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Monday, January 27, 2014

Is your job making you sick?

Asbestos exposure at work is a serious workplace health concern
Work-related illness may qualify individuals for workers' compensation
By Robert Gordan

55-year old, Hank, has worked in a car part manufacturing plant for 35 years.  Up until recently, Hank was healthy and rarely missed a day of work. A couple of months ago, Hank suffered from a persistent cough, accompanied by abdominal pain. Hank assumed he had a nasty cold and his abdomen pain was due to constant coughing, but Hank, feeling worn down and weak, decided he was too ill to go to work.  After a week and a half, when his symptoms didn’t get any better he went to the doctor. The doctor suspected that Hank had a virus and recommended bed rest and antibiotics.  An additional week passed and Hank’s symptoms worsened to coughing up blood and losing weight.  His doctor ordered a variety of tests and revealed that Hank had an asbestos-related illness, asbestosis and had most likely developed it while handling brake parts (which contained asbestos). 

Hank’s diagnosis looks bleak, but due to his previous clean bill of health his quality of life may be better than others who suffer from asbestos-related diseases.  Because Hank has been ordered by his doctor to limit his exposure to asbestos and environments that may have asbestos, he has been put on leave from work.  While Hank has built up a substantial savings over the years, he needs financial assistance.  After a family member’s suggestion, Hank is now applying for workers’ compensation benefits in order to help cover some of his living costs while he is forced to be on leave during his aggressive treatment for asbestosis.

Workers’ comp and work-related illnesses

Thousands of employees, like Hank, suffer from diseases, illnesses, or injuries directly related to their jobs.   Whether you have a repetitive stress injury such as a carpal tunnel syndrome or an incurable disease related to toxin exposure, you have the right to and may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation.  Workers’ compensation can be described as a “job insurance” and was created to protect people who are injured at work or while “on the clock”.  Employees, who have suffered a work-related injury or illness, are provided with fixed monetary awards, which are intended to prevent litigation (legal action).  Additionally, some laws protect the employers by limiting the amount of benefits that an injured worker can obtain.

Workers’ compensation benefits often differ from state to state.  In New York, for example, employees eligible for benefits may receive a larger amount of compensation than in states like Georgia.  While each state allows eligible employees to receive two-thirds of the average weekly wage, the amount of the actual cash benefits differ greatly (such factors including cost-of-living should be considered).  Employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits for their injury or illness may also be eligible for additional benefits (in addition to or instead of cash): supplemental, social security, medical and/or death.  The amount you receive for additional benefits, however, may be lower if you already receive workers’ compensation benefits.  According to the Social Security Administration, individuals who apply and are eligible to receive social security disability (SSD) benefits may receive a smaller payment if he/she already receives workers’ compensation payments.

Don’t be left struggling after a work-related injury

Millions of employees across the U.S. go to work each day, trusting that they will be safe on the job.  Unfortunately, hard-working Americans fall victim to work-related injuries or illnesses, are forced to take leave (or quit work all together) and face the fear of financial worry.  If you or a loved one has developed an illness from a working environment or suffers from the chronic pain of a stress injury, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.  Before you file, make sure you know the rules within your state, as laws differ slightly across the U.S.  While your injury may prevent you from making a full recovery, benefits can help you cover everyday costs of living.  Don’t delay; file your claim today!

About the author: Robert Gordon is the editor of medical-directions.com, a health fanatic and avid Kayaker. He spends most of his time reading medical blogs and searching for new content to engage his readership. 

Image license: Compliance and Safety LLC, CC BY-SA 3.0