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Kamin: EDD's Understaffing and Tech Problems is Delaying Settlements

  • State: California
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The Legislature’s failure to fully fund the Employment Development Department has led to a situation where countless settlements are being delayed, and the department’s annual revenues are being artificially depressed due to understaffing.

John P. Kamin

John P. Kamin

The dereliction of the Legislature’s duty to fully fund our friends at the EDD has created a untenable situation where there are too few EDD representatives to do basic tasks, such as:

  • Answer phone calls.
  • Provide basic information such as: How much has EDD paid? At what rate? For which body parts? Which doctor certified EDD?
  • Negotiate EDD lien settlements in complex situations.

From a defense perspective, this has resulted in situations where parties cannot settle cases in chief due to pending EDD liens, and an inability to negotiate the EDD lien. There is quite literally a queue of defense attorneys at many defense firms seeking to negotiate with EDD, which would ultimately result in more money for EDD’s coffers. But this cannot be achieved due to EDD’s current limitations.

Current EDD Staff Are Doing Their Best, They Are Not the Problem

To be clear, this is not an indictment of the current EDD representatives and supervisors. I know many of them from numerous boards and I get along quite well with them. I sincerely appreciate the difficult and seemingly endless work that they do, without complaining or griping. They are incredibly productive, hard-working professional people. None of them asked me to write this blog (probably because they’re too busy to think about stuff like that).

The Problem

There are multiple problems that have led to this current situation:

  • An antiquated computer system with slow software that crashes from time to time. When it’s not crashing, it can move at a snail’s pace.
  • An incredible amount of understaffing.
  • Even if there were more staff added, more office space would probably be needed to accommodate them at the WCABs.
  • All too often, phone calls to EDD go unanswered.
  • On trial day, it’s common to see an EDD lien representative accommodating 3-6 trials, while also trying to do other tasks.
  • The great difficulty in obtaining EDD information is now leading to more double-dipping, i.e. applicants receiving EDD and administrators’ TTD/PDA benefits simultaneously. This makes cases even more difficult to settle.

Solutions

As evidenced by the list of problems, EDD is due for an upgrade in multiple areas. This is not a simple solution. But rather than simply complain, here are a few things that could help EDD, that would ultimately get EDD more money:

  • A centralized call center and/or website with login credentials and authentication for basic lien information.
  • An upgraded computer system. If the software is being upgraded, the computers running the software may need an upgrade too. I am personally unfamiliar with the download/upload speeds EDD is using, but if those speeds are slow then an Internet upgrade is also necessary.
  • Additional staff. I could easily rattle off names of numerous EDD employees who work long hours and do their best. That still doesn’t change the fact that the department as a whole is woefully understaffed. Increasing the amount of EDD Disability Department lien representatives by at least 30% to 50% appears to be necessary. This would allow EDD representatives more time to examine complex matters and answer the thousands of calls and emails they receive. Editor’s note: When we say “additional staff,” it’s also important to note that EDD needs to keep its existing staff who have extensive knowledge about workers’ compensation terms of art. A purge of existing staff could set the EDD back years and years.
  • Additional infrastructure. Currently, most WCAB offices only have one or two offices for EDD. If one increases staff, then one would presumably need more office space for EDD representatives to do their jobs.

Conclusion

If EDD had the staff, technology, and infrastructure it needed – cases in chief would get resolved faster, and they would see more money in their coffers. The current situation at EDD is woeful at best, and it’s time lawmakers paid attention.

John P. Kamin is a workers’ compensation defense attorney and equity partner at Bradford & Barthel’s Woodland Hills location. He is WorkCompCentral's former legal editor. This entry from Bradford & Barthel's blog appears with permission.

 

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