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It was recently reported that more than 26,000 claims for workers' compensation were filed for Illinois state employees between 2007 and 2010. These claims resulted in payment by the state of $295 million in workers' compensation benefits. Some of these claims -- though certainly not all -- were made by corrections workers for carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the prison guards at the Menard Correctional Center received approximately $10 million in benefits from workers' compensation over a three-year period starting in 2008.

The guards' injuries included carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist and cubital tunnel syndrome of the elbow, but at least one official has questioned the validity of the prison guards' claims. While the accusations may be flying, no specific instance of fraud was in fact identified.

The injuries suffered by the guards were said to have resulted from turning keys at the prison. However, the director of the Department of Corrections has expressed his concerns that some of the claims were embellished solely to receive benefits. In any case, it was also acknowledged that workers at the prison and elsewhere were in fact injured as a result of their employment and therefore properly received their benefits.

Workplace injuries can take many forms, and when an employee is hurt at work, no matter the type of injury, he or she can apply for benefits under the workers' compensation program. It is not uncommon, though, for an employer to deny a worker's compensation claim. In such cases, an appeal may be necessary to secure much needed benefits while an employee is unable to work.

Despite what some employers may say, a wide range of injuries makes workers' compensation necessary for many Illinois residents. Employees in our state should be fully aware of their rights as they pertain to workers' compensation law.

Source: Claims Journal, "Illinois Prison Guards Wrongly Paid Workers' Compensation," May 3, 2012

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