Tribpedia: Division Of Workers' Compensation

Tribpedia

The Division of Workers' Compensation is a sub-agency inside the Texas Department of Insurance. In 2005, lawmakers merged the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission into TDI, which created the Division of Workers' Compensation that exists today. A Sunset Commission review in 2010 found the agency in a state of transition, as lawmakers have overhauled it and made several changes to its ...

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State Fights Release of Race Records

Glenn Johnson, 55, was injured in a smelting accident near Amarillo in 1997 in which a furnace filled with molten metal exploded, crushed him and left major burns over 90 percent of his body. His left arm was amputated and all but two the muscles in his right forearm were removed.
Glenn Johnson, 55, was injured in a smelting accident near Amarillo in 1997 in which a furnace filled with molten metal exploded, crushed him and left major burns over 90 percent of his body. His left arm was amputated and all but two the muscles in his right forearm were removed.

The Texas Department of Insurance is fighting the Tribune’s request for records that could shed light on why the agency has failed to collect racial data on injured workers, despite a 1993 law that requires it. The agency says release of the data would violate its attorney-client privilege and unfairly reveal its inner workings.

Glenn Johnson, 55, was injured in a smelting accident near Amarillo in 1997 in which a furnace filled with molten metal exploded, crushed him and left major burns over 90 percent of his body. His left arm was amputated and all but two the muscles in his right forearm were removed.
Glenn Johnson, 55, was injured in a smelting accident near Amarillo in 1997 in which a furnace filled with molten metal exploded, crushed him and left major burns over 90 percent of his body. His left arm was amputated and all but two the muscles in his right forearm were removed.

Injury Data by Race Goes Uncollected in Texas

After the Texas Division of Workers' Compensation admitted it is not maintaining race data on all valid worker injury claims — despite a law requiring it — Rep. René Oliveira is pressing the agency to start collecting it. Advocates say without the data it's impossible to tell if injured minorities face discrimination at work.

Texas Work Safety Hotline Upgraded

More than 20 years after the Texas Legislature passed a law establishing a 24-hour work safety hotline, real people are answering the telephone calls around the clock. The upgrade came after the Tribune reported that callers were being turned away from the hotline after normal business hours.

Insurer Drops Suit Against Tyler Widow

Crystal Davis, a stay-at-home mom from Tyler, finally got some welcome news in her battle against an insurance company that sued to cut off the workers’ comp benefits she got after her husband was killed on the job. The insurer is dropping its lawsuit, her lawyer said.

Injured, Dead Workers are Casualties of "Texas Miracle"

For every hurt or killed worker, there are financial frustrations, hopes dashed, careers on hold. Here is a list of 2,000 Texans who died on the job and the stories of seven injured workers whose experiences underscore findings in our "Hurting for Work" series. 

 

Video: A Twisted System

Crystal Davis, a young widow in East Texas, fights a workers' comp system in which the odds are against employees in disputes with big insurers. This is part 3 of Hurting for Work, an investigative series. 

*Editors note: Since the Tribune’s reporting of this story, ACE American Insurance - Wayne Davis' workers’ compensation carrier - has decided to drop the lawsuit against Crystal Davis and her two children.

Workers' Comp Insurer Sues Widow to Stop Benefits

When two state troopers arrived at Crystal Davis' home in 2012, she learned the awful reality: Her husband had died in a traffic accident on the way to work. The nightmare didn’t end there. Her husband's workers' compensation insurance carrier sued her and her children to deny them benefits. 

After Catastrophic Fall, the Fight of One Worker's Life

When Santiago Arias fell off of an industrial warehouse roof, an expert hired by his attorney called his job site one of the most hazardous he’d seen in 40 years as a safety engineer. But advocates for injured workers say Arias' case is far from unique. While the Texas economy is booming, the state leads the nation in the number of worker deaths. And there is often no state-provided workers' compensation insurance or private equivalent, because Texas doesn’t require it. 

Behind Texas Miracle, a Broken System for Workers

Drive almost anywhere in the Lone Star State, and you'll see evidence of the “Texas miracle” economy that policymakers can’t quit talking about. But there’s something about the thriving economy that state leaders rarely mention: Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years, and when Texans get hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country. Texas is the only U.S. state that doesn’t require any private employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Texas Worker Safety Hotline Falters

State authorities are supposed to maintain a bilingual, 24-hour hotline for workers to report safety violations. Officials acknoweldged Friday that the h0tline has been inoperative after hours. They couldn't say how long it's been going on but vowed to fix the problem.

Texas Workers' Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon speaks to Texas Tribune reporter Elise Hu in 2010.
Texas Workers' Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon speaks to Texas Tribune reporter Elise Hu in 2010.

Texas Workers' Comp Commissioner Resigns

Texas Workers' Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has announced his resignation. Bordelon is stepping down as lawmakers are examining the workers' compensation system and as workers are losing more cases against insurance companies. The commissioner has said the state has “a terrific system” for injured workers.

Worker's Benefits Cut Off Two Decades Later

Laws set up to protect Texans who get hurt on the job are supposed to ensure they get lifetime medical care for their injuries. But sometimes that promise gets cut short after the bills start piling up, lawyers who represent them say. Mark Umphrey was injured on the job two decades ago, and his benefits were suddenly stopped.

State Rep. Renee Oliveira, D-Brownsville, votes yes on third reading of HB 1000 creating a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley on March 20, 2013.
State Rep. Renee Oliveira, D-Brownsville, votes yes on third reading of HB 1000 creating a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley on March 20, 2013.

A Half-Million in Texas Without Workplace Insurance

At least a half-million Texas workers have no workplace insurance coverage, either through the workers' compensation system or the private market. The figure prompted debate at a legislative hearing Tuesday about workers who have no protection after an injury or fatality — and who should foot the bill.

The Workers Defense Project and Iron Workers Union organized a demonstration Nov. 23, 2013.
The Workers Defense Project and Iron Workers Union organized a demonstration Nov. 23, 2013.

Injured Worker's Ex-Employer Denies Retaliation

UPDATED: A 19-year-old Honduran injured on the job is at the center of a workplace safety controversy. The Workers Defense Project says he was fired for speaking to investigators. His former employer says the firing was unrelated.

Jessinia Romero, center, listens as clergy joined janitors and supporters during a press conference to express interfaith leaders' support of janitorial workers in Houston, August 2, 2012 in Houston.
Jessinia Romero, center, listens as clergy joined janitors and supporters during a press conference to express interfaith leaders' support of janitorial workers in Houston, August 2, 2012 in Houston.

Houston Janitors in Their Fifth Week of Protests

More than 400 Houston janitors are in their fifth week of protests after unsettled negotiations with employers over a proposed wage increase. Their employers say the raise that janitors want is unrealistic given current economic conditions. The negotiations will resume Wednesday, and both parties are hoping they can come to an agreement. 

Tribweek Friday, April 6th.
Tribweek Friday, April 6th.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 4/2/12

The first two parts of M. Smith's series on failing school districts (plus Murphy and Seger's interactive on how districts' characteristics relate to ratings), Root on lagging GOP candidates for president trying to shore things up in Texas, Ramshaw on a "fiscal switcheroo" to get federal money for women's health programs, Galbraith talks to a West Texas farmer about crop insurance and climate change and Aguilar on the money behind a lawsuit on long rifle sales: The best of our best content from April 2 to 6, 2012.

Weekend Insider: Workers Comp, Houston School Closure

Unlike other states, Texas doesn't require employers to subscribe to its workers compensation program. Walmart, along with other large companies, recently decided to opt-out of workers compensation and hired a company to handle injury claims. Workers' rights advocates say the company plans can be unfair to employees, but businesses argue they serve workers well and help reduce costs.

Houston's North Forest Independent School District has a 30-year history of troubled finances and poor academic performance. Now, with the threat of closure, the community appears to have rallied around its schools. But, the support may be too late.

Find these stories and more in this weekend's editions of the The New York Times and at texastribune.org.

Former state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, on the Texas House floor in 2007
Former state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, on the Texas House floor in 2007

Did Lawmaker Access Private Records to Help Donors?

In the closing days of his last term in the Texas House, former state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, used his legislative authority to obtain confidential records from the Texas Medical Board, The Texas Tribune has learned. His reason? To defend doctors who he believes were wrongly the subjects of misconduct investigations by the board, which licenses the state's physicians.

In this clip from Monday's testimony, Commissioner Rod Bordelon of the state Division of Workers' Compensation explains why he dismissed several cases against doctors that a physician review panel had already sent to enforcement. Under questioning, he admits he looked into the process and subsequently shut it down after a call from state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.

Amid Tumult, House Panel Seeks Workers' Comp Fixes

Was it a broken process or a breakdown in leadership that kept bad doctors from getting removed from the state workers' compensation system? Lawmakers sought to answer that question on Monday but left a House hearing with no clear understanding of why hundreds of potential enforcement actions stalled or disappeared entirely over the last half-decade.

Workers' Comp Head Explains His Dismissal of Cases

In this clip from Monday's testimony, Commissioner Rod Bordelon of the state Division of Workers' Compensation explains why he dismissed several cases against doctors that a physician review panel had already sent to enforcement. Under questioning, he admits he looked into the process and subsequently shut it down after a call from state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.
The best of our best from the week of July 12th.
The best of our best from the week of July 12th.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of July 12, 2010

Grissom's three-part series (here, here and here) on prosperity and peril along the U.S.-Mexico border, Hu on the Division of Workers' Compensation audit report, Stiles puts more than 3,000 personal disclosure forms filed by politicians, candidates and state officials online, M. Smith on attempts to curb the practice of barratry (better known as ambulance chasing), Ramsey interviews the chair of the Texas Libertarian Party, Hamilton on attempts to improve the success rates of community colleges, Galbraith on whether electric deregulation has helped or hurt Texans, Aguilar talks to a chronicler of the bloody narco-wars and Ramshaw on doctors who most often prescribe antipsychotic drugs to the state's neediest patients: The best of our best from July 12 to 16, 2010.

State Audit Finds Massive Backlog at Workers' Comp

State auditors found muddled chains of command, missing files and a massive backlog of cases when they dug into the enforcement process at the Division of Workers' Compensation, according to a report released Thursday. The findings support the claims of former employees who exited the division this year amid complaints of stalled action on dozens of cases against workers' comp physicians accused of abusing the system.