View Full Version : Hurt on the job.

06-01-2011, 02:29 AM
I get hurt at work pretty bad some months ago at work. I tore some tendens in my nee pretty bad so I can not walk and my doctor says that it will take over a year to get better. So I have been out of work. Now comp is telling me to go to work or loose my job. I didnt hurt me on purpose. They sayed since there was no inmates involved that they dont have to cover me.

I saw some issues about this on loisfraleyfoundation.org. When you look around this seems to be a big issue. Is there anyone else out there that is getting screwed by workers comp. Is there any one to help? What do I do?

06-01-2011, 03:00 AM
I found this awhile back. From what I know the state it self is pretty bad. All the laws point to them and screw you. Get a attorney. Then dont trust them. The workmans comp doctors are all the same, they all work for the state and are paid good to deny you. You could have been stabbed and they will either say it was pre-existing or that you have no injury from it. I can only imagine what some of the police officers that got burned in cars went through. You should see what firefighters go through. Read this but pay attention to the workmans comp and your right to sue.

Saturday, November 7, 2009
Lewis Prison Stand-off Litigation
I find the angle on this article a little troubling (the whole victim-blames-victim thing), but posted the section I found most interesting in yellow. There are few parts actually, but, what really intrigued me was the section about workmen's comp laws and the state "owning the rights to (Fraley's) complaint" against the food service company. I wondered if all corrections officers - all state employees, knew this was how it worked. Who needs violent criminals when the state will do it to you themselves?

Prison-hostage rape victim blames other victim

Legal repercussions from Arizona’s longest prison-hostage saga continue dragging through court five years later, but with a curious twist: One of two women sexually assaulted during the drama is blaming the other rape victim for allowing the violence to get started.

The Maricopa County Superior Court suit was filed three years ago by Lois Fraley, a correctional officer at Lewis Prison who was held in a guard tower for 15 days during 2004 by two inmates, Ricky Wassenaar and Steven Coy.

Defendants include Canteen Correctional Services Corporation, which prepared inmate meals in a kitchen where the incident began, as well as a company employee who was raped by Coy.

That employee previously sued the Department of Corrections and received an undisclosed financial settlement after alleging that prison officials negligently allowed violent felons to work with civilians in the kitchen. She blamed lax prison security, inadequate training and incompetence.

In the ongoing case, attorney Joel Robbins, who represents Fraley, alleges that the female kitchen employee failed to close and lock an office door as required by prison rules. As a result, the suit says, Wassenaar and Coy were able to enter the office and overpower the Canteen employee and a DOC guard in the room.

While Coy raped the kitchen worker, Wassenaar went to a nearby guard tower where Fraley and detention officer Jason Auch were on duty. According Department of Correction records, Auch failed to verify who was at the door before pressing an electronic buzz-in device. Wassenaar entered the tower, subdued both guards and gained control of an arsenal. Coy then joined him. Auch was released midway through the ordeal, while Fraley was held hostage and terrorized for two weeks.

A peaceful surrender was arranged with both inmates promised out-of-state transfers to complete their prison terms.

Fraley’s lawsuit says Coy was able to fashion a homemade shank in the kitchen using metal bands removed from milk cases that had been banned because of previous incidents.

Although Auch’s decision to open the tower door was crucial later on, the suit argues, the rampage could have been averted if kitchen employee upheld their security responsibilities: “Ms. Fraley would never have had to endure the two weeks in hell but for Canteen’s conduct.”

Canteen Corp. contends in legal filings that the company was responsible for preparing food, not overseeing inmates or maintaining security.

The trial has been tentatively scheduled for late 2011.

As a state employee, Fraley was barred from suing the Department of Corrections under terms of Arizona’s workers compensation law.

According to court papers, she sued Canteen on behalf of the state, which owned the rights to her complaint. However, the state reassigned those rights back to Fraley, subject to a lien.

Arizona previously sued its insurance company for refusing to honor liability coverage in the prison saga. The outcome of that case could not be determined.

Meanwhile, Coy and Wassenaar – both convicted on multiple felony charges in the escape attempt – are serving consecutive life sentences in out-of-state prisons.

The kitchen employee is not in this report because the Republic does not identify rape victims unless they have gone public. Fraley, no longer a prison guard, has openly discussed her experience and operates a foundation on behalf of hostage victims.

06-01-2011, 07:57 PM
RUUUUUUNNNNN!! Workmans comp has one objective, to save money. They assign a nurse case manager whose whole job is to review your past history, past medical records, and current medical records. They nitpic out everything that makes it look like it was something else besides the injury and give it to the workmans comp doctors to make a determination on your case. I swear workmans comp wrote the doctors report. They put everything in the report that was against my injury and omitted everything that supported it. It was obvious to me but not my attorney! Go figure that I feel smarter than my damn attorney.

My suggestion. Tape record every doctor visit. The law says you do not have to disclose the fact you are taping. I started at the end and caught the workmans comp doctor in a lie, good for me and my attorney. I took a video camera to the independent medical exam. The doctors report said that he did certain tests on me which he did not. The video showed it. And guess what with all this evidence, the workmans comp law judge sided with workmans comp. So now I am in appeal.

Video/Audio tape, do a report of every visit of what they did and did not do and the smart ass comments they make.

My last suggestion, never tell any doctor your medical history or family medical history. I put that my grandmother had demintia two years ago with a dentist, now they are trying to say I have a family history of mental illness and sent me to a psychatrist who said my issues were depresion. He also put that I had a pap smear a couple of days before my injury and was stressed waiting for the results of the test.

So an inmate in the kitchen gets dish machine liqued in my eyes and bunrs my tear ducts and that was caused by my pap smear and grandma's deminsia.

06-03-2011, 08:02 AM
I was responding to the 909 riots in CB1 when I tripped up the stairs (ya laugh GFYS) and tweek my jaw. I reported it and went to the doctor. My doctor followed it and said I got TMJ as a result. Then I got sleep apnea as a result. My doctor tryed to send me to a sleep study and they refused. They sent me to what they call an IME (Individual Medical Examiner) that is payed by the state (guess what they are going to say. The found where a inmate punched me in the face in 1994. I was punched in the forehead as a matter of fact. They also found where I had gotten in a car accident in Apache Junction a year before. They said that this was what caused my TMJ and that I was over stating the case for attention. I was denied anymore treatment. I got screeee eeeew wwwed! Now I still have problems, I am just glad that I had insurance to cover the bills.

I read the story and cannot believe what these people do to us, WTF? We put our life on the line and thats what we get.

06-03-2011, 10:09 PM
Ya, the nurses that they assign to your case are so nice then they f you in cour back. There job is to research your past to find anything to show that it was prior injury away from work. In my case they said it was my fault for getting rear ended at work and was cut off. I lost my truck, was kicked out of my apartment, and almost lost my job. I had to get a attorney here in Tempe to fight for three years. He was only able to get me 5000 bucks.

The reason they do this is because by law they have to pay for the loss of function, loss of a body part, or permenant injury. So like if you lost a finger they have to pay you like $25,000! So like me I got hit from behind and hurt parts from head to toe, would have cost the state $280,000. So that is their point. After three years I got 5000, they saved them selves 230,000. The bankruptcy court took the 5000.

Then they wonder why I just go to work and do the minimum that is needed.

06-06-2011, 09:48 PM
i think i'm in a bit of shock at the moment. i finally got my IME report from WC- they forgot to send it to me and my attorney. the wc doc is releasing me back to work full-time with no restrictions starting monday. not only that, but wc sent me a notice to stop all wc benefits (including medical) because their doc said my work injury was just a strain, and everything since then is a pre-existing condition called marfan's syndrom. my regular doc says i have 0% chance of having this syndrome. he did agree to send me for an ultrasound of my abdominal aorta and endiocardiogram and an eye exam to prove i don't have it. this is all well & good but what about me & the increased pain this will put me in. my attorney isn't being very helpful. i figured he'd make phone calls & get busy on my case. instead he said there is nothing to be done about having to return full-time. if i try it & it is to much, then i will lose my job. if i have my doc start me out part-time i will lose my job. this is sooooo insane. i had my injury 1 year and 9 months ago, have been to various doctors who haven't been able to get anywhere except to say it is an si problem and they have no idea why it hasn't healed. finally i found a doc last month who seems to know her stuff- si problem & possibly facet problem. i am right in the middle of diagnostic injections, and haven't even talked about treatment yet. how can they do this. my attorney says i am expected to continue with all of my docs, and doesn't have any answer to how i'm supposed to pull this off! i have no sick time because i burned it up on this injury & docs have the same hours that i do. the wc doc didn't take into consideration the deep depression that this back injury has caused me & the fibromyalgia that my rheumatologist says i got from this injury. putting me at work all day is going to send my pain levels out of the water, which will only trigger my fibro in full gear and deepen the depression. i feel like i am in a very bad nightmere. if you pray please pray for me. i am so stressed out & anxious over this. and i can't imagine driving 40 minutes to work, then working 8 hours sitting in a car and in meetings, then driving 40 minutes home. pain pills aren't much of an option because i have to be able to drive myself. oh man. i'm going to stop rambling. thanks for letting me share.
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06-06-2011, 10:54 PM
Of course I will continue on my medication. I can't walk or really do anything without it. That's why I find it funny that I was rated at 100% able to return to work without restrictions and a -0- rating. That is fine with me but why would they still keep paying for the medication for the narcotics and for tens unit supplies when they case is closed in their eyes???? It's because I can't walk and they know it. There is no gap in pay!

The Ime put me at MMI and stated I "COULD" go back to work with -0- restrictions and -0- future care needed.
Now don't get me wrong I have not problem going to work and would love to show up and give all the employee's a gander at what workmans comp has done to me but they will not let me come back because I am physically not able to walk.

The state is self insured so I am stuck with the following:
Their paid pcp's say I can go back to work with no restrictions and -0- rating but will not fill out my return to work paper work stating that I am 100% able to return to work with -0- restrictions.
Their IME doctors state the same but will not fill out my paper work to go back to work...
My family pcp who can't believe that they are still prescribing all of these medications clearly because they are needed but state I am ready to go back to work with -0- restrictions and -0- rating. She also will not fill out the paper work because she says that the pain management doctor should be the one because I am still under his care if he is in fact still dispensing medication....

Shame of it is when these doctors put those kind of statements in writing they prevented me from LTD, Social Security, and Unemployment. I thought this was complete bull shit so I called doc and explained how I was not going to sit back and let them watch me starve. I was going to go to the media. I was going to let them do a story on me and what this broken system did to me. Funny how when my friend stopped with my mail " Oh yea their doctors have it that I can't drive!" and wouldn't ya know it, a check that was big enough for them to catch up my medical, retirement, dental, and union dues. Plus enough to pay some bills in advance.

Funny the state reacts when faced with the possibility of the media tarnishing their view of them. What they are doing to me is wrong and they know it. I don't want a settlement. I have no problem going to work. They have plenty of jobs that I "COULD" do. I don't feel that social security should be the one to pay for me the rest of my life when it was my companies fault for running day to day with faulty equipment. They were the ones when confronted with the facts that security needed fixed and didnt fix it. So they "ARE" going to be the ones to pay for it. I will not sit back and let them starve me out. Sorry I have a nest egg and I will spend all of it going to the media, magazine, news paper, or even talk show person who will give me the time to explain how we are supposed to sit back and let them destroy our lives.

I raised my voice once and got a check, wonder what a article in a local paper would do???

06-06-2011, 11:01 PM
I found these on www.workmanscompensationinsurance.com (http://www.workmanscompensationinsurance.com). They are about Arizona DOC.

I often wonder how many people just give up and either dont file anything or just go back to work. I think if I could have without fear of being hurt or worse..or risking someone elses safety(I was a Correction Officer) I may have gone back. I have not enjoyed most of the crap I have had to go thru. And some of these employers just assume everyone is faking it. They see some report about 1 guy frauding the system and assume its everyone. Its a bad stigma attached and as wel on this board know..its not accurate

I know its an old cliche and all that..but this is why I think its best to fight for every inch and every penny.

It is very difficult to weed thru all the crap that you have to go thru..just work on getting yourself better. The stress of all the legal garbage doesnt help. I know once I said to myself that no matter what I was gonna do..being back at 100% was not a very possible outcome and that I just needed to get as right as I could physically,mentally and financially..I have had a better go of it. I fully believe in karma. theman1974.

Next one

I agree! I was an officer too. When I got hurt I took a few seconds and thought to myself just don't say a word. After I got up and realized I couldn't walk and my next post would of been impossible to get to I knew I had to report it. When I was taken to the medical department I thought to my self, I work for a great company and they will take care of me. I'll tell you I couldn't of been any more wrong! When they took me to the emergency room and they put me off for three days to get the swelling to go down and gave me a script for pain meds my company actually sent me to a w/c whore who put me back to work with in 18 hours of the accident! All to save them from a (what they call a clock reset). Each injury that calls for time off or pain meds raise the employers insurance rates. They didn't care about me or the pain they caused me working 12.5 hours a day. They cared about their insurance rates. I remember a officer looking at me and saying "why are you here a few hours after the injury you have no color in your face". I remember saying to her "I am in so much pain my teeth are chattering". From day one they were building a case against me. I also remember going to our medical department three weeks later and asking him "look at my ankle, why is it turning inward?" He said " Don't worry physical therapy will fix that". I didn't get physical therapy till five months later, after my ankle was completely contracted inward and was so painful word can't explain how I managed. It makes me sick to my stomach looking back and thinking that they were taking care of me. All they were doing was building a case against me!

06-08-2011, 06:02 PM
You may have to go out of your town to see a doctor that has a clue. I dont think you have to agree to have the nurse case manager "HELP" you. There job is to get you denied. The nurse case manager works directly with what they call the defense and the defense attorney. The defense attorney is this little snot bag with no emotions. She works directly for DOC. So dont think ADOA or the Industrial Commision is the only ones trying to save money, IT IS DOC, IT IS THEIR SELF INSURANCE!!!!!!!

1. Stay with your doctor. Talk to your doctor and have them support you 100000000%.

2. Have your doctor find a good specialist that knows your injury. Look for one that does not work or accept money from workmans comp as a part of their earnings. They should accept payment on your behalf. THere are doctors that advecate for petients and for treatment. I found my doctor by looking up my injury. I kept seeing the same name on all the medical studies reports. I googled him and e-mailed him in california. He refered me to a doctor in flagstaff. I went to flagstaff and he tested me. I WON MY CASE after having been lied about by the "IME".


06-23-2011, 06:28 PM
I got hurt in mentance after an inmate that stole bleach from the kitchen had tried to fix his toilet with it. When I pored drain clear into it I breathed the toxic cloud and started to bleed in my lungs. I now have to have oxygen all the time. The comp doctor said I had pre-existing ashma and it was not DOC fault and if so it was my fault for mixing the chemicals. I found this chemical specialist doctor, Dr. Michael Gray. Google him or what ever. He is in Tomstone past Tucson. He found out what was wrong with me and got me the right treatment. He also found me a attorney that help me get approved since my union sided with doc.

11-06-2011, 05:09 AM
Hey Mrs. S, I saw your post above. I am sorry that our own department and the state would do that to you and your reputation. I wish there was some one out there that coulc help you. So much for our union at work I guess thats why they are gone now.

Workmans comp hates law enforcement.

MOD 613
11-08-2011, 12:30 AM
Actually, from an administrative roll, it is the position of the department and the state to save money, especially since it is self insured. Right off the get go the state sets you up by sending a nurse case manager to talk with you. The nurse case manager interviews you in length about prior injuries and activities that they WILL use against you in the future. Then they will have you leave your doctor to go to an industrial commission controlled physiatrist. They explain so nicely to you that this doctor will be better at controlling your case and treatment.
Ethically, I cannot say that all of these doctors are against you or biased on one side of another, but who pays them? Get what I mean. What is strange to me is that the doctor will ask the nurse case manager for approval for a procedure or treatment. The nurse, who is not a doctor, will determine if the doctor’s plan is good enough or warranted. What is really going on is that the nurse case manager is calling the industrial commission asking if it will be approved. The industrial commission looks at how much it will cost, how much it is going to continue to cost then approves or denies it. This person is not going on medical need but cost to the insured, in this case DOC.
You will not be treated as a law enforcement officer that was injured in the line of duty protecting the public but more like a expense that needs to be illuminated, so do not be surprised.
The nurse case manager will call every doctor to sway them that you are not injured or were not injured at work. Since the nurse case manager is a medical professional, ethical or not, doctors often side with them. The industrial commission is the ones that pay these doctors, hmmm.
The industrial commission will then send you to an independent medical examiner (IME) to review your files and make a determination whether you are injured and if so was it at work. These independent doctors all work for the industrial commission and have done so for years. I have sat with officers that have been denied for the last 20 something years and have seen the same names of doctors and there business fronts. So how are they independent? I have also looked up where my doctor lives and where one of their doctors lives. My doctor is the top heart doctor here in Phoenix; he lives in a $650,000 house that he is still paying on. One of the industrial commission’s doctors that has been “independent” but only see’s workman comp patients’ lives in a $1.7 million dollar house in Scottsdale. So who gets paid better by whom and for what?
The system is one sided, and until we all as workers change it, it will remain the same.
You have rights, cut and paste this or print it out because you will want it and give it to your friends and fellow employees.
When you are injured, you do not have to file a workman’s comp report of injury. You do have to report that you were injured, but you do not have to accept compensation form the state. What am I saying is if you except compensation you cannot and will not be able to sue the state. (This is only if the state was negligent) This includes your family, so if you were to die from the injury or illness your family will have to fight for benefits in court. You are on a 90 day time line to take legal action, so get an attorney.
If you do accept workman’s comp you are only required to go to the initial workman’s comp doctor once. Then you can go to your own doctor. You do have to go to the IME’s when ordered to. They will try everything to get you to go to one of their own regular doctors to replace your family physician, do not do it. Your doctor is on your side, and if he or she is not, find one that is.
When you go to the initial doctor for the first time of your injury, record the event. If you fell and broke your wrist, ask the doctor if they are a specialist in bone injuries. I had one of my Lieutenants hurt herself and was seen by a dentist for a broken finger she caught in a sally port. The dentist wrote that she could return to work the next day without a cast. The same dentist referred her to a workman’s comp podiatrist. The referral was in a month. One, what is a podiatrist going to do for her broken finger and the doctor would have had to re-break it after it had healed over a month. Do not go to the doctor they refer you to, go to your doctor and have them refer you to a specialist related to your injury.
You have the right to record and video tape each visit with the workman’s comp doctors or IME’s. You also have the right to all reports written by these doctors and should obtain them. Check them for accuracy, if they are not, dispute it. I have seen where a doctor said one thing and reported another to the commission. My secretary at the time one her case when she played the recording to the judge in court. The doctor was also disciplined by the board for ethical practices standards. Keep good records and provide good records. Go to the doctor with a complete list of symptoms that are related to your injury. If you fell off a ladder and broke your collar bone and bumped your head you would obviously complain about the broken collar bone. But what about the brain injury that you suffer and do not realize because you suffered a brain injury but do not realize it, hmmm. You may have headaches, dizziness, and slurred speech at times, or other symptoms that you should type out and share with the doctors.
You have the right to bar the NURSE CASE MANAGER from going in with you when you see the doctor. The nurse case manager will and can come see the doctor, but they do not have the right to hear your intimate details when you talk with the doctor. But, do have them come in afterwards so you can hear the BS they use try to sway the doctor.
These are just some rights. Now let me give you some suggestions.
Do everything you can not to get hurt at work. Do not be hazardous or act like a cowboy (or cowgirl) while at work. Of all my years I have never been hurt at work, I do have a heart condition and I believe it is related to the stress at work, but I have never been physically hurt. Most every person that has been hurt at work has been impatient, hurried, running to fast, or putting themselves in undue risk. Now, things happen and that is a different case, but the point is do not hurt yourself because they will fish it out and bring it to light while they deny you.
If you are hurt at work and feel you will be out for more than 30 days, GET A WORKMANS COMPENSATION ATTORNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Only an attorney can ensure you get the treatment you deserve, so do not be writing me for help. If you think the injury may be permanent, no matter how you feel now, in 20 years you may be in a wheel chair from it. I know of a medical person that accidently stuck themselves with a syringe from a diabetic inmate. Turned out the inmate had hepatitis- c. The CRN took the pills but they did not work, the CRN contracted hep-c. I stood by this CRN as they went through the workman’s comp system. They did not settle the case when they offered a couple of thousand dollars. The nurse being a nurse knew what was coming. They demanded life time medical treatment. This nurse was just put on dialysis because the hep-c that destroyed their liver has now destroyed their kidneys. Then it will be the heart and then that will be it. So, think of the futre and make sure your doctor does as well.
Before you are ever hurt at work, watch what you say to yours, or any other doctor you see. They tend to write it down or miss interpret what you mean. Obtain and review ALL of your medical records. Have any and all mistakes corrected. Case in point, my 81 year old mother had ladies surgery. We happened to have to fight Medicare because they refused to pay. The intake nurse wrote that she could see fine, she is actually blind. Another nurse wrote that she walked from the surgery room to the recovery room without assistance or difficulty. My momma has not walked in 15 years, and I doubt many ladies would walk after this type surgery. Then a nurse wrote that she urinated just fine, again my momma has used a catheter bag for 15 years, so she did not urinate just fine. So imagine if all these mistakes were written in your emergency room visit after you were hurt at work. So review and correct mistakes in your medical records.
If you hurt yourself and need guidance, please feel free to e-mail me at MOD 613 that is listed below. I will give you the best advice I can. I can also tell you how to find the attorneys in your area.

11-28-2011, 07:12 PM
I found out today that a guy I know had been hurt on the job two years ago. He received a toxic brain injury at work. His wife tells me that workmans comp has fought his treatment from day one. What is we are to do to make things better for all of us. :evil:

01-13-2012, 06:28 PM
One police widow's horror story of pure hell

Suzie Sawyer and Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) prove pivotal in Kathleen Weir’s desperate fight for her fallen husband’s death benefits



It took Det. John Weir 14 years to die after a paranoid schizophrenic stabbed him in the head with a nine-inch boning knife, rendering him paralyzed with catastrophic brain damage. Then it took another seven years for his widow to win a bitter battle with the federal government over survivor benefits she justly deserved.

Kathleen Weir says this past Christmas was “the first in a long time that I could afford gifts for our son and daughter and their families. I finally feel like John has been acknowledged and someone appreciates what he did and how he sacrificed.”

The struggle to reach that vindication was “a horror story of pure hell,” she says. And the ultimate validating victory, she is quick to point out, would not have been possible except for the intervention and dogged tenacity of Suzie Sawyer, founder of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).

Related Feature:

Reflections on 27 years of serving C.O.P.S.
I leave my 27-year position as Executive Director with Concerns of Police Survivors feeling a great sense of pride, knowing I have left a great legacy to help law enforcement families.

Worst Case of Injustice
“In my 30 years of working with law enforcement deaths,” Sawyer told PoliceOne, “this is the worst case of injustice I’ve seen.”

The assailant behind the knife had threatened to lobotomize John Weir, “and he very nearly did,” Kathy Weir says. The 38-year-old man was what some cops call a “frequent flyer,” the subject of repeated crisis calls because of his mental derangement. John, a 19-year veteran of the police department, had responded to a number of these and, though not formally trained in negotiation, had developed a track record of successfully “talking him down.”

Late in September 1990, the man barricaded himself in the dark, cramped basement of his parents’ house in their small city in Upper Michigan by piling up outboard motors to block the narrow stairway. From that “dark hole,” he threatened to set himself and the house on fire and to kill his parents with a boning knife they’d given him as a present.

Forty-three-year-old John Weir, who’d made detective a year earlier, was sent to deal with him. According to what Kathy says she learned later, he was instructed by a supervisor to avoid gunfire and flashbangs and instead to “use Mace and wrestle him into submission,” if force became necessary.

“John talked to the man for 20 hours without any relief,” says Kathy, herself the daughter of a police officer. Finally, after repeatedly screaming back threats and invective, the suspect calmed down and seemed willing to cooperate with a trip to a mental hospital. “With a can of Mace in one hand, John started to remove the barricade,” Kathy says.

Suddenly, the suspect lurched around a corner. He dumped a bucket he’d used as a toilet over the detective’s head. Then he flashed the boning knife and jammed it into John’s skull at the corner of his right eye, ripped it across the bridge of his nose, and dug it deep behind his left eye, into his brain. “The last thing John ever saw,” says Kathy, “was that nine-inch blade.”

For his action, the suspect spent 18 months in a treatment facility, then was released, Kathy says. She has no idea where he is today. For John Weir, the attack resulted in what she calls her husband’s “first death.”

“Initially, he was not supposed to live past a day,” she says. “Then the doctors said he wouldn’t live past a month. Then they said four months. Then they said he’d never get past a year.” He kept beating the odds, a questionable blessing.

“He was in a coma for three months, and when he ‘woke up’ he was in not much more than a coma for several months more,” Kathy recalls. At his bedside as he was initially shuttled from hospital to hospital in Michigan, she kept telling him, “John, you’re just resting. You’re going to wake up and everything will be okay.”

But then, she says, “At the end of six months, I had to face what we had and it was horrific.”

Except for movement of his left hand — his off hand — he was paralyzed. He was also blind, unable even to distinguish night from day. And he was amnesic, his recognition of who he was wiped out with everything else. “He’d forget every day that he was blind and you’d see him trying so hard to see. It was heartbreaking,” Kathy says.

“At one point I brought him home in a wheelchair for a visit. He didn’t know he was there because he couldn’t see. He kept saying, ‘I want to go home.’ When his parents came to visit, he told them, ‘You’re not my parents! I want my parents!’ He couldn’t remember getting married or having children. He didn’t know who I was. It took me years of reinforcing it every day to convince him that I was his wife.”

The Letter of the Law
Today, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program, administered by the federal DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, provides financial aid to families of officers who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty, as well as those slain. But in 1990, PSOB issued only death benefits. “John was stabbed just two months before the law started allowing benefits for injuries,” Kathy says. The program could not be made retroactive to include him.

To supplement the marginal income from his workman’s comp and Social Security disability, Kathy sold the family home eight months after the stabbing and moved to Battle Creek, where she’d found a medical facility she felt would offer the best services for her husband. The Weirs’ 19-year-old son moved to Colorado to live with a police officer uncle and their 12-year-old daughter moved south with Kathy. The family dog had to be put down because the small apartment they could afford didn’t allow pets.

Between periodic spells in the hospital or a rehabilitation center, Kathy cared for John in the apartment full-time. At one of facilities where he’d been a patient up north shortly before the move to Battle Creek, she’d found him one day strapped naked in a chair and slumped over, abandoned. She was determined that he never again be neglected and without stimulation.

“He didn’t know who he was, but he liked hearing about who he was,” Kathy recalls. She spent an eternity talking to him about the past, hoping to penetrate his fog of amnesia. Her reminiscing seemed to bring him “some contentment and happiness,” but there were no breakthroughs.

His capacity for speech was severely limited. Most often he mechanically repeated, “I wanna go home.” Or, almost daily, he cried out, “Mattress! Mattress!” That, Kathy finally concluded, was evidence of terrifying flashbacks to the stabbing in which he thought he might have used a mattress as a protective shield on the basement stairway.

Day upon day, year upon year, she fed him, she washed him, she changed his diapers, which he often would tear off and fling around the room. Transplanted in an unfamiliar town, she had no circle of friends nearby. In time, relatives drifted away, absorbed in their own lives. John’s former fellow officers never called. At one point, she says, an administrator from his old department urged her to “let him starve” to bring an end to the mounting costs of keeping him alive.

“I never felt so alone in my life,” she says. “I was worn to a frazzle, but I never gave up hope.”

On 9/11, nearly 11 years after John was injured, Kathy and her daughter watched on TV as the Twin Towers came down and learned of the public safety lives lost to the violent acts of other madmen. “You know,” Kathy remarked to her daughter, “your dad is a hero, just like them.” Her daughter replied, “You’re the only one in the world who thinks that.”

“I cried and cried,” Kathy says. “It felt like John had done something wrong and we should be ashamed of him.”

Over the years, “John nearly died many times,” Kathy says. When the end finally did come, it was agony for him and agony to watch. “Everything in his body was failing, falling like dominoes,” she says. “His urine backed up. He bled…so much blood, all over him, all over the room. He was in constant, unbelievable pain from neurological complications.”

Holding his hand, Kathy said to him, “Would you rather stay here with the pain, or go to heaven?”

John murmured back, “No pain.”

He died — “his second death,” by Kathy’s reckoning — on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2004, 14 long years and nearly two months after the stabbing. A worker’s comp representative promptly telephoned and informed her that she’d have to return funds that had already been paid ahead beyond that date.

The cemetery wouldn’t open a grave because she didn’t have the money to pay up front. “It was the most terrible feeling in the world to think I couldn’t bury this poor man,” she says. “They finally made an exception because I had $10,000 coming from life insurance through his department.”

The Spirit of the Law
Her struggles were not yet over, as she was shocked to learn when she applied to the PSOB program for line-of-duty death benefits. The doctor who had performed a routine autopsy on John’s body at the funeral home had listed “natural causes” on the death certificate. The stabbing was mentioned only as a “contributing factor.” That was sufficient, the PSOB bureaucrats informed her, to disqualify her claim.

Kathy was stunned. “Every cop knows the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law,’’ she says. “Rejecting John’s case was not the spirit of what the benefits program is intended to be. It was obvious to me that he was murdered, but I couldn’t get them to see that.”

When Kathy desperately turned to the COPS organization for help, then-Executive Director Suzie Sawyer — a legendary dynamo of commitment to the well-being of officers’ survivors — grasped the injustice immediately.

Sawyer promised an all-out offensive in an effort to get the PSOB ruling reversed. But she warned that an appeal would be “a long, difficult process” and would require obtaining and reviewing “hundreds of medical records.”

Indeed, years stretched on as Sawyer helped Kathy build what COPS considered a convincing case, and frustrations arose on nearly every calendar page. “We seemed to hit very strong stone walls whichever way we turned,” Sawyer says.

For just one example, a local physician who had tended John was approached to see if he would write a letter challenging the conclusion about the cause of death, given a full understanding of John’s circumstances. “He stalled us for over four years,” Kathy says. “He didn’t want to get the doctor who performed the autopsy in trouble. Eventually he agreed to say the cause was ‘undetermined,’ but he wouldn’t go to ‘homicide.’

“I was 55 years old when John died. I wasn’t able to find a job after so many years out of the workforce. I was looking at old age with no future, and I couldn’t see a way out. I was very depressed. I thought a lot about putting a gun to my head.”

But bit by bit, reaching out to contacts across the country, Sawyer amassed evidence on Kathy’s side. In Minnesota, she recruited Dr. Janis Amatuzio, a pathologist internationally recognized as an authority in forensic medicine, who pored through “boxes and boxes” of medical records that Kathy assembled. Amatuzio, known as “the compassionate coroner,” became convinced that traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and medications affected all of John’s major organs, leading to his demise. It took him 14 years to die, she said, but homicide was definitely the cause of his death.

From Oklahoma, Sawyer brought Mike Grimes, retired deputy chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, into the case. Grimes’s twin brother had been killed in the line of duty during a shootout with prison escapees, and Grimes, once honored for police humanitarianism, had experience preparing PSOB claims for most of the surviving families of fallen officers in the Sooner State in recent years. For Kathy, he created a “tactical reconstruction” of the night John was attacked, “to show how he incurred his injury.”

“I’ve Got My Life Back”
Back east, Sawyer contacted Chief David Mitchell of the University of Maryland Police Dept. and former superintendent of the Maryland State Police. Mitchell is also an attorney and a specialist in disability law. He agreed to serve as Kathy’s lawyer at an appeals hearing.

A PSOB examiner heard evidence in the matter in January 2011, at a session in the Ingham County SO in Lansing, the state capital. Kathy, her daughter, and the COPS team testified.

When they finished, the hearing officer said he was convinced of the merit of their case, but he had to present his findings to his boss for final approval. It took PSOB 10 months to render a final decision.

“I waited and paced every day,” Kathy says. She nearly wore her carpet out. It was last November, just before Thanksgiving, before she finally got the call. Seven years after John died, she was at last approved for federal survivor benefits. The proceeds were calculated at the prescribed rate for the fiscal year of his death.

“After 21 years, I’ve got my life back,” Kathy told PoliceOne not long after she received the notification. “I can get haircuts, I can travel to see my grandchildren, I can get the brakes on my car fixed.

“Most important, I can tell people my husband died in the line of duty and he now has that affirmation to prove it.”

The national COPS office can be reached at: cops@nationalcops.org or by phoning 573-346-4911.

01-14-2016, 11:50 AM
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