Oklahomans Caught Scamming Workers Comp Program

Monday, February 21st 2011, 7:02 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Reforming workers compensation is a big issue in the Oklahoma legislature this year. More than 20 bills have been filed and Governor Fallin is releasing her own plan Tuesday.

1/202011 Related Story: Fallin Says Current Oklahoma Workers Comp System To Stay

One private eye we talked to says the biggest reform needed is stopping the fraud. He says even when he catches people in the act, lying about their injuries, they still get paid. He says it doesn't make sense and it's just plain wrong.

Michael Heath has been doing private investigations for nearly two decades. A big part is checking on people who've made workers comp claims but are suspected of lying.

Like a man caught on tape whose been off work from the City of Tulsa for more than a year, claiming shoulder injuries. He says the vast majority of them are caught in the act.

"He recently filed for a change of condition to add the other shoulder to his claim," Heath said.

Yet, Michael's company recently saw the man digging out from the recent snowstorm. After digging out, the video shows him riding his four-wheeler and getting stuck, and then tugging and pulling to get unstuck.

"I think if the average person were to see the videos or observe the people who allege to be hurt, they'd be appalled," he said.

Michael says the problem is the system isn't appalled because many times, even when videos show blatant cheating, lying and fraud, the cases are allowed to continue through the system.

Like a case he says involves a man who was off work because of his right hand, who claimed it was so bad he couldn't even wash his hair.

The video shows him cleaning his pool and washing his long locks.

And a man Michael says claimed a leg injury kept him from working, but the tape shows him climbing up a ladder and working on a roof.

"There's no explanation why cases can continue to progress through the system, especially after they've perjured themselves," he said.

He says even people convicted of fraud or perjury, those cases aren't thrown out or red flagged, they keep moving forward.

"We convicted her and she'll have to payback all the money but she still gets a settlement, so whatever she's paying back is taxpayer money anyway," he said.

Some of the bills filed would make drastic changes to the workers comp system.

The Governor says she doesn't want that, but does want to reduce delays and better track data for the 170,000 claims that are currently open. She says she'll also look at fraud and abuse.

Many people want to make sure the reforms don't end up hurting the people who are legitimately injured on the job and need help.