When are you entitled to workers' compensation benefits but not entitled to actually get the check? Apparently, if you're working at some rehab facilities operating out Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas. Now that the lid has been blown off the secretive practice, more victims of workers' comp fraud are likely to come forward -- unless they're sitting in jail because of their injuries and don't know what's happening much beyond the reach of their cells.
If you or someone you know could be a victim of this variety of workers' comp fraud, this is what you should know:
All of the Victims Are Addicts Participating in Court-Ordered Alternative Rehab
Usually, when someone talks about workers' comp fraud, it's in reference to someone faking an injury and then collecting benefits he or she wasn't really due. In these cases, all of the victims were actually injured -- some severely so. Insurers paid all of their claims -- but the workers themselves never saw the money.
That's because all of the victims were drug addicts who had been sentenced to a court-ordered "alternative" recovery program in lieu of jail. The program forces the men to work without pay at chicken processing plants -- which is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and exploitive jobs in the country. The work is somehow considered part of the men's therapy -- although investigations are showing that these "rehabs" are mostly work camps that only benefit their owners.
Victims Are Often Unaware They're Due Compensation, Fired, and Sent to Jail
When one of these workers becomes injured, they're often in the dark about their entitlement to workers' comp benefits -- because that's what the rehab center tells them. The rehab center tells the men that they're "clients" who can't claim compensation if injured on the job because they aren't really employees. However, the rehab center then lists the men as employees on the company workers' comp insurance plan -- and is quick to file a claim if the "client" is injured.
The injured worker usually has no idea about the claim and the rehab center keeps the check. Worse, if a worker's injuries are severe enough that he can't return to work, he's fired from the so-called treatment program. This often sends the injured worker straight back in front of the judge and then to jail.
If it doesn't, he's still left with injuries that make it impossible to work and no monetary benefits to help him through, get retraining, or find another position. Even though an injury caused the man to stop working and led to his firing, he's also considered a rehab failure -- which will likely affect any future sentencing from a judge if the man happens to land in court again for a similar offense.
Legal Experts Generally Agree the Acts Are Fraud and a Constitutional Violation
It's important to note that these men are not convicted of their drug crime and are in a diversion program instead. Many legal experts believe the addicts' Constitutional rights are being violated -- the 13th Amendment prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude for those not being punished for a crime. In addition, legal experts say that the whole combination of practices -- telling workers they're not due benefits while ensuring them anyhow -- then collecting and keeping the money that should go to the injured -- is fraud.
Anyone who knows or suspects that he or she has experienced the same sort of workers' comp fraud after an injury while working for a rehab facility or as part of an alternative sentencing program for drug or alcohol addiction should consult an attorney for advice. A workers' compensation attorney, like one from McNair Law Offices, PLLC, may be able to help you get the benefits you deserve and look into other legal claims against the facility as necessary.