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You are here: Law & Politics Legal A Surprising Economic Casualty
During the economic crisis, even state and federal government agencies had to cut costs and look for ways to save money. The result was a cutback on many social programs that people take for granted. For example, Lee Braunstein, an attorney of the Law Offices of Lee S Braunstein, P.C., has seen huge changes in the workers' compensation application process during the past few years.

“Workers' Compensation has been around since the beginning of the 20th century,” Braunstein said. “New York, like every other state, came up with a system which in theory is supposed to provide financial benefits and medical benefits pretty much instantly, to help carry you through the period where you're disabled.” Workers' compensation is a tradeoff protecting employers from lawsuits while still providing compensation for injured employees.

“The law is intentionally written to be very liberal. The idea is, unless the person is just not credible, or unless there's no medical documentation to confirm the accident, they give every benefit of doubt to the injured worker,” he said. “In the last several years, that has changed dramatically.” Workers' compensation claims have always been administered by the Workers' Compensation Board through the state, but in the past few years the system has become far more adversarial.

In 2010, New York State changed the workers' compensation guidelines to limit available medical treatments. According to Braunstein, no one involved is happy with the changes. “Most practitioners on both sides are miserable. And most of these insurance companies are miserable,” he said. “And they've basically taken away the right of the law judge, when there was a dispute over something as small as physical therapy or medication or need for minor tests, to authorize those things quickly at a hearing.” Even former employees who received permanent pensions decades ago have had their cases reopened by insurance companies and their pensions revoked.

“If these changes continue, as far as the change in the medical structure, the payment schedule, the fact that they have no pensions available to them anymore... these people are going to be on the doorstep of Albany very soon,” Braunstein said.

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