Workers Compensation Cases Approved Too Easily?
Workers Compensation Cases Approved Too Easily?

Springfield aldermen are questioning why some workers compensation claims are approved without question.

Joe McMenamin says a recent payout of $265,000 to a CWLP meter reader raises red flags for him. McMenamim also says Stephen Homa received roughly $800 a week for nearly three years while the case made its way through the system.  McMenamin says it has to stop.

“What I found unusual about this one is that for almost three years we paid for disability for this individual. Surely we could have found work for this individual with a hurt knee,” said McMenamin.

Homa accepted a job as a Health Care Coding Associate at Memorial Medical Center the day before the city council approved his $265,000 settlement claim.

Homa has also filed nearly a dozen workers compensation claims during his eighteen years with City Water Light and Power, which is leading some city officials to question whether rushing workers compensation claims through city council is such a good idea. Workers compensation claims, while rarely as large as Houma’s, are frequently pushed through city council with little to no discussion.

Mayor Mike Houston told WTAX it’s frequently less expensive to settle workers compensation cases than it would be to take them to arbitration.

Springfield paid out more than $3.5 million dollars last year in workers compensation claims.

Cahnman Wants Changes

Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman thinks the city should reconsider the award. The city council approval of a claim does not mean it’s set in stone, as the mayor has the final say. Cahnman, upon learning of Homa’s new employment through WTAX, sent a letter to Houston and the city’s corporation counsel but has yet to hear back.

Given workers compensation formulas, it’s possible the math could change if Homa’s case is taken to arbitration.

“Nobody knew at the time we settled the case,” said Cahnman of Homa’s new job. “We should have had as a provision of the settlement agreement that if he does have a new job, you know, he’s required to notify us.”

Cahnman is considering an ordinance to require more information be presented to city council before considering workers compensation claims. For example, in Homa’s instance his ten prior claims would be transparent.

Cahnman’s Friday conversation with WTAX’s Ray Lytle is available by clicking play on the audio link below.

WTAX’s Alex Degman contributed to this report