VIRTUALLY UNKNOWN: Believe it or not, there is a category of disability benefits that remains virtually unknown to the public at large. These involve weekly money payments as well as substantial medical coverage. The money benefits can extend over the individual’s lifetime and upon death they even extend to the dependent spouse for his or her lifetime. These benefits are not advertised. They receive no publicity on television or radio. In fact, unless you know specifically what you are looking for, information regarding these benefits can be difficult to find.
WHO KNOWS: The knowledge of such benefits is limited to certain lawyers and insurance company personnel and certain specialized judges. These tremendously valuable benefits are the subject of New Jersey State occupational disease law under workers’ compensation. Workers' compensation, however, involves every conceivable "occupational disease" as well. So we have decided to devote a complete section to these "hidden" benefits. They are not intentionally hidden from the public but rather "hidden" in the way that many of the hints and ideas peppered throughout this web site are "hidden". They are simply not widely known to the public at large.
OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES: This Website has already devoted an entire section to Workers’ Compensation. That section explains fully compensation benefits as they apply to accidents and injuries that arise out of and during the course of your employment. Most everyone knows that if you injure your back by way of an accident on the job you are entitled to something referred to as workers’ compensation. Motor vehicle accidents that arise out of your employment are also covered. Those are explained fully in the earlier section on workers’ compensation. What most people don’t know is that “accidents” are but a percentage of the claims processed by the Division of Workers’ Compensation. A very large percentage of claims have to do with “occupational diseases”.
- Suppose someone told you that there is no disease entity that cannot be caused or made worse by one's employment. You may think that statement to be absurd but, then, think about this – can't every disease process be affected by stress? That represents a common denominator or rather a universal employment factor that can produce the aggravation, acceleration and/or exacerbation of practically any disease entity including emotional entity (both physical and emotional).
LAW: So what is an occupational disease. It involves any medical or emotional condition whatsoever that is either caused by or made worse by one’s employment. There need be no accident in order to trigger eligibility for such benefits. There need only be occupational “activity” or “exposure” that affects you. Click here to view many of the diseases and other medical and emotional conditions that have been or might very well be the subject of an occupational disease workers’ compensation claim.
EXPOSURES: Just to mention a few they include – exposure to extremes in temperature, loud noises (e.g. heavy equipment, the drilling of rock and the confined work environment: lead ( paint and indoor firing ranges); fumes; toxins; dust (Inhalation of excessive levels of silica dust can lead to silicosis, another disabling and potentially fatal lung disease. e.g. miners, hardscape installers); smoke; stressors (such as hostile work environment; harassment by co-workers; unreasonable, discriminatory job demands; gender based insults); mold; chemicals (e.g. in labs or cleaning agents – see NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards); X-rays; HIV or hepatitis “C” blood (e.g. as nurse or correction officer); repetitive motion (e.g. carpal tunnel and tarsal tunnel syndrome); lead; radio frequency fields; asbestos; pesticides; asphalt fumes; confined spaces; electrical energy injuries; hand and arm vibration; sustained body posture or awkward positioning (working with nonadjustable furniture or equipment).; excessive reaching; nitrous oxide (by health professionals); dry-cleaning solvents; toxins from burning homes or commercial building (e.g. fire fighters); flight attendant exposure (includes: cosmic ionizing radiation, alterations of circadian rhythm from travel across time zones, cabin pollutants such as tobacco smoke and ozone, physical demands such as prolonged standing, and psychological demands such as job stress); antineoplastic agents (cancer chemotherapy drugs, cytotoxic drugs) in cancer patients (by healthcare workers, hospital waste handlers and pharmacists); infectious aerosols; airborne microbial agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi (can cause illness in workers in a variety of settings, including health care, poultry farming, construction, and emergency response); latex gloves ( may result in allergic reactions); SARS infected material (e.g. laboratorians); TB (healthcare workers); diesel exhaust (is a potential human carcinogen); overtime and extended (required) work shifts (can cause “burn out”); exposure to nano-sized particles in the manufacturing or industrial use of nanomaterials. You can view a list of jobs and their hazard
SCOPE: Theoretically, there is no limitation as to those diseases or conditions that are theoretically covered under workers’ compensation. The list that appears above is not one that appears anywhere in the statute. It simply represents the many types of medical conditions that have been (or may be) subject to occupational claims.
- Not only can all diseases and disabilities be the subject of “occupational disease” compensation claims; but also, the unique law of compensation permits an individual to present all pre-existing disabilities along with the last compensable accident or occupational disease in arriving at total disability. See – Second Injury Fund
- Therefore, without making this too complicated, you should understand that if you are not working because of a disability or because of several disabilities, you may be eligible to apply under the “occupational disease” portion of the workers' compensation statute for benefits that will represent 70 percent of your salary when you last worked and which benefits may continue for the rest of your life. These benefits may be collectible fully or partially in addition to Social Security disability. They can be received fully in addition to regular Social Security retirement.
EXAMPLE: Suppose you suffered from asthma ever since you were a child and then took employment where you were exposed to dust, mold, fumes or other bronchial pulmonary irritants, which caused your asthma to worsen and possibly superimposed emphysema or COPD on top of the pre-existing asthma. Under those circumstances proof of the “aggravation” can make you eligible to receive all of the benefits mentioned in the workers’ compensation section. In fact, you may be entitled to receive 70 percent of your salary when you last worked for the rest of your life.
BENEFITS: Browse the entire Section on WORKERS’ COMPENSATION to see the various benefits that are available as they are the same for “occupational diseases”.
WHAT TO DO: If you would like to have your disability reviewed for potential money and medical benefits – go to ASK THE EXPERT