Resource Newsletter
December 2012

Going the Distance

Meet a leading Oregon health and safety professional

Jennifer Flood, Ombudsman for Injured Workers

 

Company: Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services
Ombudsman for Injured Workers: Jennifer Flood
Number of workers assisted each year: 8,000 to 10,000 annually


Can you explain what your role is?

I provide assistance to injured workers and participate in statewide discussions that may impact workers' rights or benefits. My staff and I advocate for injured workers in their dealings with the workers' compensation system. We provide workers information about their rights, responsibilities, and benefits, as well as the rights and responsibilities of their employer or insurer. When assistance is needed beyond general information, we investigate and act to resolve the complaints or concerns.

What are some of the common issues you are able to assist with?

The workers' compensation process can be complex. Many of the inquiries that come to our office involve questions about what benefits are available and how to obtain those benefits. For instance, a worker calls our office and indicates he was injured three weeks ago and the doctor took him completely off of work, but he has not received any time-loss compensation. We will call the insurer to verify whether they are processing the claim and review other things such as whether a time-loss check was mailed, whether they have the accurate mailing address of the worker, etc. If there's a glitch, we assist in resolving the issue to ensure the worker receives benefits he or she is entitled to. Another example is when a worker is told her claim is being closed and her benefits are ending. In some cases, the doctor has indicated that the worker is not able to return to the job and her rent and bills need to be paid. In most cases, the insurer is appropriately processing the claim and we explain what options are available within the workers' compensation system. We also provide possible resources for assistance that may be available in their community.

I strongly believe that knowing where you stand (good or bad) is essential to making decisions going forward in life. We strive to ensure workers have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities and we are a resource to help them through the workers' compensation process. If possible, we try to help them through steps to get the worker back into the workforce.

A workplace death or injury is traumatic for any family. How do you help when things become emotional?

We listen and then listen more. It's an extremely difficult time for a family. Everyone reacts differently with death, and an unexpected death can be unbearable. We respect that everyone is different and we take the conversations at whatever pace they need. We look for opportunity to provide assistance and empathize with what the family is going through. If needed, we facilitate communication between the funeral home and insurance company or any other party that may be involved.

What type of training do you offer for businesses?

We will do any type of training related to the workers' compensation claim process. We can provide training to workers, unions, employers, insurers, special interest groups, etc. The topics can range from very general workers' compensation 101 to specific issues within the workers' compensation system. I like to find out what the needs of the group are and then custom design the training.

Do you have any advice for business owners who may be trying to cope with a fatality or accident?

When there's been a fatality or accident, it's important for the business to take care of both the employee and the business. Contacting their workers' compensation insurer will start the process of taking care of both. Knowing ahead of time what your rights and responsibilities are will help ensure everything is taken care of. If you have questions – you can always call your insurer or my office.

To contact Jennifer, call 800-927-1271 (toll-free) or 503-378-3351 or e-mail oiw.questions@state.or.us.