Workers in Santa Cruz County feel delays with Online State Disability Insurance system backlog
Mar 13, 2013 (Santa Cruz Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
SCOTTS VALLEY -- Cynthia Sims was facing a $41,000 medical bill and counting on state disability checks to ease her recovery and return to work.
She got two checks in mid-January. When she returned to work part-time, the payments stopped.
On Feb. 27, she emailed the Sentinel, "It took them three months to get the first checks to me and now they are six weeks behind in payments. All of this is very frustrating when I am trying to recover from a serious accident, pay existing medical bills while continuing to generate new ones with follow-up appointments, all while I try to work as much as I can."
Thousands of injured workers are using a new $159 million State Disability Insurance system, which went live in October to improve efficiency of a program paying nearly $5 billion in benefits to close to 1 million California workers a year. Expectations were the online system would nearly eliminate the need to key in new claims and reduce costs of filing and storing paper documents.
But the transition, seven years in the making, proved complicated.
A day after the Sentinel talked with a spokeswoman at the state Employment Development Department and staff of Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley and Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, Sims had good news.
"I got two calls yesterday and a check for January," she said. "They faxed me all the forms to fill out to give them my hours and a form to send to the doctor to have claims reinstated.
Things are moving. Everyone stirring the pot has to help."
She said both state employees who called her were "apologetic but very nice."
In December, officials set up a Facebook page where many vented about being unable to reach EDD staff by phone.
As Sims put it, "forget the generic phone number, I can never get through on it."
Neither could her doctor.
Catalina Martinez, Employment Development Department spokeswoman, acknowledged the delays.
"Staff is working overtime to keep up with the demand" and "making progress" toward a goal of processing 86 percent of claims within 14 days, she said.
In January, the state authorized 57,741 claims, more than the 56,245 claims filed, according to Martinez. In February, 51,213 claims were filed and 50,012 authorized.
"Our customers can help minimize the delay, speed up the transition, and expedite claim processing by registering in the new SDI Online system," Martinez said.
The alternative is to use optical character recognition forms, which can be ordered online. Delivery takes up to four weeks.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz
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