Monday, February 2, 2009

Down The D.A.S. Rabbit Hole

I represent a client that has two Connecticut Worker's Compensation Claims. In each instance, my client was injured under circumstances that also allowed me to bring what are known as third party claims---lawsuits by any other name for the same injury. In these cases, the claimant typically recovers more money in the third party case than he or she does in the worker's comp case, the only caveat being that the worker's comp carrier must be paid back the benefits they paid on account of the same injury. It's that notion of "no double dipping" that I talk about.

In this case, however, the client also received assistance from the State of Connecticut at various times in his life. The State then also has a lien on the recovery proceeds. He's not a sophisticated guy and doesn't know for sure what he has received from the State in terms of assistance.

I'm trying to settle this rabbit's warren of a case and in the process had been informed by my client that he had been given different lien figures from the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services than DAS had given me. The client had figures showing they owed $2000 less than the numbers I had. Understandably, since they money would ultimately affect my client's bottom line, I decided to delve into it.

Armed with the lien letter I had and the various letters and payment coupons prepared by DAS that my client faxed me, I called DAS and tried speaking with the collections worker assigned to the file. I was informed by her voice mail that "she was out of the office until "x" and would not be calling in." No other information was given in the message. Good thing the State isn't having any money issues or anything. I called back and repeatedly pounded "0" until I connected with another collections worker who begrudgingly pulled up the screen. "Well...if that's what the screen says you owe then that's what you owe."

"What about the paperwork from D.A.S. that says he only owes this much?" I asked. I don't know about that and I don't have any information other than what the screen says."

"well can I fax a copy of these papers DAS is sending him that says he only owes this much this to you and have you take a look?"

"Uh sure."

I did. That was two weeks ago and never heard back from that civil servant.

Undaunted, I called again today and spoke with the collection worker who was now happily back from vacation and no doubt in a good and well rested mood, not having had to deal with any pesky voice mails in her absence.

"I have conflicting lien numbers from D.A.S. on this worker's comp case" I begin . "I want to get you guys the right amount of money but you're sending my client payment coupons that says he owes 2000 less than your lien letter says."

"I dont handle worker's compensation. I collect cash."

"Yeah, I know. I'm asking about the lien you have on my guy's case."

"I dont handle worker's compensation."

"Ok, well there is also a third party case."

"What is the file number?"

I respond.

"My lien is what it says on the screen."

"But why are you sending him a payment coupon that says he owes $2000 less?"

"Maybe that's for the woman. We don't send payment coupons. That's for a Foodstamp overpayment"

"Huh? What woman? My guy is a guy"

"My lien is what it says on the screen."

"Yeah, I got that, but I also have a payment coupon here from your agency saying my guy only owes "x" and my client has copious notes from her conversations with (names witheld) that says there are credits that were not applied to his account."

"We don't send payment coupons. That's from Foodstamps. I only care about cash assistance. Foodstamps is upstairs."

"But it says D.A.S. at the top. I can't settle this case until I know how much I need to send you guys. Are you telling me this information isn't coordinated at D.A.S?"

"I deal with cash. Foodstamps is upstairs. Maybe he got foodstamps when he wasn't eligible sometime."

"Well is that something I need to pay too or is that included in your figures?"

"I only deal with cash. Foodstamps is something else."


"I dont know what food stamps paid."

This conversation is surreal. If I sent a transcript to the Courant there would be a scandal!"

"I have a static screen."

"And I have a coupon with your Agency's name on it that says he only owes this much. Why cant you tell me why there is a discrepancy and what the actual amount I need to get you guys is? My client deserves an answer. I am legally responsible for dealing with this lien."

"I can pull the file. It will take a few weeks."

"But I'm trying to get this wrapped up now."

"Do you want me to pull his file? It will take two weeks."


Postscript: I called 4 other people today trying to make sense of this morass. As it turns out, the payment coupons come from DAS but are for Foodstamps. Even thought it is money that my guy owes, it is not part of the "lien" and not something I need to pay back.

Memo to Hon. M. Jodi Rell. It might be a good idea if the left hand at your agencies knew what the right hand was doing. D.A.S. is an important agency. Wouldn't it make sense to give them a computer system that actually allowed them to interface in a meaningful manner with their clients?

And a bit of customer service training wouldn't hurt either. If any of the people I dealt with at D.A.S worked for me and treated someone calling my office the way I was treated, they would be looking for a new job.

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