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Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Leads to Disability Benefits

August 27, 2017

Represented by Ankin Law Office attorney Jill Wagner, a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Human Services received permanent partial disability benefits as well as payment of medical bills for her hand injuries.The caseworker had worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services for 29 years. As a caseworker, she was charged with assisting individuals who were applying to renew food stamp benefits. Her caseworker duties involved interviewing clients while inputting data on a computer, and responding to inquiries via telephone. She testified she “moved around a lot” within the same office but typically worked at a standard desk, with a computer in front of her and a telephone either in front of or behind her. She had no headset.

She testified she typically interviewed 10 to 15 clients per day, pursuant to a preset schedule, but was also required to interview clients who lacked appointments and simply walked in.

The carpal tunnel syndrome began when she returned to work after being seen by doctors for triggering of the right ring finger. She was forced to have left carpal tunnel release surgery and had to miss time at work. The Arbitrator awarded permanency equivalent to 12.5% loss of use of the right hand and 15% loss of use of the left hand. The Arbitrator also awarded her the Illinois Physicians Network bill of $3,724.83.

Click here to read the full arbitrator decision

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Summary of the Arbitrator Decision:
The Arbitrator finds that the caseworker (petitioner) established repetitive trauma injuries manifesting on April 1, 2010. The Arbitrator further finds that Petitioner established a causal connection between those injuries and her current post-operative bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome condition of ill-being. In so finding, the Arbitrator relies on Petitioner’s credible description of her duties, her credible denial of possible contributing systemic disorders such as diabetes, the records of Drs. Gelman and Rubenstein and Dr. Gelman’s report. The Arbitrator declines to rely on the causation opinions voiced by Dr. Fernandez, applying the analysis set forth in the preceding paragraph. The Arbitrator recognizes that Petitioner was off work during part of 2009 and had been back to work for only a month before she reported carpal tunnel symptoms. The Arbitrator finds it likely that these symptoms actually began before April 2010 but were overshadowed by the significant right ring finger problem.
Is Petitioner entitled to reasonable and necessary medical expenses?
The Arbitrator has previously found in Petitioner’s favor on the issues of the accident and causal connection.
Petitioner seeks an award of three medical bills totaling $8,594.65. The Arbitrator recognizes that the payment of benefits is not an admission of liability but finds it ironic that the claimed bills relate to surgeries the Illinois DHS (Respondent) pre-authorized. Two of the bills relate to the August 12, 2009, surgery and the third relates to post-operative therapy rendered in 2011. The Arbitrator also notes that at no time did Respondent’s examiner, Dr. Fernandez, question the necessity or reasonableness of Petitioner’s care.
in 10 WC 13841, the Arbitrator awards Petitioner the Illinois Physicians Network bill of $3,724.83, subject to the fee schedule and with Respondent receiving Credit for any payments it may have made toward this bill. IRX6 shows various 2013 payments to Illinois Physicians Network for therapy rendered between August 2, 2011, and November 11, 2011. This bill relates to therapy rendered in 2011.
The Arbitrator also awards permanency equivalent to 12.5% loss of use of the right hand (25.625 weeks) and 15% loss of use of the left hand (30.75 weeks), a total of 56.375 weeks. The Arbitrator notes that, in 10 WC 13841, Petitioner did not seek permanency for anybody parts other than her hands. In making this award, the Arbitrator relies in part on the records of Drs. Gelman and Rubenstein. The Arbitrator awards a slightly higher percentage of loss for the left hand based on Petitioner’s testimony and Dr. Fernandez’s examination findings. Dr. Fernandez saw Petitioner after the left carpal tunnel release but did not know the release had been performed. He noted ongoing symptoms of left carpal tunnel syndrome and indicated Petitioner might need surgery. His findings support Petitioner’s testimony as to ongoing left-sided symptoms.