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Power to the People with Brain Injury

Amanda Nachman

Brain Injury Blog by Amanda Nachman

March 6, 2013

Power to the People with Brain Injury

Whoever tells you that you can’t make a difference in our political system is wrong!  I got to learn this first hand today.

I attended a meeting at the state capitol building for people with disabilities.  The MN Brain Injury Alliance had arranged for me to meet with my legislators to discuss an issue that I would like to see addressed.  I chose workman’s compensation insurance since it had such a negative impact on my recovery.  I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in January of 2011 while on a field trip with my students.  Because I was on the job, and unable to work, I was placed on workman’s comp.

At the time I didn’t even know about workman’s comp, what it meant, or that there are lawyers who specialize in this field.  With worker’s comp, you receive part of your salary, your medical expenses are covered, but you have to get their prior approval before attending medical providers.  What also falls under workman’s compensation obligations is that you can pick or you’re assigned a QRC.  A QRC is a qualified rehabilitation consultant.  I had no idea what this meant, but I was told I needed one by a workman’s compensation attorney. The job of a QRC is to work with the injured worker to assist in getting them back to work to either their original position, or a new position if their injury keeps them from being able to perform their former job-related duties.  This did not happen for me.

At Issue 

The first challenge with the workman’s compensation was that I tried to return to teaching, but it did not work out.  I tried a second time, but over the summer break, like many other teachers, I didn’t have teaching obligations, but was on the payroll.  However, I did have to pack up my classroom and set it up in another room down the hall without school assistance.  After the first day of teaching, I was placed down to part-time by my doctor, and then completely removed permanently by the end of the week.  My symptoms from my brain injury were elevating and debilitating.  Because of the long summer break without being on workman’s comp, they did not allow me to go back on it without petitioning them.  In the end, after over a year of no income, and covering my own medical expenses, we settled with them and we were done.  If I had not had my husband, I would have been homeless, and unable to seek any kind of medical care for myself, let alone have shelter, food, and take care of my kids.  I had been a teacher with a master’s degree, and fifteen years of experience, left out in the cold… literally.

The second challenge was with our QRC.  The first one we were able to replace after she caused some issues between my employer and myself.  The second QRC was just as challenging, but it is very difficult to get rid of a second one without going through a very complicated process.  No one was holding her accountable.  I had to edit her reports before they were sent off.  She made my journey much more difficult than it had to be with her miscommunications, and biased reporting on behalf of the insurance company whom her company had done quite a lot of business with.

Need for Brain Injury Advocacy

Things need to change! The second person I met with was a state senator who responded immediately to my concerns.  He said he would co-author an amendment to the statutes, gave us some recommendations, and we were sent down the hall to meet with another senator.  Although we did not meet with him, we met with someone in his office who set up a senate council meeting along with an attorney to begin drafting new language.  This is coming up next week.

My mission is to help others not go through all that I have had to go through with my brain injury. One aspect of that was what I dealt with in the area of workman’s compensation.  I cannot change my past experiences, but with politicians responding like they did, we do have a chance to make changes for others in the future.  He definitely restored my faith in the idea of possibilities of change.  Sometimes it just takes one person. If you have a cause you feel passionate about, I hope you pursue it knowing that we can make our dreams come true.