Workman’s Comp at Menard Correctional Center: the tip of the iceberg?

Posted: January 14, 2011 by tennesseetree in Bad Cops, IDOC, IL in Fiscal Ruins, Police Misconduct

“In the past three years, $30.6 million was awarded to about 725 state employees in settlements who filed workmen’s compensation claims for repetitive trauma injuries caused by typing or unlocking prison cells.

An additional $4.3 million was paid to all state claimants who missed work while recuperating from doctor-ordered time off or corrective surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

And about one in three of these taxpayer dollars went directly to guards and other employees at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, according to a News-Democrat investigation…While awards or settlements went to state employees across the many divisions of state government, the Menard Correctional Center’s nearly $10 million share of the $34.9 million total state worker payout because of repetitive trauma is among the largest…”

Read this full, fascinating article at the Belleville News Democrat: 

Menard workers claim about a third of state settlements

The details are hard to believe! The viewpoint expressed below is from one of our blog volunteers: a former state employee.

The scandal at Menard’s Correctional  Center over Workmen’s Compensation cases is UNBELIEVABLE !!! There are a lot of State of Illinois employees injured on the job due to repetitive activities such as near constant typing because of recent years when workers have been cut and workloads for others have increased. Talk to State workers and asked them about Workman’s Comp, and it is a laughable topic. Laughable because the state of Illinois is notorious for disregarding injury claims filed against it particularly for injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.  Workers are dismissive about the viability of a Workman’s Comp claim and will tell you stories about submitting claims to Springfield and never hearing back from the state regarding their claim. They can also tell you of many state agencies where the work equipment is completely outdated and workers settle for bringing their own ergonomic equipment to work if they have problems. So to hear that Menard Correctional Staff may apparently have over the past three years possibly been methodically ripping off the State for millions of dollars worth of settlement claims, and getting away with it, is outrageous!

It only goes to show you that it takes supposed personnel in law enforcement  to run a really successful, professional scam these days. No doubt, correctional staff that Menard’s will claim that they were individually “unaware”of any wrongdoing or potentially false claims being submitted by themselves or other workers, but the scale of the operation clearly indicates that your average worker at the facility from the ground up to the Warden generally believed that they could receive a workman’s comp settlement from the state with few or no questions asked.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is trying to pass the blame for the lack of oversight to the Central Management Services agency (CMS) which has the primary responsibility for monitoring state workman’s comp cases on behalf of the state. It is true that the CMS is often criticized as being an inept state agency. However the fact that Menard’s Warden believed he had basis to file a claim is an indication to newspaper readers that senior IDOC facility staff were aware of the possible misuse of the practice. After all, how many heavy metal doors does a prison Warden routinely have to open on his own?

We are glad that the state is going to investigate the Workman’s Comp cases and settlements at the Menard Correctional Center. We hope that they review the basis for every single settlement reached and that they do not simply give a slap on the wrist to those who filed false claims. We want the State to prosecute them for fraud as the State would do to any other group of individuals who appear to conspire to defraud the State on so massive a scale. Because, unfortunately, one result of this whole screw-up is that state personnel in other state agencies will now have an even more difficult time trying to pursue any compensation for the real, legitimate claims.

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