A judge in Western New York is considering dismissing workers-comp charges against a volunteer fireman because he’s technically not working for money.
James Moreland, 66, claims he hurt himself two years ago at his blacktopping job, and filed for workers comp benefits. He’s collected $45,000 since then. Moreland also also gone out on 177 fire and rescue calls.
He’s not getting paid as a fireman, so he’s following the law in that area. But the question remains, if he’s fit to volunteer as a firefighter, should he continue collecting comp money?
If the judge dismisses the charges, as the defense has requested, it could affect volunteer firefighters across the state. It also would send a message to workers in Western New York that committing fraud is not a big deal. And that’s a shame, because people there already have a high tolerance for fraud.
Perhaps it stems from the tough economy that continues to plague the area. Yet there seems to be a large percentage of people in Western New York who are either on comp or drawing Social Security disability. I know from first-hand experience. I lived there for 22 years and visit often. Many people think it’s perfectly fine to fudge the truth if it means getting a check in the mail every month.
The judge’s decision will have an impact, one way or another. We’ll be watching and report back to you.
About the author: Dennis Jay is executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.