I said I was done with the lien issue in California.
Never say "done" I guess.
“Until we know the size of the problem, it’s difficult to come up with a solution that addresses the concerns in a more efficient way,” Carl Brakensiek, California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS) executive vice president, told WorkCompCentral. “It seems like what the WCAB did was come up with a blockbuster solution that could be enormous or could fizzle. It all depends on the size of the problem.”
Indeed, the size of the problem does not appear to be accurately understood.
My understanding is that there are 425 boxes of un-filed paper liens stockpiled and taking up department time and resources. The boxes depicted in the photo from that post are copy paper boxes. A box of copy paper, when packed by a machine with wrapping, contains 5000 sheets of paper.
If these boxes met those standards, that means 2,125,000 sheets of paper. The typical OCR lien package with a single page attachment supporting the lien (which used to be required under the "old" rules) is 8 pages (including separator sheets, cover sheet, 3-page lien form, proof of service, and invoices). That means about 265,625 un-filed liens IF these pieces of paper were packed by machine.
But the paper isn't packed by machines - people stuffed these boxes and people can't do the job as good as a machine with new, fresh paper. Some liens will have more pages, and some boxes will be packed more efficiently than others, so the number of pieces of paper in each box is probably quite a bit less than 5,000.
The Administration claims that there are close to half a million liens being filed each year -- in addition to a backlog of close to 1 million liens waiting to be scanned -- with an average value of $1,500 each.
“When you think of the 500,000 liens coming into our offices, plus 800,000 in boxes, plus the litigation over all that, that alone is a huge amount of money,” Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker said in the story linked above.
Okay - so either the administration is overstating the "lien problem", someone can't count, or the "lien problem" isn't as advertised.
Shouldn’t the public get an accurate count of exactly how many boxes of un-filed liens are sitting around the state right now? We heard “close to a million” liens, but how do they know this when what they have to look at are only boxes?
All these lien rules and changes from the Administration is being done based on 500,000 liens incoming each year. But if there is only 425 boxes left un-scanned, then lien filings can’t possibly be that high.
The numbers don't add up, and I think the workers' compensation community deserves the real numbers since they are being burdened with new rules and regulations that are based on these "facts."
In the meantime lien claimants are lining up to file for hearings putting additional pressure on the District Offices. A sample review of hearing notices for "lien conferences" - the precursor to getting a lien trial - shows that dates are being set in Long Beach for MARCH 2013, in San Diego for JANUARY 2013, and in Van Nuys for DECEMBER 2012.
Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the Division of Workers’ Compensation, told WorkCompCentral that the administration anticipates an increase in the number of lien DORs being filed. The division is exploring “a multitude of possibilities” to “accommodate an increase and to ensure that lien claimants get their day in court.”
Possible solutions include expanding the calendar to allow for more lien conference settings and bringing in judges from Northern California to assist in the southern part of the state. The division is also considering a pro-tem calendar to address lien DORs and could hold “lien intensives where there would be a concentration of lien conferences for a few days,” Fryer said.
Listen - the administration is reacting to a problem it doesn't even understand, and is making things worse.
My grandfather back in his day was a Master Mechanic - that was when the trades meant something and people took pride in their trade. The key to being a good Master Mechanic is that only one problem is addressed at a time because of cascading effects of problem resolution - one needs to see what happens down the chain of events to see if the proposed resolution of a problem creates more problems than it resolves.
The original "lien problem" was the quantity of paper - at least that is what it started out as. But we don't even know just how big of a problem it is. And in the meantime we have a whole host of new problems being created by regulations that address more than the original problem.
My grandfather also facetiously said, "if it doesn't fit, use a bigger hammer."
Deal with one problem at a time. In this case, just deal with the paper. User a bigger hammer. Fit all that paper into the system. THEN determine the next problem.
In the meantime, the administration is back in defensive mode and reacting to an issue it doesn't even understand adequately.
If the problem is paper, then the administration needs to get rid of the paper.
If the goal is saving money - and it is, because the administration is tasked with ferreting out costs in the system to support an increase in permanent disability indemnity - then we should know EXACTLY how much we are saving.
We don't know, and we can't know, until there is an accurate quantification. This isn't difficult math. Someone just has to count.