Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state workers’ compensation system in road to recovery

March 28, 2018 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: The following article appeared as a Community Voices article in the Opinion section of The Bakersfield Californian on March 26, 2018. To read the article in print format or online, scroll down to the “Media Coverage” section. 

———

Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state system in road to recovery

By Beatriz A Trejo

When we think of work injuries and workers’ compensation we typically think of slip-and-falls, car accidents, or perhaps back pain associated with lifting heavy objects.

What we often ignore are “progressive insidious diseases,” with cancer being one of the most aggressive and feared of these diseases. Recently, the San Francisco Fire Department reported a spike in their breast cancer rates, reporting that 15 percent of the department’s female firefighters between the ages of 40 and 50 had been diagnosed with cancer. That number is six times that of the national average. And, according to the American Cancer Society, occupational exposure to carcinogens accounts for 4 percent of all cancers in the United States.

So what is being done to help the hard working people in California? Sadly, very little.

For some professions, the California Labor Code finds cancer to be presumptively caused by work factors – these professions include firefighters and law enforcement officers. When cancer is found to have an industrial link, the disease is treated within the workers’ compensation system. But even when the cancer is found to be industrial, the injured worker is only entitled to a maximum of two years of wage replacement, which is only paid at two-thirds of their average weekly wages. At the end of the two years, an injured worker can expect payment of “permanent disability” at a maximum of $290 per week, which ends after a specified period of time.

Sadly, the worse aspect of treating cancer in the workers’ compensation system is the delay in medical treatment, which is subject to “utilization review.” In in its most basic form, utilization review allows insurance carriers to deny or delay medical treatment by having a “medical professional” review requests for treatment, and make a decision on the necessity of the request without ever seeing the patient or reviewing an entire medical file. At that point, the injured worker’s only option is to appeal the denial of treatment to an “independent medical review,” which is another blind review by another unknown “medical professional.”

By now, you should be asking yourself, “How is this legal?” And if you are not, you probably should. A work injury can happen to anyone – a day laborer, an office worker, a public servant – and it could be anything from a muscle strain to terminal cancer. In any case, when the injury is work related, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy of the injured worker, often trapping people in endless delays and denials of medical treatment and very little payout at the end.

Think about this – and our own hard working, injured firefighters and police officers in Bakersfield and Kern County – next time a Senate Bill or a proposition relating to workers’ compensation is on the ballot.

Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney at the Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. She was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar, and is a volunteer for Bakersfield’s Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness.

———

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles gives back in October for scholarships, local nonprofits, cancer fight, more

October 19, 2016 | 8:49 am


So far this month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has taken part in and supported several local programs that raise awareness of issues in our community, and raise funds to help our neighbors in need.

They include:

  • Tips for CHiPs: California Highway Patrol hosted its seventh “Tips for CHiPs” luncheon fundraiser on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Outback Steakhouse in Bakersfield, with Chain | Cohn | Stiles is serving as a gold sponsor. The fundraiser benefits the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Widows and Orphans Trust Fund, which helps families whose loved ones are killed in or off the line of duty. The fund is organized by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, a nonprofit that represents about 11,000 active and retired CHP officers, and is dedicated to assisting families of CHP officers. The event raised more than $31,000 this year.
  • Kern County Cancer RunUnfortunately, the Chain | Cohn | Stiles extended family knows too well the effects of cancer in our community. But we were proud to join CBCC Foundation for Community Wellness at the Kern County Cancer Run on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Yokuts Park, aimed to raise funds and awareness, and to encourage our community to support local cancer patients.

And the month of giving back isn’t over for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Here are a few more upcoming events and programs that you can join in supporting, too, and hopefully will make a big difference in our own community:

  • CSU Bakersfield Alumni Association’s Party in the Park: Funds raised for this annual party — held Friday, Oct. 21, at the CSUB Alumni Park — go toward alumni scholarships, membership outreach, and mentoring opportunities for current CSUB students. Three Chain | Cohn | Stiles associates are alumni of CSUB: Chad Boyles, Beatriz Trejo, and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller. Boyles is a member of the CSUB Alumni Association Board of Directors. For more information on the event, click here.
  • Olivia’s Heart Project Heart of Gold Gala: The vision of Olivia’s Heart Project is to increase awareness and prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest in children and young adults through community heart screenings, education and increased accessibility to life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The gala, which Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is sponsoring, will be held Saturday, Oct. 22, at Four Points Sheraton.
  • American Cancer Society’s Valley of Hope: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is serving as a “Supporting Sponsor” for this event that is aimed to finish the fight against cancer. Proceeds help local cancer patients stay well and get well, and find cures. The event is on Saturday, Oct. 22, at a private residence. For more information, click here.
  • American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walk: The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s premiere event for raising funds to save lives from this country’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers — heart disease and stroke. The Oct. 22 event is designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living.
  • Steve Alvidrez Scholarship Poker Tournament: The annual poker tournament raises money for scholarships for students majoring in criminology or going into law enforcement in honor of former Kern High School District Chief of Police Steven V. Alvidrez, who was killed after being hit while on his motorcycle by a drunk driver.
  • Barbell for Boobs: Inspired by athletes everywhere, the nonprofit is dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer, with an emphasis on women and men under the age of 40. Locally, athletes will come together in an exercise event on Oct. 29, at KC Crossfit.

Outside of the work we do for injured victims, through community involvement, our law firm also supports a number of local organizations. See a full list of recent contributions and community involvement here.

CCS sponsors Nathan’s Army 5K in fight against pediatric brain tumor

June 18, 2014 | 10:16 am


In January, 8-year-old Nathan Street of Bakersfield was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma — DIPG for short — which is highly aggressive and found in the brain stem, making it very difficult to treat.

The tumor is found in the pons area of the brain stem, which controls many of the body’s vital functions including breathing, blood pressure and heart rate, according to Boston’s Childrens Hospital. Radiation is the primary form of therapy for this newly diagnosed tumor, but it is a temporary fix. Experimental chemotherapy is also used; however, clinical trials have shown that the chemotherapy does not increase survival rates. Additionally, surgery is not an option as it can cause neurological damage and affect the body’s most vital functions.

Ultimately, the prognosis for DIPG is very poor, although a small percentage of patients can survive this disease, according to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The median survival is nine to 12 months, even with treatment.

The Bakersfield personal injury law firm of Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support the Street family and the Nathan’s Army 5K as Nathan battles against this disease.

The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the disease and increase research funding. Sponsors and supporters of the 5K also hope to raise funds for Nathan’s medical treatment, along with any other costs that the Street family will inevitably incur as they endure this fight.

The cause of DIPG is not currently understood. There are no known factors or conditions that make your child more or less likely to develop this type of tumor, according to Boston’s Childrens Hospital.

All proceeds and donations to Nathan’s Army 5K will benefit Nathan Street and pediatric DIPG research. Giving to Legacy Behavioral Services, a nonprofit organization, will allow donations and sponsorship to be tax deductible.

All donors and sponsors are recognized on the Nathan’s Army Facebook page and on the race day.

The 5K, 3.1-mile run or walk will go through the historic Rio Bravo Ranch, which is on 9,000 acres of diverse and scenic landscape. The trail route will take you over rustic ranch roads and up through citrus orchards overlooking the majestic Kern River. The course is suitable for all ages and abilities, however, please keep in mind it is a trail run.

It will be a timed event with awards in age categories given at the conclusion of the race.

Registration starts at 6:45 a.m. with the 5K kicking off at 8 a.m. The kid’s fun-run will follow. The ranch is at 15701 Highway 178.

To sign up as a participant in the event, go to the Nathan’s Army Active.com page.

To learn more about DIPG:

—–

UPDATE:

  • The 5K was a huge success, and about 750 people participated in this event.
  • KERO-23 (ABC) covered the 5K, Watch the news story here.
  • See CCS employees participating in the 5K here.