Examiner Op-ed July 2010

On Friday, July 2, 2010, the Examiner and the Post Now blog ran articles reporting that Kelly Valentine, the director of D.C.’s Office of Risk Management (“ORM”), has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the Office. At issue is $6 million in insurance premiums collected from hundreds of disabled employees that were not paid to insurance companies.

From its inception ten years ago, the D.C. Employment Justice Center has worked on behalf of many of these disabled government employees. The Injured Worker Advocates, our first organizing group, was formed in 2003 to address the systemic failures of ORM. We are pleased to see that the District is finally responding to longstanding institutional problems at the agency.

The history of the Disability Compensation Program is one of government bureaucracy and mismanagement. Originally, the program, which is the workers’ compensation system for District employees, was administered by the Department of Employment Services. When the program was moved to ORM, it was required to work with a third party administrator. Rather than saving the District money, however, the entire Disability Compensation Program became more expensive and more inefficient.

With the pending investigation of the life insurance premiums and the removal of the head of the agency, it is time to consider making more systemic changes to the Disability Compensation Program. “The insurance premiums that were deducted should have gone to the proper carrier. This not only puts a burden on claimants and their families, it also burdens the city and gives the appearance that the administration is engaged in insurance fraud,” says Shirley Massey, a disabled District worker. “How does the administration plan to restore coverage for us?”

Money is being squandered at a time when the District is facing significant budgetary shortfalls and all agencies are required to cut spending. Kelly Valentine made a six- figure salary while injured workers weren’t able to cover their bills due to her office’s mismanagement. Disabled workers in the District deserve better.

Janaki Spickard-Keeler