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San Bernardino Victims Face Workers' Comp Red Tape

One year ago, an armed assailant entered the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and opened fire, killing 14 employees and injuring nearly two dozen more. Now, twelve months later, the LA Times is reporting that survivors of that nationally-covered attack are having issues receiving the workers' compensation benefits they need to recover.

"There’s a level of secondary trauma that has occurred to all of us," Ray Britain, a survivor of the attack told the LA Times. "We were abandoned and betrayed by a co-worker, and when we asked our employer for help, a lot of us were abandoned and betrayed by them."

Numerous victims of attack now report all-too-common issues with their California workers' compensation claim. Hanan Megalla, 48, suffered four gunshot wounds in the attack, including one to the head. Her husband now says he must battle insurance providers for every round of prescription medication they receive.

"Her doctors keep asking for physical therapy. They keep asking for medication," he told the paper. "They [insurance companies] keep telling you it’s only approved for one time only. Which means that every month we have to go through this refill drama again. It’s unbearable."

When Ray Britain, who witnessed the entire attack first hand, realized he later needed psychological treatment, he said county officials "made us feel ashamed that we even needed help if you weren’t physically injured."

"I had to fight to get into the workman’s comp process. Once in the workman’s comp process, you realize that’s a flawed system. ...Every month you’re wondering if your medication is going to be approved, what’s going to be denied, what’s going to be delayed," he added.

"I Don't Feel Like They have had Any Compassion for Us"

Unfortunately, what many of the San Bernardino shooting victims are experiencing is well-documented in countless other claims throughout California. Claims must go through time-consuming, multi-stage approval process, which often includes independent reviews from remote physicians. When claims are denied, the appeals process is long and the chances of a favorable determination are slim. County officials, however, maintain that the current system is necessary.

"In cases of prescriptions and medical treatment, it would be wrong for the county, which is not a doctor, to overrule a decision made by a doctor. It could harm the patient, make the county liable for anything that goes wrong and result in cancellation of the county’s insurance," county spokesman David Wert.

Not everyone is so convinced, however, that the county is doing everything it can for the San Bernardino victims. Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations Christine Baker recently reminded the county that the California's workers' compensation system was not designed to accommodate acts of terror and the county has the power to circumvent some of the usual red tape. "We’ve told the county these are unusual circumstances and they’ve got to take extraordinary steps on these issues,” she added.

For the victims, many are still waiting for the county to act on the supportive promises that were made by officials just after the shooting unfolded. "I don’t feel like they have had any compassion for us," victim Sally Cardinale told the paper. "We were victims when it was convenient for them."

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