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Ledgerwood Law Group

Getting Back in the Saddle!


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5/10/2016
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 Life has its set backs; no one is immune. Every now and then the professor of harsh reality will pay you a visit with unsympathetic lessons on adversity and survival. One day you are functioning fine, doing a job that you have become good at, proudly supporting yourself or a family, and the next day an injury or a medical condition takes you out.  Completely.

Well, what are you going to do about that? As the old saw goes, “10% of life is what happens to you and 90% is how you deal with it.” So much of survival and prosperity is based on raw acts of will.  In the last 20 years, I have seen thousands of people get punched out of the work place due to a physical injury or a disabling non-industrial condition. I have also seen hundreds of people actually improve their earning capacity thereafter due to those crucial qualities of willpower and determination.  Want to know how they did it?

First, our own tale of woe: 2004 was a bad year for us in Comp Land. That was the year that Arnold Schwarzenegger descended on the working class like a vulture from that stinking primordial swamp of Hollywood. He came with a vengeance and a cause: slash worker’s compensation benefits to people injured on the job here in California. By the time he and the “Girly Men” of the California legislature were done, we saw the dollar value of permanent disability compensation to our clients reduced by about 60%. The year before, his predecessor, Grey Davis, had taken out a vocational rehabilitation program workers’ compensation had offered since the 70’s. Thanks.   

Speaking from a purely personal level, it was pretty devastating. After years in the DA’s office and ten more slugging it out in civil and criminal court, I had finally found a place in private practice that I had genuine passion for: fighting against benefit inequity; helping people get back on their feet and keeping a roof over their head. It was a good thing. It was a true David versus Goliath struggle. I liked being David.

So what happens when your overhead rate is 60% and your income goes down by 60%? In 2006 we employed 13 people.  That was 13 families we helped support.  Two years later, it was just my most awesome paralegal, Christina, and me. Empty offices were rented out. Unused computers and furniture were sold. Wounds were licked. It was beyond humiliating.

So at the bottom of all this, we just said to ourselves “well they can’t eat us can they?” and developed a plan to accept the new stark legal landscape and find ways to exploit it for our clients. Like they say, if you like law or sausage, you should not see either being made. We also amped up our Social Security Disability practice with missionary zeal!

Sometimes we get so invested in one set of skills that we have developed over time to make a living that we think that it is the only way we can make it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the Law of Abundance applied to the many ways of making a buck in life. This is America after all.  The truth is, for every door that closes, there is an unlimited set that can be opened. You just have to take a calm moment to discover them and make a plan.

Granted, it is scary jumping off into the unknown and learning new skills. However, there are ways to get back in that old saddle after a disabling industrial injury. It just requires a yeoman’s share of pig-headed determination. No one will do it for you. For our clients injured on the job, there is the Voucher Program in workers’ compensation to help defray retraining expenses. The State of California still has a significant vocational rehabilitation program just waiting for applicants. State and local colleges have Board of Governor’s (BOG) waivers for tuition. There is actually a new and improved voucher to help defray learning expenses for individuals who sustained industrial injuries on or after 1/1/13. If it really gets bad, there are county benefits you can take advantage of while you are getting back on your feet.

If you have qualified for Social Security Disability and want to get out from the lean benefits you are getting, you can utilize SSA’s “Ticket Back to Work” program. Or you can supplement your benefits by earnings that are under the “substantial gainful activity” dollar limit of $1,070.00 per month. You simply have to invest in yourself.  How about joining the ranks of rugged individualist entrepreneurs? You can always amble on down to Barnes and Noble and peruse the home based business section and buy a book. A college degree can be obtained in your own home online. Small Business Association loans are available for those with the  fortitude and determination to get one.  

Our fearless Case Manager, Anysia Sypnicki, put together a wonderful list of the programs and benefits out there if you are interested.  For a full list complete with helpful links to associated web sites and books to read, go to our web site at www.thomasledgerwood.com and click the Resources tab, Getting back in the Saddle! What are you waiting for?

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was a single guy dating my wife Jona. I was thirty five years old and not such a good horse rider. She, on the other hand, knew what she was doing and had lots of blue ribbons to prove it. So, I was invited on a horse back ride with her in Upper Bidwell Park. My noble steed was “Tellego.” Tellego was a rank, old, barn sour gelding with bad cannon bones and a big hay belly. The first serious incline we went down, well old Tellego tripped and he and yours truly went ass over tea kettle down a substantial hillock.  It took a few minutes for the dust to clear and after first thoroughly attending to Tellego, Jona turned her attention to me nestled in a nice patch of rocks and star thistle. I had a few abrasions, but what was mostly hurt was my pride. After getting me on my feet and dusting me off a bit, she solemnly proclaimed, “Well, Tom,100 more times and you will be a Cowboy!

I guess that is the way it is in life. The falls will just keep happening, but it is your duty and obligation to dust off and get back in the saddle—each and every time. My favorite saying to my wounded working warriors is the Shakespearean quote from the Twelfth Night: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  Most of my clients fall in the latter two categories.   

Which one are you?

 



Category: Worker's Compensation

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Thomas Ledgerwood
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