:

This is ______ calling from ______. I am extremely concerned about several bills pending before the General Assembly. Roy Cooper won the governor’s race, and to strip his authority is just wrong. I also oppose the last-minute partisan power grab by Gov. McCrory and certain legislators. North Carolina voters deserve to have their votes count. Can I count on you to vote against rigging this election after the voters have spoken?

To find out who represents you in the General Assembly and how to contact them, click here.

Also, contact these key legislators to oppose these underhanded bills.

Sen. Michael Lee: (919) 715-2525 or [email protected]
Rep. Ted Davis: (919) 733-5786 or [email protected]
Rep. Holly Grange: (919) 733-5830 or [email protected]
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger: (919) 733-5708 or [email protected]
House Speaker Tim Moore: (919) 733-3451 or [email protected]

Please call these legislators immediately and ask them to respect our democratic process. You can leave a voicemail message after hours.

Phone calls are our best chance at stopping these bills from becoming law, but it is also helpful to send an email expressing your opposition. You can send an email to all state legislators at once using this website.

Because the Industrial Commission bill could affect so many of our clients who are injured workers, we also think it is important to make separate phone calls to the committee members who will be voting on it Thursday morning.

The Industrial Commission bill has been sent to the Senate Redistricting Committee. To stop it in its tracks please contact these committee members and voice your opposition. All can be reached through the General Assembly main switchboard at (919) 733-7928 during normal business hours. You can find their direct office telephone numbers and email address for them here.

Sen. Bob Rucho
Sen. Chad Barefoot,
Sen. Dan Blue
Sen. Harry Brown
Sen. Ben Clark
Sen. Joel D. M. Ford
Sen. Kathy Harrington
Sen. Ralph Hise
Sen. Brent Jackson
Sen. Michael V. Lee
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.
Sen. Shirley B. Randleman
Sen. Norman W. Sanderson
Sen. Jane W. Smith, Sen. Smith-Ingram
Sen. Trudy Wade
Sen. Andy Wells
If the bill passes the redistricting committee it will then go to the Finance Committee, whose members are listed below. All can be reached through the General Assembly main switchboard at (919) 733-7928 during normal business hours. You can find their direct office telephone numbers and email address for them by here.

Co-Chairman Sen. Bill Rabon
Co-Chairman Sen. Bob Rucho
Co-Chairman Sen. Jerry W. Tillman
Vice Chairman Sen. David L. Curtis
Vice Chairman Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr.
Vice Chairman Sen. Ronald J. Rabin
Sen. John M. Alexander, Jr.
Sen. Chad Barefoot
Sen. Tamara Barringer
Sen. Dan Blue
Sen. Andrew C. Brock
Sen. Harry Brown
Sen. Angela R. Bryant
Sen. Ben Clark
Sen. Bill Cook
Sen. Warren Daniel
Sen. Don Davis
Sen. Jim Davis
Sen. Joel D. M. Ford
Sen. Kathy Harrington
Sen. Ralph Hise
Sen. Jeff Jackson
Sen. Brent Jackson
Sen. Tom McInnis
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.
Sen. Wesley Meredith
Sen. E. S. (Buck) Newton
Sen. Louis Pate
Sen. Norman W. Sanderson
Sen. Jeff Tarte
Sen. Terry Van Duyn
Sen. Waddell
Sen. Trudy Wade
Sen. Andy Wells
As we learn more about the progress of these bills, we’ll do our best to keep you informed on our blog at We also recommend that you follow news coverage at WRAL and the News & Observer.

N.C. Supreme Court Packing Plan Ignores the Will of Voters

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With the surprising outcome of the presidential election and the uncertainty about who won the governor’s race in North Carolina, you may not have seen the latest news about our state’s judicial races.

Last week, Judge Mike Morgan, a candidate we endorsed, defeated incumbent Justice Bob Edmonds for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. This is a great outcome for North Carolina workers.

With Morgan’s election, the N.C. Supreme court will shift from Republican control to a 4-3 Democratic majority. And some Republican lawmakers aren’t happy about that, and they have a plan to undermine the will of the people and pack the court with unelected justices appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory before the end of his term.

The state high court is currently comprised of a Chief Justice and six associate justices, but the N.C. Constitution allows for nine justices.

The N.C. General Assembly is set to convene a special session next month regarding relief for Hurricane Matthew. The plan by some ranking state senators and representatives is to introduce and pass legislation to expand the N.C. Supreme Court to nine seats during that special session.

But voters wouldn’t get to choose the justices to fill those seats. The governor is expected to appoint two partisan judges — packing the state’s highest court and ignoring the will of the people.

This cannot happen, and it should not happen. There’s no good reason to expand the N.C. Supreme Court, whose workload has not increased significantly over the last 10 years, according to an official review of the state appellate court system.

As state Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue told WRAL, “This is the height of disrespect of state’s voters. To add justices just because they don’t like the outcome of the election is outrageous.”

Voters are already calling their state legislators in opposition to this court-packing scheme. And some are being told that the proposed bill is “just a rumor.”

But rest assured, there’s more than rumor behind these reports. This could happen, and it could happen quickly. So it’s important for North Carolina voters to oppose this underhanded attempt to change the makeup of our state’s highest court.

Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the state legislature and an expert on state election law, told N.C. Policy Watch a court-packing bill could be presented and passed in in one day, the same way HB2 was passed.

Find out who represents you in the N.C. General Assembly and who to contact about N.C. Supreme Court packing here.

Don’t Sit Out This Important Election

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We all have an important job to do on Nov. 8.


(For polling places, important dates and other information, check out our 2016 Voter Guide.)

I know many people are fed up with politics and rhetoric from both political parties, or maybe you don’t really like any of the candidates running. But not voting is not the right choice.

Don’t sit out this election. There are too many important issues facing our country, our state and each of us individually. When you cast your ballot for president, governor, Congress, the N.C. General Assembly, judges and local officials, you have the power to change things for the better. But if you don’t vote, you give up that power.

You could be hurting yourself in the process.

Even those races that don’t seem to affect your life can have a tremendous impact.

Our next president will nominate justices to the Supreme Court. Members of Congress will vote which nominees to approve. And those justices will rule on matters of law that affect everyone’s civil rights and personal liberties.

Our next governor will have the power to enact or veto laws affecting business recruitment, personal and religious freedoms and workers rights. He will also be charged with appointing people to crucial positions within state government, including the N.C. Industrial Commission. Those political appointments could directly impact the resolution of your workers’ compensation claim.

Members of congress and state legislators wield incredible power, as well. Their decisions affect civil rights, human rights, worker rights, equal rights and public safety.

State and local judicial races are also important. Some of these are nonpartisan races, so you’ll find those at the end of the ballot. If you vote a straight ticket, you still need to cast your ballot for these important judicial races.

I believe you are someone, like us, who care about the integrity of our courts and electing judges who are fair to all sides and independent in their judgments. We have been representing community members for more than 25 years and have gained insight and experience within our judicial community. As a civil lawyer, I pay close attention to the North Carolina appellate courts. On Nov. 8, voters will elect judges for the North Carolina appellate courts, shaping our judicial system for years to come.

Now more than ever, we need fair and independent judges, committed to equal justice for all. This year, North Carolina voters will choose one justice on the Supreme Court and five judges on the Court of Appeals. Some races are nonpartisan, and candidates will appear with no party identification. The Court of Appeals candidates will be designated with their party affiliation (D or R), but the N.C. Supreme Court candidates will have no party designation.

Some of my friends, clients and family have asked for my recommendations in the judicial races. You will find these personal recommendations, along with endorsements from the N.C. Advocates for Justice at the end of this post.

Use your ballot wisely.

We offer these endorsements because we believe these candidates will stand up for the rights of hardworking North Carolinians and will set our state and nation on the right path. Please join us in supporting these candidates.

Some candidates who say they are looking out for people like you are lying. They are beholden to special interests and the insurance companies, or they’re pandering to fear, racism and bigotry.

Electing them will not be good for America, North Carolina or for you and your family.

We fully believe the candidates we have endorsed will best represent the rights of North Carolina workers.

Feel free to make copies of this blog post for your friends and family, and share on Facebook or other social media. Encourage everyone who is eligible to get out and vote! Be sure to bring a copy of these endorsements with when you vote, or write down these names and put the list in your wallet. (Smart phones cannot be used in the voting booth.)

2016 Election Endorsements

Every election season, the NCAJ PAC makes endorsements in important state, national and statewide judicial races.

We stand with the NCAJ in support of these candidates, as we believe they will do the best job of protecting people’s rights and treating everyone fairly, especially injured workers.

Governor – Roy Cooper
Lt. Governor – Linda Coleman
Attorney General – Josh Stein
Labor Commissioner – Charles Meeker
Insurance Commissioner – Wayne Goodwin
Secretary of State – Elaine Marshall
State Auditor – Beth Wood
State Treasurer – Dan Blue, III
Superintendent of Public Instruction – June Atkinson
N.C. Supreme Court: Judge Mike Morgan
N.C. Court of Appeals (Dietz seat): Judge Vince Rozier
N.C. Court of Appeals (Zachary seat): Judge Rickye McKoy-Mitchell
N.C. Court of Appeals (Hunter seat): Judge Robert N. Hunter, Jr.
N.C. Court of Appeals (Stephens seat): Judge Linda Stephens
N.C. Court of Appeals (Geer seat): Judge Margaret Eagles

Click here to download a sample ballot for your district.

2016 Voter Guide

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The 2016 Presidential and General Election is coming up Nov. 8.

Here are some important dates and things to remember as you head to the polls in North Caorlina:

Oct. 20-Nov. 5 – One-stop early voting
Click here to find early voting locations in your community.

Nov. 1 is the last day to request an absentee ballot in North Carolina
N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form (English)
N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form (Spanish)

Nov. 8 – Election Day

Do I need to show a photo ID to vote?

Because the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina’s voter ID law this summer, registered voters are NOT be required to show an ID when voting in person this fall.

However, certain first-time voters casting their ballots in person or by mail may have to show some form of identification.

Under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, first-time voters who at the time of their initial voter registration did not provide their North Carolina driver license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or who provided a number that could not be validated, will be required to show identification when they vote. This identification does not have to be a photo ID. A current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document are acceptable.

How should I vote?

We encourage you to do your own research into the candidates and various state and local races. To help with your decision making, look for our 2016 endorsement guide soon on the blog. You may also print out a customized sample ballot to take with you to the polls on Nov. 8.

Fixing the VA Benefits Backlog

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Recently, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs advised Congress that it must do something to reduce the time it takes for a veteran’s appeal for disability benefits to be resolved.

As of January, an estimated 400,000 veterans had appeals pending with the Veterans Administration. It takes an average of 1,000 days — nearly three years — for these appeals to be resolved, according to news reports.

Proposed legislation, HR 800, also known as the The Express Appeals Act, would give veterans the option speed up that process, instead of going through a traditional appeal. While we support fast-tracking veterans’ appeals, there’s a better way to do it than what has been proposed in HR 800 and the similar Senate Bill 2473.

We are in agreement with NOVA, the National Organization of Veteran’s Advocates, that there are three major problems with HR 800:

  1. The bill would create two separate tracks for appeals
  2. To get an express appeal, the veteran must waive the right to submit additional evidence;
  3. There is a very real possibility that this bill will mislead veterans to believe that if they give up their right to submit further evidence, then their appeal will be heard sooner.

A better solution to the backlog problem, which I recently outlined in a letter to U.S. Senator Richard Burr, would not prevent veterans from submitting new evidence once a fast-track appeal is submitted.

I won’t go into too much detail here about how the VA benefits claims process works, but you can read more here about what happens when you apply for VA benefits.

In short, a veteran files an files an initial application for benefits. When that is denied, they file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The regional office VA then reviews the claim and a new decision is made.

If the claim is denied again, as is typically the case, the VA then issues a Statement of the Case. The veteran has to file a VA9 form appeal, which takes the claim to the Board of Veterans Appeals for a hearing.

I believe the notice of disagreement, or NOD step, is unnecessary, is not productive and is inefficient. Eliminating this step in the appeal process will save time and money, while still protecting the rights of the veterans.

In my proposed scenario, after a veteran’s claim is first denied, he or she would file a VA9 appeal. The regional VA office would then be required to review the appeal within a time certain (which would require amending the law) and issue a statement of the case. The statement of the case would be the VA’s argument supporting its denial of the claim.

Next, the veteran would have the opportunity to submit additional arguments and evidence in response, up to the point where the Board of Veterans Appeals reviews the appeal. This scenario eliminates a step in the process, and saves time and money, but not at the expense of the veteran’s rights.

As it stands now, the Notice of Disagreement stage of appeal process seems more of a rubber-stamp of the VA’s initial denial of a claim.

The Secretary says the VA is working to clear its backlog of cases.

However, most efforts to eliminate the backlog have been aimed at initial claims, not appeals.

In the last three years, claims pending for four months or more dropped from 612,000 to as low as 80,000 this week. In that same time frame, the number of appeals has risen by more than a third, to 440,000 cases. Resolution of these appeals is averaging more than two years, which is too long for veterans to wait for medical treatment and benefits they are entitled.

Eliminating the Notice of Disagreement step in the process could help, but the Board of Veterans Appeals needs to be prepared to handle those cases when they reach them for adjudication.

I  believe decentralizing the Board of Veterans Appeals would also help the process.

Similar to the Social Security system, Veteran Law Judges could be assigned to regional VA offices. This would reduce the number of veterans who have to travel to Washington DC, for an appeals hearing, wait for a video conference hearing or wait for a traveling Board hearing. This would help to further reduce the backlog and ensure that veterans get their benefits sooner.

Additionally, assigning BVA judges to regional VA offices would give them more opportunity to train ratings specialists on the issues they see as slowing down the claims process.

I realize that the VA may not yet be ready for such an undertaking, but I do believe that it is an issue worth considering to more effectively and timely resolve pending veterans ‘ disability claims.

I would like to encourage veterans and their family members to contact Senator Burr and other members of Congress about HR 800 and legislative changes to the VA appeals process.

Beware Bad Tax Advice About Workers’ Compensation Payments

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If your tax preparer tells you that you need to claim your workers’ compensation payment as income, it’s time to find a new accountant.

Workers’ compensation benefits, whether paid as weekly checks or settlements, are NEVER taxable.

Now that tax season is in full swing, we’ve been getting calls and questions from clients who are being told otherwise by tax preparers.

The IRS is very clear about this:

Amounts you receive as workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax if they are paid under a workers’ compensation act or a statute in the nature of a workers’ compensation act. The exemption also applies to your survivors. 

There’s a reason you didn’t receive a W2 or 1099 or any other type of tax document summarizing your workers’ compensations benefits for the last year. Those payments, including settlements, temporary total disability and ratings, ARE NOT taxable.

If you’ve heard the opposite from your accountant or tax preparer, please do not file your tax returns without first talking with another financial professional or someone who is familiar with your workers’ compensation case.

New Hope for “Blue Water Navy” vets Exposed to Agent Orange?

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During the Vietnam War, 90,000 Navy vets served offshore and may have been exposed to Agent Orange. But they are not eligible for VA disability benefits for health problems they suffered as a result of that exposure.

These sailors, who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam during the war, were initially eligible for compensation under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. But the VA changed its interpretation of the act in 2002, and the Blue Water Navy vets have been fighting ever since to get their benefits restored, according to a reporting by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot.

Last year the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled the VA must review its policy on Blue Water vets. Two senators, Jon Tester and Steve Daines, have sponsored the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which would force the VA to reverse its decision to exclude Blue Water Navy veterans from VA care and benefits. In September, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee heard testimony from medical experts on how vets may have been exposed to Agent Orange while onboard ships, even if they never stepped foot in Vietnam.

Agent Orange, a herbicide widely used to kill foliage in the jungles of Vietnam, contained the chemical dioxin. It has been linked to diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, peripheral neuropathy and heart disease.

One theory on how Blue Water vets were exposed is that the chemical “could have washed into rivers and out to sea, where patrolling Navy vessels sucked in potentially contaminated water and distilled it for use aboard the ships —a process that would have only concentrated the toxin,” according to the ProPublica report. “Every member of the crew would have been exposed: Distilled water was used in showers, to wash laundry and to prepare food. It was used to make coffee, as well as a sugary beverage known as ‘bug juice,’ which flowed from fountains in the enlisted mess.”

Senators Tester and Daines, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal and Kirsten Gillibrand, recently wrote a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, urging him to reverse the 2002 rule excluding Blue Water Navy vets from VA disability benefits related for Agent Orange exposure.

“Thousands of veterans who served on Navy ships during the Vietnam War are suffering from significant health conditions associated with exposure to toxic herbicides,” they wrote, noting that Blue Water vets are suffering from many of the same cancers and illnesses as vets who were exposed to Agent Orange in country.

We’re monitoring the VA’s response and any changes in policy related to Blue Water veterans closely. If the policy changes, thousands of Vietnam veterans could become eligible for VA benefits for conditions that were not previously considered service-connected.

Wounded Warrior Project’s Spending Under Scrutiny

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The Wounded Warrior Project is the country’s largest veterans’ charity, but 40 percent of donations cover overhead, like salaries, travel and public relations. In 2014, $124 million went to overhead instead of to directly help wounded veterans.

By comparison, the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust spends 96 percent of its budget on veterans; Fisher House, 91 percent; and Semper Fi Fund, 92 percent.

The Wounded Warrior Project’s lavish spending has been the subject of two recent news investigations by CBS News and the New York Times. The reporting has shown:

  • Spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014, the same amount Wounded Warrior Project spends on combat stress recovery.
  • The group’s annual meeting in 2014 cost a reported $3 million.
  • CEO Steven Nardizzi’s salary was $473,000 in 2014.
  • The Wounded Warrior Project spent more than $34 million on fund-raising in 2014
  • By 2014, the group was spending $7.5 million per year on travel, according to tax forms.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” said Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, a former employee of the charity, told CBS News.

The Wounded Warrior Project says it spends 80 percent of donations on programs, including those that help veterans readjust to society, attend school, find work and participate in athletics. But, according to the Times, “former employees and charity watchdogs say the charity inflates its number by using practices such as counting some marketing materials as educational.

Charity Watch, an independent monitoring group, gave Wounded Warrior Project a “D” rating in 2011 and has not given it a grade higher than C since.

The Wounded Warrior Project raised $372 million in 2015, mostly through small donations from people older than 65, according to news reports.

Before donating to a charity, like the Wounded Warrior Project, you may want to check out its financial records first through a watchdog group like Charity Navigator or GuideStar to ensure that your donation will be used the way you intended.

These tips will help you become a savvy donor to charity.

Lawmakers Ask for Federal Oversight of State Workers’ Comp Programs

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Ten powerful members of Congress, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have asked the federal government to resume oversight and monitoring of workers’ compensation in the wake of drastic cuts to benefits for injured workers.

“State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job,” the lawmakers wrote. “The race to the bottom now appears to be nearly bottomless…”

Over the last decade, 33 states, including North Carolina, have cut workers’ compensation benefits, making it more difficult to qualify and giving employers more control over an injured workers’ medical care.

These so-called workers’ comp “reforms” have pushed many injured workers into poverty and have shifted the cost of caring for them to taxpayers, via Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, they have enriched insurances companies and big businesses.

The cuts in workers’ comp benefits coincide with the end of federal oversight and tracking of state-run programs.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor Department tracked changes in state workers’ comp laws and failures to meet 19 “minimum and essential standards for benefits” established by a 1972 commission created by President Richard Nixon.

Unchecked and without federal accountability for 11 years, many states have bowed to influence and pressure by insurance companies and big businesses and stripped injured workers of their rights and safety net.

The letter urged the federal agency Department to strengthen its oversight of state-run workers’ comp programs.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

According to a news report by NPR, the Labor Department said in a statement it shares the lawmakers’ concerns. “Every year injured workers and their families are bearing more and more of the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.”

However, the agency did not outline a specific plan for addressing these issues but did indicate it will work “with stakeholders to find real solutions.”
The cuts to workers’ compensation programs in North Carolina and elsewhere will continue without strong, vocal opposition to the big business and insurance interests. We praise these lawmakers for standing up for injured people.

It’s important that we as citizens support and vote for candidates who support injured workers and stand up for their rights. Please remember that as you go to the polls.

Call N.C. Senators to Oppose Workers’ Comp Trucking Bill

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Out-of-state trucking companies want to push the cost of caring for injured truck drivers onto North Carolina taxpayers.

It’s just the latest effort by big business to destroy North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system and to gut benefits in favor of profits.

N.C. Senate Bill 205, which is currently being considered in committee but could soon be brought to a vote in the N.C. General Assembly, seeks to change how trucking companies and their employees are covered when they’re injured on the job. If this legislation passes, it puts injured truck drivers at real risk and will shift the expense of covering their injuries to taxpayers.

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations; many of the injuries are catastrophic.

A little background on how N.C. workers’ compensation laws work in regards to truck drivers:

In 2003, state law was enacted to allow allow trucking companies to cover their independent contractors in a blanket workers’ compensation policy. The law allows trucking companies to charge back the costs of that coverage to drivers, giving independent contractors coverage in the event of a wreck or other work-related injury. The N.C. Trucking Association supported this legislation.

In 2006, the statute was amended to exempt mom-and-mom trucking companies from providing this type of workers’ comp coverage when they contract with an owner/operator drivers using their own truck. The amended law is a balanced provision resulting from hours of negotiation. It was fair to small mom-and-pop trucking companies and to owner-operator drivers.

Senate Bill 205 would extend the mom-and-pop exemption to practically any operator working for an independent trucker. It undercuts the idea that all truck drivers should be covered under workers’ compensation.

Large out-of-state trucking companies have for years made efforts to push their workers’ compensation obligations off onto drivers, sub-contractors or the public. One of the ways they have done this is to substitute inferior “occupational accident” policies for workers’ compensation.

That’s what they want to do with SB 205. But these occupational accident policies are largely unregulated, notoriously difficult to deal with when claims are filed, and have widely varying provisions for medical or wage replacement coverage. As a result the cost of caring for injured truckers is shifted from industry to taxpayers.

If this legislation passes, it would lead to the misclassification of truck drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees, and leave drivers largely unprotected.

As I mentioned before, SB 205 is in committee, and our best chance of defeating this bad legislation is to stop it there before it’s sent to the full N.C. General Assembly for a vote. With the crossover deadline looming, that could happen soon.

Please reach out to the following members of the Senate Judiciary 2 Committee and let them know SB 205 is a bad idea:

Co-chair Senator Tamara Barringer
Republican – District 17
(919) 733-5653

Co-chair Senator Warren Daniel
Republican – District 46
Burke, Cleveland
(919) 715-7823

Co-chair Senator Shirley B. Randleman
Republican – District 30
Stokes, Surry, Wilkes
(919) 733-5743

Senator Stan Bingham
Republican – District 33
Davidson, Montgomery
(919) 733-5665

Senator Andy Wells
Republican – District 42
Alexander, Catawba
(919) 733-5876

Senator John M. Alexander, Jr.
Republican – District 15
(919) 733-5850
(Alexander is president of Cardinal International Trucks, a truck sales company.)

Senator Chad Barefoot
Republican – District 18
Franklin, Wake
(919) 715-3036

Senator Bill Cook
Republican – District 1
Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans
(919) 715-8293

Senator David L. Curtis
Republican – District 44
Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln
(919) 715-3038

Senator Joyce Krawiec
Republican – District 31
Forsyth, Yadkin
(919) 733-7850

Senator Jim Davis
Republican – District 50
Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain
(919) 733-5875

Senator Tom McInnis
Republican – District 25
Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly
(919) 733-5953

When you call these legislators, let them know that you are reaching out to oppose Senate Bill 205, which is in the Judiciary 2 committee. Urge them to not let big out of state trucking companies push the costs of injured drivers off on onto taxpayers.

Thanks for your prompt action on this important legislative issue.