SHERIFF DART TARGETS EMPLOYEES WHO FILE FRAUDULENT CLAIMS AND SEEKS OVERHAUL OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROCESS
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 — Recently the Sheriff’s administration undertook a comprehensive review of the workers’ compensation process, including an examination of the status of claims made by Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) employees. While this review is ongoing, it is clear that the process lacks the level of accountability and prioritization that must be in place when taxpayer dollars are at issue. It is for this reason that the Sheriff’s Office is asking for a competitively bid temporary appointment of private law firm specializing in workers’ compensation defense.
“Currently, over $8,000,000 of my budget is allocated for the payment of Worker’s Compensation claims, yet I have no control of how the claims are investigated, defended, or paid” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.
Last month, the Sheriff’s Office filed written charges for cause against a Correctional Officer alleging he attempted to defraud Cook County and the Sheriff’s Office by falsely claiming to have suffered a duty injury in the workplace and by falsely submitting official reports of injury suffered while on duty.
It was reported and documented by multiple Correctional Department employees that the employee called himself the, “duty injury king.” He is currently suspended without pay pending the outcome of the administrative proceedings and the Sheriff’s Office is seeking to charge him criminally.
Lack of aggressive management and failing to return employees back to work in a timely manner has cost the County dearly. The County needs to be more proactive in defending itself against fraudulent claims and at the same time aggressively pursuing investigations against those who are suspected of filing fraudulent worker’s compensation claims.
There are over 440 cases pending before the State of Illinois’ Industrial Commission that are being handled by a small number of Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys whose caseloads exceed 200 cases per attorney. These caseloads are unacceptably high based on any objective measure, resulting in unnecessary delays that prevent the timely and fiscally responsible resolution of cases and impedes the Sheriff’s Office from identifying and prosecuting employees who submit fraudulent claims.
“While I understand the difficulties of managing the multitude of Workers’ Compensation claims filed by County employees, it is clear the system is failing and must be overhauled,” said Sheriff Dart.
Privatizing the processing, investigation and defense of these claims is in the best interest of Cook County taxpayers, injured employees and the system as a whole.
The Sheriff’s Office will work with the Illinois Attorney General Office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to prosecute employees committing Workers Compensation Fraud.
On November 20th of last year a Correctional Officer submitted a false injury report claiming that he sustained a back injury while returning from transporting a detainee. He reported to other staff the he slipped and fell by a specific gate. His account of his injury conflicts with not just the video footage attached but also with the witnesses’ accounts of what he told others regarding the incident.
In the video you will see the CO walk up to the gate, look down and move his feet around on the floor. He then opens the gate, makes a movement and proceeds to walk out of the camera view. After the CO returned to the Division in which he was working, he reported a fall on the water to a Lieutenant for the Cook County Department of Corrections. The Lieutenant and a Sergeant then went to the area where he told him it occurred and witnessed a water spot that appeared to be the size of a quarter. It was also reported that this quarter sized drop of water was not in front of the gate and that someone would have to go out of their way to step in it.