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Unbelievable…

…like 90% of Americans yesterday evening, I was glued to my television for Superbowl 51 and it did not disappoint. From kickoff, to the end of regulation, to the end of the first ever Superbowl overtime, this game provided everything you want in a final game of a season for any sport. For the eighth time this century, the newly crowned league MVP went into the biggest game of the season to defend their crown in front of the entire world. For the first three quarters of the game, it looked like the Atlanta Falcons were going to stomp a mud hole in the heart of the New England Patriots.

With the lead for four quarters of the game, the #1 scoring offense would not be denied their ranking and their abilities. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Tom Brady, the quarterback on the opposing sideline is a four time Superbowl champion and possibly one of the greatest to have ever played the position. The Patriots slowly and methodically came back and started to chop down the margin of points. A game that was at one point 28-3 in favor of the Falcons, slowly became one of the greatest comebacks not only in NFL history but Superbowl history. The clock hit 0:00 on the fourth quarter which signaled the end of regulation, the scoreboard read 28-28 and we’re headed to overtime for the first time in Superbowl history. As if the pressure wasn’t on for the Atlanta Falcons to take down the dominant Patriots and giving up a 25 point lead, the Patriots were trying to complete the ultimate comeback.

The Patriots received the ball first in overtime and the rest was history. 34-28 the New England Patriots are your 2016 World Champions and Tom Brady became the only quarterback in NFL History to win five Superbowls. After serving a four game suspension for the famous “deflate-gate” situation, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots played this season with a chip on their shoulder. This game had it all for any football fan. Excitement, suspenseful, thrilling, nail-biting, un-believable is some of the words I would use to describe this game. As great as it was to witness history, the Cleveland Browns are now on the clock and the new season has begun. Will the Falcons be able to return to the promise land? Can the Patriots successfully defend their title or will a new contender step up to the plate and dethrone the reigning champions? Many questions will go unanswered until September when the on field activities officially begin.

Until next time, thank you.

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Returning to work after injury?

Returning to work after a work injury can be a little scary, but here are a few tips to make the process go a little smoother. When your physician releases you to return to work, please make sure you have a conversation with your doctor. You should discuss whether your physician is releasing you to full duty or modified duty. If your physician is releasing you to return to work modified duty, then be sure to discuss with your employer the specific restrictions outlined in your release

            Key questions are as follows:

            1.         How many hours can I work a day;

            2.         How long can I sit or stand;

            3.         How much can I lift;

            4.         How much can I push or pull;

            5.         Can I drive on my medication;

            6.         Will my medication effect my cognitive skills;  and

            7.         How frequently should I stand or move around?

            Make sure you discuss whether or not you feel you can perform the duties outlined by your physician.  Your goal is to have a successful return to work whether it be full duty or modified duty.

            If you are returning to work modified or light duty, please give your restrictions to your employer before you return to make sure they accommodate your restrictions. If your employer does make accommodations based on your restrictions, please make sure you adhere to your restrictions.  You do not want to reinjure yourself.  Again, your goal is to have a successful recovery.

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How to Gain Trust Between Clients & Support Staff

  1. Always be available for client’s needs. Give clients your personal email/contact number to answer their questions or any concerns they may have to the best of your ability. Encourage your door is always open. Let clients know feedback and questions are always welcome.
  2. Pay attention and truly listen to what clients are saying and trying to tell you.  It’s easy to get distracted, but don’t let your attention drift or spend the time thinking about what you will say in response. Provide reflective feedback.  Rephrase to your client their questions/ concerns to let them know you heard and understood their points.
  3. Don’t rely on surface statements. If you don’t know the answer, that’s ok.  Spend time to research and get to the critical issues that are most meaningful to our client. Understand what the client really wants and try to meet those expectations to build respect.
  4. Keep your promises. If you make a commitment to a client, stick to it. Try to “under-promise” and “over-deliver.” In other words, don’t commit to something you cannot complete. Instead, give yourself more time than needed and be consistent. This generates good will among your clients and support staff.
  5. 5. Be aware of cultural differences when communicating. It’s not enough just to be polite; make sure your behavior is not inadvertently perceived as disrespectful according to other cultural norms.
  6. 6. Stay in contact. Touch base regularly with clients, and hold meetings with employees frequently enough to ensure everyone feels informed and are on the same page.  Remind clients that you care about them and you are interested in what they have to say.

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Why when I ask to speak with my attorney am I transferred to a team member instead?

Banks Law would like for our clients to understand that after you meet with your attorney, there is a whole team ready and waiting to assist you (and your attorney) with the handling of your file.  Your attorney will be in court 80% of the time or handling various appointments, depositions, meetings, etc. so that’s why Banks Law expands valuable time and resources into making sure that all of our staff members are fully trained to assist you.  Please have full confidence that your file is being monitored by at least 3 different staff members (including your attorney) at all times.  Each staff member is in charge of different aspects of your file. 

From our medical coordinators setting up your treatment to our pharmacy coordinator setting up your medications with WIRX pharmacy.  The second you leave our office we’re filing any necessary petitions and requesting your medical records pertaining to your work injury from your providers.  In addition to our hands on approach, we also have running checklists and reminders set via case management systems so that no aspect of your file goes unattended.  So that’s why you may get a call from different members of our staff.  Each one has their own assignments in your file.  We’re all here to help and we truly appreciate your confidence in our team and look forward continuing to serve you. 

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Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I am Injured in a Different State?

The answer is maybe. Finding the answer can be complicated. Every set of facts are different, so it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who can analyze the specific facts of your case.

Generally, Under Section 305.2 of the Act, if certain facts are true, you can still be eligible for benefits through the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. If you are hired in Pennsylvania, you are more likely to get benefits through the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Even if you weren’t hired for work in Pennsylvania, you could get Pennsylvania benefits if your work is “principally localized” in Pennsylvania. That means if you perform most of your work on behalf of your employer in Pennsylvania, and if your Employer has a business location in Pennsylvania, you could be hired in a different state, and even live in a different state, but be eligible for Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Even though you could potentially be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits in multiple states, you are only entitled to benefits from one place. Sorry, you cannot collect benefits from many states at once. If you already received benefits from one state, the insurance company for the state where your benefits will be paid would receive a credit for benefits paid by any other jurisdiction.

All jurisdictions are not created equal. If you think you may be entitled to benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, talk to an attorney.

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Cost-of-living adjustment (Social Security Disability)

On Tuesday October 18, 2016, Social Security announced a 0.3 percent benefit increase for 2017.  The increase is due to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and will begin for Social Security beneficiaries in January 2017.  Additionally, Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will receive the 0.3 percent increase as well beginning on December 30, 2016.  The adjustment is tied to the increase in the Consumer Price Index provided by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.  For additional information regarding the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) please visit https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2017.pdf.

For updated information about Medicare changes for 2017 please visit https://www.medicare.gov/

For your convenience attached please find the Social Security Fact Sheet where information regarding COLA, tax rates, retirement information and much, much more can be found.

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TSGLI (Traumatic Injury Protection):

More often than not, at least in my experience, I find that our veterans are not aware of the many benefits available to them.  Upon enlisting in any branch of the United States Military, soldiers are given the option to elect life insurance known as Service members’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI).  As with typical life insurance, SGLI pays a cash benefit to a beneficiary chosen by the Service member if he or she was to die while in service.  Once a soldier is discharged, he or she can then elect Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).  The funny thing, or sad thing (depending upon how you look at it) is that after having reviewed the SGLI Election and Certificate document within many veterans’ personnel files, Service members’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) is never mentioned or described anywhere.  This automatic provision of the SGLI policy was put in place to help provide monetary relief for Service members recovering from a traumatic injury suffered on or off duty while serving in the armed forces.  But perhaps it is mentioned later in separate election and certificate? Nope.  Nowhere.  I am not surprised at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) obvious plot to prevent knowledge of TSGLI coverage from reaching our Veterans; however, it is only going to exacerbate the nation’s already tainted and despondent opinion of them.

It wasn’t until after the VA realized an abundance of injuries caused by weaponry like Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs) used during the Global War on Terrorism, that they put TSGLI into place.  The TSGLI provision was officially added to SGLI on December 1, 2005, and was retroactively added as of October 7, 2001 – the day the United States invaded Afghanistan commencing the War on Terrorism – regardless of whether not Service members had elected SGLI coverage.  The insurance pays out increments of $25,000 up to $100,000 for current soldiers or veterans who suffered a traumatic brain injury or other traumatic injury while enlisted that resulted in one or more scheduled losses for at least thirty consecutive day.  Scheduled losses include:  sensory losses, burns, paralysis, amputation, limb salvage, facial reconstruction, inpatient hospitalization, activities of daily living, and genitourinary losses.  Of course other details and eligibility requirements exist, but it would be interesting to know how many veterans there are that might be eligible, but have absolutely no idea that Traumatic Injury Protection exists!

If you are a veteran who served in the United States military anytime since October 1, 2001, and suffered a traumatic brain or other injury, on or off duty, causing at least one of the losses previously mentioned, take initiative and find out if you qualify! You will never know if you are eligible for TSGLI benefits if you never even attempt to find out! Make a move and pick up your phone, go on the internet – do whatever it takes – but do something! Get out of the pitiful coop of ignorance the VA holds you hostage in, and take advantage of what was promised to you!  Thank you to all the veterans for your service, courage, and sacrifices! Let Banks Law repay the favor and serve you – we will be waiting for your call.

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What to Expect When Injured on the Job?

If you are injured at work it is important that you know what to expect.  It can be an overwhelming experience, especially if it is the first time you have ever had a work injury.  First and foremost, report your injury to your supervisor or Human Resources Department immediately.  Your employer should have posters in a common area at your place of employment outlining the steps to take should you suffer a work injury.  Be sure to complete an Injury Report.  If you suffer a serious injury and do not have time to complete these steps, your health and well-being is most important so get to a medical facility for treatment first.  Make sure you explain to the medical provider that you were injured at work.  Please obtain documentation from the medical provider and, if you did not have a chance to report your injury to your employer, make sure you do so as soon as possible.  You may think you do not need an attorney, but it is important to know your rights.  Please feel free to reach out to Banks Law to discuss your case.  We are here to answer your questions, put you at ease and guide you through this difficult time.

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US agrees to pay billions to Marines affected by toxic water

If you are a Veteran who lived on the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987 you could be entitled to service-connection compensation.  The VA has acknowledged that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune during those years contained industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals.

Find the full story at Philly.com.

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Who are Decision Review Officer (DROs) and what do they do?

Anytime I file a Notice of Disagreement, I always request a hearing before a Decision Review Officer.  This is an optional hearing that takes place at the Philadelphia Regional Office with the Decision Review Officer (DRO) who is deciding your claim on appeal.  I request this hearing for a couple reasons:

Firstly, it is the first time a Veteran will talk face to face with the person deciding their claim.  In other words, the VA gets to see the human side of a Veteran, instead of him/her being simply a stack of medical records.  Secondly, it gives the Veteran the chance to tell their story through testimony which is recorded and becomes part of the record.  Thirdly, it allows the attorney and Veteran to speak candidly with the DRO and to discuss what evidence is needed to get the claim approved.

My clients often express anxiety about these hearings, because they think they are going to “court”.  Rest assured, these hearings are a low stress environment and are nothing to worry about.  The DROs are not judges and in my experience are always friendly with the Veteran.  I believe they truly want to reach the best possible resolution to the Veteran’s claim.   These hearings only last an hour and are great way to make sure the VA has all they need to get your claim approved.

Please be aware, if you file a claim on your own be sure you write to the VA specifically stating that you want to have a DRO hearing.  They will not automatically give it to you.  You must request it!

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