NEWS AND HAPPENINGS IN THE WORKERS’ COMP WORLD

Ex-Cop Vows Negligence Suit if Orlando Refuses to Pay Comp Benefits

August 21, 2017


A former Orlando, Florida, police officer who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after recovering bodies from the Pulse nightclub shooting spree in June 2016 is contemplating a negligence suit because the city won’t agree to workers’ compensation benefits, his attorney said.

Gerry Realin, 37, last month won his fight for early retirement benefits from the Orlando Police Pension Board.

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Central Florida leaders elected to state Fire Chiefs' Association board

August 21, 2017


Looking out for others is part of the job for firefighters — but someone has to look after the heroes who are so busy taking care of everyone else.

That’s where the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association comes in, and Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Otto Drozd III last month was appointed president of the board of directors for the organization that develops programming, educates and lobbies for firefighters’ interests.

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TFD firefighters relocated following concerns of mold at Station 7

August 14, 2017


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Tallahassee firefighters working at Fire Station 7 are being temporarily housed at Fire Station 9 following concerns of mold.

The City made the announcement last week in response to concerns brought up by employees working at the station on Shamrock. The City has said that the “necessary vendors are being brought in to investigate and correct any issues that could be contributing factors.”

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Grand Bargain Imperiled, but State Has Constitutional Safeguard

August 9, 2017


ORLANDO, Florida — Most states are racing to the bottom on providing adequate workers’ compensation benefits, but Florida has a unique Constitution that prevents legislative overreach on reducing comp awards, a national expert said here Tuesday.

Professor Michael Duff from the University of Wyoming College of Law was one of five panelists to address the current state of the grand bargain — the balance between an implicit requirement of benefit adequacy for injured workers and employer immunity from torts.

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The Philips Phile

July 13, 2017


Russian Troubles for President Trump, plus other news sources, Five Minute Professor and much more.

(Podcast)

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Orlando officer with PTSD from Pulse shooting gets early retirement

July 13, 2017


The Orlando Police Pension Board granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre during an emotional hearing Thursday.

Doctors determined 37-year-old Officer Gerry Realin was “permanently disabled from performing duties as a law enforcement officer.”

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SPIDERWEBS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND H-BONES

July 14, 2017


Jessica Realin in studio.

(Podcast)

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Officer who responded to Pulse massacre granted early retirement

July 14, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando police officer who responded to the shooting massacre at Pulse Nightclub last year has been granted early-retirement benefits after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The city pension board granted the benefits to 37-year-old Officer Gerry Realin after a hearing Thursday.

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Pension granted for Orlando officer with PTSD after Pulse attack

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - A first responder who said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse terror attack will be able to get a disability pension following a months-long battle.

The city’s pension board had to ultimately figure out during a hearing Thursday if Officer Gerry Realin is permanently and totally disabled because of what he saw the night of June 12 2016.

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Officer who responded at Pulse to retire with pension

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An Orlando Police Officer diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will be allowed to retire early after a decision Thursday by the City of Orlando’s Police Pension Board.

The board voted unanimously in favor of Officer Gerry Realin, 37, after a hearing that Realin’s attorney called “unprecedented.”

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Officer Who Responded to Massacre to Get Early Retirement

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. — A city pension board has granted early-retirement benefits to a Florida police officer who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he responded to a shooting massacre at a gay night club in Florida.

The Orlando Police Pension Board granted the benefits to 37-year-old Officer Gerry Realin on Thursday after a hearing.

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Pulse First Responder With PTSD Gets Final Paycheck

July 6, 2017


An Orlando police officer with post-traumatic stress disorder from the Pulse nightclub shooting gets his last paycheck today.

Gerry Realin has been getting full pay since the shooting, but he’s been getting paid by the grace of the Orlando Police Department. The Interim Disability Committee was replenishing Realin’s paid time off each month.

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Board Approves Disability Retirement for Officer With PTSD From Pulse Nightclub Shooting

July 17, 2017


The Police Pension Board for the City of Orlando approved a disability retirement for a 37-year-old officer diagnosed with post-truamatic stress syndrome, a decision that the officer's attorney called "unprecedented"

Officer Gerry Realin, 37, served on a Hazmat team that recovered bodies after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016.

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ORLANDO PENSION BOARD GRANTS PERMANENT DISABILITY PENSION TO COP WITH PULSE-RELATED PTSD

July 13, 2017


UPDATE: The Orlando Pension Board has granted full permanent disability to Orlando Police officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Orlando Police Department first responder Gerry Realin has his final hearing before the Orlando Pension Board on Thursday. He’s waiting to see if his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder will be enough to get him full pension disability.

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Orlando cop with PTSD after Pulse attack granted early retirement

July 15, 2017


"Just because you can't see his injuries does not mean they are not there"Jul 15, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — Despite staunch opposition from the city, the Orlando Police Pension Board on Thursday granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

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A PENSION FOR OPD OFFICER WITH PTSD – NOW WHAT?

July 13, 2017


The Orlando Police Pension Board voted to give officer Gerry Realin a disability pension.

Realin was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after cleaning up the bodies in Pulse nightclub last year. WMFE Health Reporter Abe Aboraya spoke with All Things Considered Host Crystal Chavez.

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Pulse first responder who battled department over PTSD receives disability pension

July 13, 2017


The Orlando first responder who has battled his department for months after being diagnosed with PTSD has received a disability pension.

Gerry Realin, a 37-year-old father of two, worked on the hazmat team that carried bodies out of Pulse nightclub the morning 49 people were massacred last June.

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Pulse first responder with PTSD granted disability by Orlando pension board

July 13, 2017


An Orlando Police officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after responding to the Pulse massacre was granted a disability pension by the city board Thursday.

Officer Gerry Realin worked for hours with the department's hazardous materials team among the carnage to remove the bodies of the 49 victims after the mass shooting last year at the gay nightclub Pulse. Realin, who worked with OPD for 12 years, took leave from his position shortly after the massacre and has since supported his family on interim disability leave and paid time off days.

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Early Retirement OK'd for Officer With PTSD

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO -- Despite staunch opposition from the city, the Orlando Police Pension Board on Thursday granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Doctors determined Officer Gerry Realin, 37, was "permanently disabled from performing duties as a law enforcement officer."

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Ex-Orlando cop with PTSD after Pulse granted disability pension

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO -- During an emotional hearing Thursday at Orlando City Hall, a pension board granted permanent disability benefits to a former Orlando Police officer diagnosed with PTSD after the Pulse shooting.

Gerry Realin had waged an ongoing battle with the city of Orlando over his retirement benefits.

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Orlando police officer with PTSD granted full disability pension

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. — An officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting was given a full disability pension on Thursday.

Officer Gerry Realin will receive 80 percent of his $70,000 salary. The decision can be reviewed in 10 years.

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Pension board approves early retirement for Orlando police officer with PTSD after Pulse

July 13, 2017


Despite staunch opposition from the city, the Orlando Police Pension Board on Thursday granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Doctors determined Officer Gerry Realin, 37, was “permanently disabled from performing duties as a law enforcement officer.”

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Orlando pension board grants officer with PTSD early retirement, pension

July 13, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Police Department Pension Board granted the early retirement and pension for an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he was assigned to carry bodies out of Pulse nightclub.

Officer Gerry Realin, 37, asked the board to approve his early retirement on permanent disability. The veteran officer was not present for the board’s decision. His wife, Jessica Realin, said doctors told her it would be too stressful for him.

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Orlando Pension Board decides disability issue this week

July 10, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Police Department first responder Gerry Realin has been waiting for more than a year to learn if his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder will be enough to convince the pension board to grant him full pension disability.

In his last psychiatric evaluation on June 16, the treating doctor concluded that Realin should "be declared disabled from any kind of police work."

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Pulse first responder with PTSD who was declared 'totally disabled' after he removed bodies from the nightclub has stopped receiving benefits, can't afford treatment and is selling his possessions to support his family

June 30, 2017


Orlando police officer Gerry Realin, 37, was a first responder assigned to remove bodies from the Pulse nightclub following the shooting that left 49 dead

He was then diagnosed with severe PTSD and told not to go back to work

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Psychiatrist: Pulse first responder 'permanently disabled'

June 29, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - ​One year after the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting OPD first responder Gerry Realin has been deemed “permanently and totally disabled” by an independent psychiatrist assigned by the Orlando Police Pension Board.

The findings come just days after the Police Department advised Realin that his final pay check would be issued next week forcing him to sell everything from an old TV to a 1970 family boat to make ends meet.

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Rates of PTSD in Firefighters

June 19, 2017


Rates of PTSD in firefighters may be heightened more so than in any other professions. See, many people will experience a potentially traumatic event at some poit in their life. But just because you have experienced a traumatic event does not mean that you will go on to develop PTSD. However, people who have experienced multiple traumatic events have been found to be at greater risk for developing PTSD.

One group of people that may experience many traumatic events as part of their job - and thus be at a heightened risk for PTSD - is firefighters.

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1st DCA Revives Constitutional Challenge to Statutory Max Comp Rate

June 20, 2017


Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal this week ruled that an injured worker was wrongfully deprived of an opportunity to create a record for establishing a constitutional challenge to the state’s statutory cap on weekly disability benefits.

Under Florida law, a worker is generally entitled to receive benefits

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UM researchers use app to fight hidden risks killing firefighters

June 16, 2017


When William Duesler joined Tamarac Fire Rescue 14 years ago, experienced firefighters used to hang scorched helmets on the wall with pride. They didn't know that this might be killing them.

“When I first got on, the more you smelled like soot and smoke, the more work it meant you were doing,” the lieutenant said. “Now, it’s no longer a badge of honor to be dirty.”

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4 Out of 8 States That Considered PTSD Benefits Passed Legislation

June 15, 2017


One year ago this week, Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin spent four hours removing dead bodies from Pulse Nightclub. Officers covered the 49 victims' bodies with white sheets. They used Sharpie markers to tally up the dead.

These days, the only time Realin can find peace is when he's out on his paddleboard. Plagued by flashbacks, nightmares and depression, he hasn't gone back to work. The sight of a white sheet or a Sharpie is enough to trigger a flashback. He isn't ready to return to the streets, carrying a gun.

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Growing evidence of cancer link sparks measures to protect firefighters

May 24, 2017


Tests have shown fires at homes filled with items made from modern-day synthetic materials burn hotter and faster than homes filled with the natural construction materials used decades ago.

The resulting flames and smoke also harbor more toxins.

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GA Gov. Signs Firefighter Cancer Insurance Bill into Law

May 6, 2017


About 125 people, many of them firefighters from around the state, were part of an audience Thursday who witnessed Gov. Nathan Deal sign House Bill 146, also known as the firefighter cancer insurance bill.

Sitting at Deal's side was Gilmer County firefighter Brian Scudder, who at one time was diagnosed with the "last stage" of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, stage 4-B, that his doctors say he contracted from his work battling fires.

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Work Comp Central

May 10, 2017


Appellate Court Says Ratings Firm and Regulators Did Not Violate Sunshine Law

An appellate court on Tuesday reversed a trial court ruling that the National Council on Compensation Insurance and Florida regulators violated the state’s Sunshine Law when deliberating last year's rate hike.

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Who pays to heal mental injuries of first responders?

December 7, 2016


Gerry Realin was at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Orlando, Florida, with his family this past summer when he started feeling dizzy.

His wife Jessica Realin said they had been talking about money in the days leading up to the episode.

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Work Comp Central

May 4, 2017


Lawmakers Ironing Out Compromise Comp Reforms as Clock Ticks

A floor vote on a Senate bill that would cap attorney fees and make other changes to the Florida workers' comp system was delayed again Wednesday as lawmakers worked to negotiate a compromise with the House version.

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Casper fire captain dies of cancer, the first firefighter to qualify under new workers compensation law

April 24, 2017


A Casper firefighter died Saturday night after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.

Captain Matt Trott, 46, joined the fire department in 1995. During his 21 years at the department, he worked as an engineer, a child passenger safety technician and a captain. He retired March 6 due to his cancer, called pancreatic acinar cell carcinoma.

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Early detection can lead to 'heart bill' claims

April 20, 2017


As most readers of my previous columns will recall, my firm represents first responders throughout Florida with work-related disability claims.

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FPF 8th Daily

April 20, 2017


Florida Professional Firefighters News and Information from In and Around the 8th District brought to you by DVP Bellamy

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Wife of Orlando cop with PTSD from Pulse shooting testifies before Florida Senate committee

April 17, 2017


The wife of an Orlando police officer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder gave emotional testimony Monday, urging lawmakers to support a bill that would offer first responders with PTSD full workers’ compensation benefits.

Senate Bill 1088, sponsored by Victor Torres, D-Orlando, would allow first responders suffering from PTSD but not a physical injury to receive workers’ comp benefits. Under the current law, PTSD must be accompanied by a physical injury.

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Work Comp Central

April 14, 2017


GOP-Led Panel Bucks Business, Passes Comp Reform Bill

The Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday defied every major business organization in Florida and joined Democrats in unanimously passing a workers’ compensation reform bill that includes hourly attorney fees capped at $250.

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Work Comp Central

April 6, 2017


House Panel Revising Bill That Would Cut Comp Costs by Nearly $200 Million a Year

The Florida House Commerce Committee today will hear a workers’ compensation reform bill that is projected to cut costs by at least 5%, or $182 million a year.

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Work Comp Central

April 13, 2017


Backlog of Fee Petitions Drives Up Payments to Workers' Attorneys by 26%:

Florida claimants’ attorney fees jumped 26% in the 11 months since the state Supreme Court ruled the statutory fee schedule was unconstitutional, but that spike may represent pent-up demand as attorneys held off on filing fee petitions while awaiting the high court’s decision rather than the beginning of a long-term trend.

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Work Comp Central

April 18, 2017


Committee Passes Bill to Award Indemnity, Death Benefits to First Responders With PTSD

A bill that would compensate first responders for "mental-mental" injuries — those not accompanied by a physical injury — cleared its first committee in the Florida Legislature on Monday.

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PTSD legislation unanimously passes Florida subcommittee

April 18, 2017


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill offering workers compensation benefits for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was approved by the state Senate’s banking and insurance subcommittee Monday.

Senate Bill 1088, sponsored by state Sen.Victor Torres, (D) Orlando, was approved by unanimous vote, but its future may not be good.

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Firefighting and the Heart

April 4, 2017


Firefighting is widely recognized as a hazardous occupation. In particular, fire scenes are unpredictable and dangerous environments characterized by loud noise, high temperatures, flames, smoke with gaseous and particulate toxicants, and potential structural instability of affected buildings, among other hazards. Accordingly, during fire suppression, firefighters are at risk for various injuries, including burns, trauma, and smoke inhalation. Although less intuitive, the strenuous physical activity, emotional stress, and environmental pollutants encountered while fighting a fire place considerable strain on the cardiovascular system, and each of these exposures can act alone or in concert to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events among susceptible individuals.1,2 The investigation of Hunter et al3 in this issue of Circulation solidifies and expands a growing body of science elucidating the pathophysiologic mechanisms1,2,4 through which fire-suppression activities markedly increase the risk of CVD events among firefighters: 10- to >100-fold greater risk compared with nonemergency fire department duties.

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Fire Simulation and Cardiovascular Health in Firefighters

April 4, 2017


BACKGROUND: Rates of myocardial infarction in firefighters are increased during fire suppression duties, and are likely to reflect a combination of factors including extreme physical exertion and heat exposure. We assessed the effects of simulated fire suppression on measures of cardiovascular health in healthy firefighters.

METHODS: In an open-label randomized crossover study, 19 healthy firefighters (age, 41±7 years; 16 males) performed a standardized training exercise in a fire simulation facility or light duties for 20 minutes. After each exposure, ex vivo thrombus formation, fibrinolysis, platelet activation, and forearm blood flow in response to intra-arterial infusions of endothelialdependent and -independent vasodilators were measured.

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Work Comp Central

April 3, 2017


Payment of Vacation, Sick Time Isn't 'Earned' Income for Worker Collecting Impairment Benefits: SOUTH

In a case of first impression, Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a worker's previously accrued sick leave and vacation time could not be included in the calculation of his earnings during the weeks in which he was entitled to impairment benefits.

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Recently Released and Soon to be Released Generics Expected to Reduce Claims Costs

March 29, 2017


Over the past several years, prescription drug costs related to workers’ compensation claims have risen dramatically, making it increasingly important for claims professionals to carefully evaluate this exposure and mitigate costs when possible. Optum Settlement Solutions understands that keeping up to date on new generic formulations is part of an overall strategic approach to reduce the cost of claims and ultimately the prescription allocation of a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA).

Every brand medication has a patent life that will ultimately expire. Once the patent expires, generic formulations become available on the market, typically at a lower cost. Although there is no set brand-versus-generic price differential upon generic entry, clinical analysis shows, on average, the generic has a 10% lower price at time of launch over its brand counterpart.

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Police and firefighters flex political muscle as workers’ comp bill stalls

March 29, 2017


FRANKFORT - For more than a week, State Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, has been fielding calls and emails from first-responders asking him why he sponsored a bill that would strip them of their workers’ compensation benefits.

“Who in their right mind would try to take away the benefits from someone who is no longer able to work?” Koenig said. “That’s absurd.”

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Cop Who Identified Bodies at Orlando Nightclub Massacre Suffers PTSD, Fears Return to Police HQ

March 27, 2017


“For police officers like Realin, Delgado, and other embattled cops and soldiers, PTSD is not something they claimed. Rather, through no fault of their own, it claimed them…”

I am easily intrigued by stories of human plight and how our species endures and overcomes the unspeakable, especially amongst law enforcement and military demographics. As a former policeman, I had my fair share of looking tragedy in the eyes (often lifeless), writing it all up, filing police reports, and moving on to the next incident. Some cops fare well enough, but others confront absolutely horrific scenes and walk away scarred. Such is the case for Orlando, Florida police Officer Gerry Realin, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is currently under threat of termination if he does not return to police duty.

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Rousmaniere: Fear, Hypocrisy and PTSD

March 1, 2017


The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting catastrophe took place on December 14, 2012. Shortly, news reports appeared that surviving workers could not get mental health counseling benefits through workers’ compensation. Connecticut is one of the states that bar all or almost all workers’ comp claims for work-induced mental stress if no physical injury has occurred. Left unmentioned in the media, including in the insurance media, that even where so-called “mentalmental,” as opposed to “physical-mental” claims are allowed, being awarded benefits can be difficult.

The ghost of Sandy Hook haunts some state legislatures this season. Some are considering bills to expedite workers’ comp benefits to emergency responders for post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of these proposals would establish a rebuttable presumption that benefits should be awarded.

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Police Union Wants More Workers' Comp Coverage For PTSD

March 23, 2017


Ohio's largest police union wants the Bureau of Workers Compensation to cover more claims for post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders.

Right now, the BWC will cover PTSD if a first responder has a physical injury that causes it. But Mike Weinman with the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio says that’s not necessarily how PTSD works.

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Work Comp Central

March 8, 2017


Bills to provide a PTSD presumption for first responders and to shield the names of claimants from the public — especially attorneys — were introduced Tuesday on the opening day of the Florida Legislature’s 2017 session.

Senate Bill 516, by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, proposes mental or nervous injuries suffered by first responders would be compensable, whether or not accompanied by a physical injury that requires medical treatment.

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Orlando Officer With PTSD From Pulse Ordered To Desk Job

March 8, 2017


An Orlando police officer diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the Pulse shooting has been ordered back to work.

The Orlando Police Department ordered Gerry Realin to work for city hall in the STOPS office. He would administer a bike safety program in the red light camera enforcement department.

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Pulse first responder threatened with insubordination in second back-to-work memo

March 7, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. - For the second straight day, Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin was ordered back to work to assist in a new bike safety education program with a hard line warning that he would be guilty of insubordination if he didn’t show up.

Realin refused to report Monday, arguing that his treating therapist and city-appointed psychiatrist advised him not to take part in any police work.

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Proposed bills would cover first responders who have PTSD

February 27, 2017


Gerry Realin can’t watch much TV.

The Orlando police officer sticks to mostly cartoons with his kids and fishing shows. He doesn’t want to watch anything that may trigger memories of removing the bodies inside Pulse nightclub. He’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been out of work since shortly after the June 12 massacre that killed 49 people and injured at least 68 others.

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Widow of battalion chief: 'He said I can't take it anymore'

February 24, 2017


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - Looking back, Leslie Dangerfield said the signals were subtle, but as the years went by her husband, Indian River County fire Battalion Chief David Dangerfield, was being tormented by post-traumatic stress disorder.

“One day, he had a breakdown at the house and just started crying,” she told News 6. "Started to ask me questions. What’s depression?, What’s anxiety?”

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Who pays to heal mental injuries of first responders?

December 7, 2016


Gerry Realin was at a Chick­fil­A restaurant in Orlando, Florida, with his family this past summer when he started feeling dizzy.

His wife Jessica Realin said they had been talking about money in the days leading up to the episode.

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State legislator files bill to help first responders with PTSD

February 21, 2017


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - First responders who are fighting post-traumatic stress disorder on the job are one step closer to getting the same benefits as police officers and firefighters who get physically injured.

Channel 9’s Field Sutton found out state Sen. Victor Torres, of Orlando, filed a bill that would change the law to help.

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PTSD COVERAGE FOR FIRST RESPONDERS COULD EXPAND UNDER NEW BILL

February 21, 2017


Democratic State Senator Victor Torres filed a bill Tuesday to allow first responders to get worker’s compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bill makes PTSD and mental conditions more easily eligible, and it removes the requirement that first responders also be hurt physically.

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Bill Would Allow Benefits for PTSD Among First Responders

February 21, 2017


Post-traumatic stress disorder among emergency first responders in Florida would be compensable, even if not accompanied by a physical injury, under legislation introduced by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

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Sunshine Law Controversy in the Sunshine State

February 8, 2017


Tallahassee, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - All 50 states have some version of an open-meeting law, or what is colloquially known as a Sunshine Law. These laws require government entities to allow public access to their meetings. There are some exceptions such as personnel matters, attorney consultations etc., but as a general rule, most proceedings need to be open to the public and sufficient notice of the proceeding needs to be provided.

The National Counsel on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is an organization that, according to its website, “gathers data, analyzes industry trends, and prepares objective insurance rate and loss cost recommendations.” In Florida, these recommendations are then made to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FLOIR). At a meeting on Aug. 16, 2016, NCCI recommended to the FLOIR a 19.6% increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums. According to NCCI, one person determined the proposed increase: its chief actuary, Jay Rosen. Ultimately, the FLOIR approved a smaller 14.5% increase. James Fee, a Miami workers’ compensation attorney, filed suit claiming that all of NCCI’s deliberations that led to its recommendation should have been open to the public under Florida’s workers’ compensation Sunshine Law.

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Study: Stress Can Leave Police Officers More Vulnerable to Disease

February 7, 2017


BUFFALO, N.Y. – For most people, cortisol, the vital hormone that controls stress, increases when they wake up. It’s the body’s way of preparing us for the day.

But in police officers who’ve experienced intense stress on the job, cortisol functions much differently, according to recent research from the University at Buffalo and funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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Orlando Attack: Six Months Later

February 4, 2017


On 12 June, America rocked by a bloody attack on a nightclub in Orlando. In Pulse, known as a night club for gay, shoot a gunman around acting in his own words on behalf of Islamic State. There are 49 people in the three-hour attack, for so long before a SWAT team finally struck the offender.

Now, half a year later, those involved are still struggling with the attack. Brandon Wolf went that evening to Pulse. Because his ex-boyfriend meevroeg him, he has his best friend Dru persuaded to also come along. Dru survive the attack failed and Brandon is struggling with an enormous guilt.

German NTV reached out to our client, Omar Delgado, to recount his role during the Pulse Shooting.

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BILL FILED TO COVER PTSD FOR FIRST RESPONDERS

February 6, 2017


First responders who get post-traumatic stress disorder on the job may soon be eligible for more workers compensation benefits.

Gainesville Republican Senator Keith Perry filed a bill which would allow coverage for PTSD with a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, which staffers said would give them the ability to claim lost wages.

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Blue and Red Movement fighting for PTSD wage law

February 6, 2017


Wife of Pulse first responder: It needs to happen now

Jessica Realin understands how PTSD can destroy a first responder. Her husband, Gerry, an Orlando police officer, pulled the dead out of the Pulse nightclub June 12.

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More health coverage needed for officers suffering PTSD

January 20, 2017


ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The wife of an Orlando police officer is lobbying for changes that could help first responders who deal with the emotional demands of the job.

Jessica Realin learned Thursday that her efforts will begin to pay off when legislation is drafted by Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, next week in Tallahassee. Realin said that when she got word it was “like Christmas morning.”

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Changing the PTSD law

January 24, 2017


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First responder with PTSD: There's no protection to get well

January 19, 2017


COCOA, Fla. - When the call “vehicle-pedestrian” came over the Cocoa Fire Department’s emergency radio last July, it was a call Josh Vandegrift had handled hundreds of times before.

“Sometimes it comes up in dreams, calls I’ve run 10 years ago, just the horror of it,” Vandegrift said.

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Firefighters’ fight against PTSD: Before death, firefighter makes plea to others

December 2, 2016


In tonight's cover story we delve deeper into the firefighter-PTSD connection. Statistically, the numbers are shocking, more than double the number of suicides compared to in-the-line-of-duty deaths. But for most, the realization of the need for help comes too late. We have exclusive details on one firefighter who gave a final call to action before he died -- begging the world not to let another firefighter fall.

Leslie Dangerfield, David’s wife: “This is Station 2 coming up. This was his station for at least 12 years. So a lot of nights fire fighters’ families come and they eat dinner with the guys or stop in. When you have kids it’s hard, so you stop in and hang out for a while. You become one big family with all of these guys. A lot of hours out here. In some respects it was the first home because it impacted the real home.”

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Lawmakers Searching For A Workers Comp Cure

December 2, 2016


In the workers comp system, employees agree not to sue when they get hurt and their bosses agree to pay medical bills and lost wages. German Chancellor Otto von Bismark thought it would humanize the industrial revolution.

But in the early 2000's, Florida and a handful of other states went on a business friendly cost-cutting binge. Orlando attorney Geoff Bichler says injured workers were left out in the cold.

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Amendement proposed in EMA rule decried by attorneys

November 23, 2016


The Florida Division of Workers' Compensation will hold a public hearing Dec. 6 on proposed amendements to its rule on expert medical advisers - rules that claimants' and defense attorneys alike call "awful" and want repealed.

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workcompcentral


Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled that the state's statutory 104-week cap on temporary partial disability benefits cannot cut off the benefit payments for a worker who has not yet attained maximum medical improvement.

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Family describes Indian River firefighter's battle with PTSD before death

October 17, 2016


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The veteran firefighter who committed suicide Saturday aggressively fought post-traumatic stress disorder for years, his father said.

Indian River County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief David Dangerfield, 48, drove to a rural area of the county and shot himself, the Sheriff's Office said. Before his death, he made a Facebook post about the perils of PTSD for firefighters and advised family and friends of firefighters to assist their loved ones with getting help.

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Fighting to get PTSD covered under workers comp

November 23, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When we call police and firefighters for help, they come to the rescue. But some officers are finding the State of Florida isn’t returning the favor when it comes to their mental health.

It’s a peculiarity in the law that has existed for years, but it’s coming to light in the aftermath of the June 2016 mass murder at Pulse Nightclub.

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Unlevel Playing Field?

November 2016


Unlevel the Playing Field? by Sherri Okamoto is in WorkCompCentral's Special Report this month. Our Managing Partner, Geoffrey Bichler, is quoted in the article while discussing Miles v. City of Edgewater and the current constitutional battles going on in our judicial system regarding Worker's Compensation. You can read the full article on pages seven & eight.

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News & 440 Report

Summer 2016


It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Bar for 2016 to 2017. I have been a member of the Executive Council for quite some time, and I have enjoyed my association with those many leaders and individuals who have done so much for the Workers’ Compensation Section for many years.

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First responders to Pulse nightclub shooting report PTSD, haunting memories months after attack

October 28, 2016


Police who were the first to respond to the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this June are still haunted by what they saw.

If Officer Omar Delgado hears a particular ring tone, he told The New York Times, it instantly transports him back to that night.

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Florida worker's comp laws ignore Pulse's struggling first responders

October 28, 2016


Law enforcement officers who heeded their call to duty at the horrific scene at Pulse nightclub on June 12 are suffering from the state law that does not allow them to seek lost wages for mental health diagnoses.

As WMFE reported back in September, workers must be able to prove their disability stems from a physical injury to be eligible for lost wages in the state of Florida.

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Orlando Officers Grapple With Trauma and Red Tape After Massacre

October 27, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. — The sound of a ringing iPhone makes Omar Delgado sweat and freeze in place. His heart pounds. He closes his eyes to fight back the ghastly images that no one should ever have to see.

He hears the marimba-like tone and he is back at Pulse nightclub on June 12 as a police officer pinned down in an hourslong standoff surrounded by dead bodies, their phones ringing again and again with calls that would never be answered.

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Are the Florida Workers’ Comp Statutes Low Trust?

October 18, 2016


Our company, UniMed Direct, has had an initiative for 2016 based upon Stephen M.R. Covey’s bestselling book The Speed of Trust. Our team experienced FranklinCovey training, which we highly recommend. But back to the book. If you have not read it, and you are in any type of business management, I suggest you get it and read it. One of the key “nuggets” from the book is the idea that when you extend trust to individuals, they generally respond better than if trust is withheld.

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Pulse first responder wants law to cover mental distress

September 28, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. - Tell a first responder his mental anguish doesn’t meet the threshold for paid leave and then talk to Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin.

“Maybe we weren’t the heroes who were there during the shooting," Realin told WKMG, "but we’re the ones who cared for the ones that couldn’t make it out.”

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Better worker's comp proposed for first responders with PTSD

September 28, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. - A move to provide better worker's compensation coverage for first responders living with post-traumatic stress disorder might find some traction in Tallahassee next year.

Channel 9's Field Sutton reported last month that first responders with physical injuries receive better benefits than their colleagues with PTSD.

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Pulse First Responder With PTSD Struggles to Get Workers Comp

September 27, 2016


As a member of the Orlando Police Department Hazmat team, Gerry Realin was dispatched to deal with the aftermath and cleanup of the Pulse nightclub shooting in June — and he hasn’t recovered from what he saw there since.

Realin’s wife, Jessica, recalled how her husband reacted when he came home from work that day.

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Proposed workers’ comp rate hike created outside the Sunshine

September 21, 2016


Florida’s extraordinary tradition of open government is founded on the simple but essential concept that the people have a right to know how and why the government makes decisions on their behalf. After all, it’s our government.

So when a government action stems from a process shrouded in secrecy, we have a right not just to ask questions, but to demand the process be changed. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is currently considering a proposal by a secretive organization that would hike workers’ compensation rates by almost 20 percent, yet no one really knows exactly how they arrived at that number. This process must be changed.

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Orlando shooting first responder diagnosed with PTSD pushes for mental health payment

September 21, 2016


A Pulse nightclub shooting first responder who is worried about losing his job because of his PTSD may have his worries somewhat eased after a push to change Florida law.

Gerry Realin, 36, responded to the Orlando massacre in the early hours of June 13 as part of a hazmat team, and helped carry a large number of the 49 victims out of the building where Omar Mateen went on his rampage.

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Wife of OPD officer who recovered Pulse bodies details PTSD struggles

September 16, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. —Jessica Realin said her husband, Gerry Realin, used to be happy-go-lucky, but that all changed three months ago.

The 12-year Orlando Police Department veteran was among the team of officers assigned to recover the bodies of those who died inside Pulse. That came after hours of painstaking investigation by FBI agents. Gerry Realin's wife said he vividly remembers the sights, sounds and smells of the June 12 massacre.

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Orlando Police officer dealing with PTSD after Pulse attack

September 16, 2016


ORLANDO -- The wife of an Orlando Police officer said her husband has regressed since being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after working the Pulse nightclub shooting more than three months ago.

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THE POLITICS OF PTSD AFTER PULSE FIRST RESPONDER GOES PUBLIC WITH DIAGNOSIS

September 14, 2016


Gerry Realin spent four hours with the dead inside of Pulse Night Club.

He remembers the blood. The smell. The scene was so bad, the eight-member Hazmat team wouldn’t let any other officers help them remove the bodies. That way fewer people had to witness what they saw.

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The Florida Bar Workers' Compensation Section

September 12, 2016


The NEWS AND FOUR-FORTY REPORT is published by The Florida Bar Worker's Compensation Section

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State Can Expect New Constitutional Challenges, Workers' Comp Expert Says

August 29, 2016


One of the nation’s foremost authorities on workers’ compensation predicts that Florida — already facing a huge proposed rate increase over adverse court decisions — will be hit with new court rulings declaring more of its provisions unconstitutional.

“I think they’re in serious jeopardy,” said John F. Burton Jr., a professor emeritus at Rutgers and Cornell universities, and chairman of President Richard Nixon’s 1972 National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws. “I think it’s going to be a very difficult time for Florida in how they figure out what they can do constitutionally to reduce their costs.”

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Florida Denies Pulse First Responder Worker' Comp for PTSD

August 23, 2016


Gerry Realin helped pull 49 bodies out of the club June 12. That night has haunted him and made him unable to work.

Police officer Gerry Realin, one of the first responders on the scene following the Pulse nightclub shooting in June, is fighting the state of Florida to have his post-traumatic stress disorder recognized for workers' compensation purposes, as current policy doesn’t cover psychological trauma.

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Orlando police officer has PTSD; could lose everything because of state loophole

August 19, 2016


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - First responder Gerry Realin worked nearly round-the-clock after the Pulse terror attack on June 12. But now, because of the PTSD that followed that tragic night, his family could lose everything, Realin’s wife said.

Jessica Realin, said a loophole in state law lets police departments off the hook when their officers get PTSD. They said a Florida statue doesn’t recognize PTSD as a work related injury and therefore, workman’s compensation will not cover his treatment.

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Injured Edgewater officer says lost benefits are 'slap in the face'

August 15, 2016


City says medical coverage issued 'in error'

At least two injured veteran police officers with the city of Edgewater will lose the enhanced family medical coverage they have been receiving for years because of what the city has deemed an “error.”

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'I still see all the red,' officer who removed bodies from Pulse says

August 15, 2016


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Pulse first responder still having nightmares, flashbacks

August 10, 2016


ORLANDO, Fla. - Officer Gerry Realin was a microbiologist, a researcher, who says he turned to law enforcement after seeing the movie “The Rock."

The 1996 film, starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery, is about a scientist who teams up with a former British spy to avert a plan to launch chemical weapons on Alcatraz Island.

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Removing the bodies

August 10, 2016


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Edgewater City Council strips some officers of health benefits

July 29, 2016


EDGEWATER, Fla. — The Edgewater City Council has stripped the health benefits of police officers who were hurt in the line of duty.

David Gamell said that as a child, he had dreams of being someone's hero. He worked as an officer for the Edgewater Police Department for nearly two decades.

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Edgewater shrinks health benefits of ex-officers

June 22, 2016


EDGEWATER - After several months fighting with the city over his police pension, a former Edgewater police officer injured on the job had that pension approved in June.

But now, he may have to fight for his insurance as well. And he's not alone. Several other former officers may soon see their full coverage insurance downgraded to supplemental after the City Council this week directed the city manager to correct a longtime oversight by staff.

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Florida Supreme Court strikes down another portion of workers' comp law in St. Pete case

June 14, 2016


Florida’s highest court has struck down as unconstitutional a portion of the state workers' compensation law in the case of a former St. Petersburg firefighter.

It was the second time in less than two months that the Florida Supreme Court found a portion of the state's workers' comp law unconstitutional. The ruling drew condemnation from the business community around the state.

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Maitland firm wins big Westphal workers comp case

June 13, 2016


Lawyers at the Maitland law firm of Bichler, Oliver, Longo & Fox are celebrating a big win today in a closely watched workers’ compensation case before the Florida Supreme Court.

Firm founder Geoffrey Bichler represented injured firefighter Bradley Westphal in a five-year legal battle with the City of St. Petersburg. Westphal suffered a serious back injury at the age of 53, when moving furniture while fighting a fire.

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Romano: A heartless decision by St. Pete could change workers' comp in Florida

June 13, 2016


In this case, it appears the city of St. Petersburg may get a hefty legal bill, and the state of Florida could see its business-friendly workers' compensation laws blown to bits.

And why does that feel like karma?

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Edgewater cop fights for disability benefits

June 6, 2016


At 33, former Edgewater police sergeant Chris DeRosa's law enforcement career ended because of on-the-job injuries from nearly three years earlier that made him unfit for duty.

DeRosa worked for the Edgewater Police Department for more than 12 years before he was fired this past February, and he has not yet received his disability insurance or pension. DeRosa, who has also been battling leukemia for almost two years, is now accusing the city of dragging out the process.

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Proposed hike for workers' comp insurance causes alarm

June 6, 2016


Florida's business community and employee advocates are expressing alarm at a proposed 17.1 percent rate hike for what employers pay to cover workers' compensation insurance.

"Seventeen percent is absolutely exaggerated unless we are trying to insulate insurers from their own bad behavior," said Maitland attorney Geoffrey Bichler, who represents injured police officers and firefighters. He also filed a brief in a recent Florida Supreme Court case regarding workers' comp, for groups including the Fraternal Order of Police.

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President Obama Honors 13 Law Enforcement Officers With Medal Of Valor

May 28, 2016


President Obama honored 13 law enforcement officers with the Public Safety Medal of Valor on Monday.

All of the officers were recognized for showing exceptional courage despite threats to their personal safety.

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Court rules Edgewater officer exposed to meth can pay attorney in workers-comp case

April 22, 2016


TALLAHASSEE — An appeals court on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional a state law that prohibited an Edgewater police officer who said she was injured due to on-the-job exposure to meth from paying for her own attorney on her workers-compensation claim.

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Industry scrambles after court decision on attorney fees, contracts

April 22, 20165


TALLAHASSEE — Business groups are sounding the alarm and plaintiffs' lawyers are celebrating an appeals court decision declaring unconstitutional Florida's sweeping restrictions on injured workers' rights to sign contracts with workers' compensation lawyers.

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1st DCA Declares Statutory Restrictions on Attorney Fees Unconstitutional

April 22, 2016


A panel from Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday declared the state's statutory limits on the compensation of claimants' attorneys unconstitutional, as applied to an injured police officer who was willing to pay an hourly fee to her counsel.

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Previously identified impairment benefits now spurring internal auditing and possible underpayments of tax-free entitlements

December 7, 2015


As readers will recall, I authorised an article in September which outlined a massive problem related to unpaid impairment benefits to Palm Beach PBA members with hypertension and/or heart disease.

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1st DCA to Hear Argument on Whether Police Union Can Pay Claimant's Attorney

December 2, 2015


Florida workers' comp practitioners have had their eye on the state Supreme Court for more than a year, awaiting a ruling in Castellanos v. The Next Door Co. on the constitutionality of the statutory cap on claimant attorney fees.

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High Court Gets Amicus Briefs in Constitutional Challenge

November 20, 2015


Bichler/Kelley files amicus brief on behalf of police organizations with the Florida Supreme Court in the Stahl matter.  Review brief here.

Geoff Bichler interviewed by WorkCompCentral regarding the Stahl case currently before the Florida Supreme Court.  See article here.

 
 

High Court Will Review another Challenge to Adequacy of Comp System

October 15, 2015


The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to accept review of yet another workers' compensation case. Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital is a constitutional challenge based on the premise that the workers' compensation system is no longer a fair replacement remedy for a civil cause of action.

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Members can claim tax-free 'impairment' payments

October 8, 2015


The PBCPBA has discovered that potentially millions of dollars in unpaid benefits are owed to members with work-injury claims, even though the members have returned to work without loss of income.

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Doctor Calls WC Impairment Guide Malpractice

August 28, 2015


Regulators considering revisions to Florida Impairment Guides that could have major impact on tax fee impairment benefit payments to First Responder Community.

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Workers' Compensation: Can the State System Survive?

John F. Burton Jr.

July 17, 2015


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania celebrates its workers' compensation centennial in 2015. Part of the bar and agency recognition of this milestone was a program presented on June 1, 2015: the Centennial Celebration of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. Professor Burton delivered the Keynote Address, whic is reprinted here with his permission.

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“I lost a hand. I didn’t lose a hook”

SALON

March 6, 2015


Dennis Whedbee’s crew was rushing to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, North Dakota...

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Miami judge declares Florida workers comp law unconstitutional

BRADENTON HERALD

August 13, 2014


A Miami-Dade judge struck a blow Wednesday against Florida’s workers’ comp law, which was already under attack on several fronts...

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City to pay firefighter $495K over hearing loss from siren

FIRE RESCUE 1

July 10, 2014


Rodney Bingham was four feet away from the truck's bumper when the engine's siren was activated; it caused permanent damage to his hearing...

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City prevails in lawsuit over worker’s compensation claim

OCALA.com

March 8, 2014


The city of Ocala won a lawsuit against Safety National Casualty Corporation requiring the company to pay worker’s compensation benefits...

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ANOTHER SLAP IN THE FACE TO FIRST RESPONDERS

Gefforey Bichler

October 17, 2011


As Florida public employees brace for the next legislative session in Tallahassee, the agenda of the League of Cities threatens to steamroll any reasoned discussion about the allocation of the State’s resources. The continued cries that “the sky is falling” warp an already difficult political climate and obscure the reality that there are choices to make which do not require a scorched earth approach. Of course, scare tactics work well when ...

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BARNSTORMING THE STATE TO PROTECT FIRST RESPONDERS

Gefforey Bichler

September 26, 2011


As many of you know BCO has begun a tour of the State to make sure that all first responders are aware of the protections afforded by the “heart/lung bill” before potentially devastating changes go into effect restricting or eliminating coverage. Last week the partners of BCO traveled to Miami and Key West for two days of meetings with firefighters and law enforcement officers. ...

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FULL SPEED AHEAD!

Gefforey Bichler

July 21, 2011


With Summer in full swing Florida public employees are now feeling the heat generated by a 3% reduction in pay (a tax by any any other name remains as onerous). Others face the reality that jobs will be lost as traditional governmental ...

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EXPANDING OUR FIRM TO SERVE YOUR NEEDS

Gefforey Bichler

March 24, 2011


Welcome to our new website and my inaugural blog. As you can see our firm has undertaken some major changes in the last few months to insure that our clients are getting the best possible ...

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