The Director for the Illinois Department of Corrections appeared before the Illinois House Appropriations Committee in April and said that millions of dollars of workers’ compensation payments made to guards at Menard prison were wrongly paid.
Carpal tunnel syndrome claims
According to Director Tony Godinez, hundreds of guards claimed injury from turning keys at the Menard Correctional Center between Jan 2008 and Dec 2010, leading to about $10 million in workers’ compensation settlements for carpal tunnel syndrome paid to Menard guards. Responding to questions from Rep. Dwight Kay, Godinez alleged that these claims were made fraudulently and have little merit.
Godinez said that he worked for 12 years at a facility elsewhere and never saw any workers’ compensation claims. He pointed out that there is no reason for keys to be turned more often at Menard than at any other prison in the country. While Godinez believes that some of the workers’ compensation claims made by guards over the past several years have been legitimate, other claims simply “don’t match up.”
2008 report buried for convenience
Despite the fact that an expert report was commissioned by the state of Illinois in 2008 and showed locking and unlocking prison cells did not actually cause repetitive trauma injury, the state of Illinois continued to grant workers’ compensation to Menard guards on the basis of carpal tunnel syndrome claims. Last June, the Belleville News-Democrat uncovered this report, leading to renewed questions about why the state paid so much undeserved workers’ compensation.
April 2012 audit
The Auditor General’s office released a report determining that the workers’ compensation system in Illinois awards money too readily. It would rather settle claims than go to court against a high-powered Chicago or Annapolis workers comp lawyer. The workers’ compensation office often forgoes medical evidence or even pays unsought benefits. As a result, state workers claimed injuries totaling more than $295 million for more than 26,000 claims between 2007 and 2010.