It simply boggles my teeny weenie mind. An Oklahoma man who apparently never worked as a firefighter signed up for fire fighting training and died during the course. The insurer of a volunteer fire fighting company whose Chief says no one in the company ever met the man has had to pay more than $200,000 dollars in workers' compensation benefits to his widow and son. And that amount was in addition to $303,000 paid by the Justice Department's Public Safety Officers' Benefits program for the loss of a “firefighters” life. The widow, who was married to her husband for less than two years but had known him for ten, said she had never known him to work as a firefighter for the department.
Oh, and the courts, despite openly questioning the blatant fraud of almost everyone involved, ultimately approved the whole deal.
What the hell?
This long and sordid path apparently started when the Chief of the volunteer department and his wife, as a favor for a friend, crafted a bogus recommendation letter for the man, who was trying to get hired by a nearby city fire department. Even though they had never met the guy, it was a classic “favor for a friend of a friend” situation. It was a glowing piece of malarkey, which included such falsities as “[Name of dead guy] is a volunteer fireman on our fire dept. for approx. 8 years & 3 months. He has attended all required classes, meetings & work shops. He has the skills to operate 5 ton, 2 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton & pumper fire trucks. He has completed drivers course & does maintenance on all fire trucks. He works well with other firemen & does more than his share.”
Nice to know there is apparently no honor among firemen.
A couple years later, Chiefy and his wife were surprised to read in the local paper that their fictitiously skilled fake employee had died following “live burn training exercises” at the OSU Fire Training School. They were equally surprised to learn that dead guy had listed their volunteer fire department as his sponsoring agency.
As it turns out, these people weren’t yet through filing false paperwork. After being inundated with grief cards and condolences from around the nation, they say things sort of “snowballed”. Their insurance company, CompSource, asked them to sign an affidavit stating that he was indeed sponsored by their department.They obliged. Then they received a federal death benefit packet, which they gave to dead guy’s father, who happened to be a long time firefighter with the city agency dead guy tried to join a couple years back. The father gave that packet to the widow who apparently completed and filed the requests for federal reimbursement. By the way, the widow has since gone on to marry the friend of her deceased husband who originally requested the fake recommendation letter.
I don’t know about you, but I am hearing banjo’s playing in my head.
All of this came to light because everyone testified to it during the court proceedings. When asked why they just didn’t do the right thing from the beginning, Mrs. Chief testified that “We were just trying to help the family. I figured it was probably trying to get some life insurance or something like that.”
Oh, that makes sense. Just help the family, even if the insurance company, it’s customers and federal taxpayers get screwed.
Still, as screwed up as this entire situation sounds, it is the action of the courts that really makes this a ridiculous story.
It turns out the widow's workers' compensation claim was initially rejected by workers' compensation Judge Owen T. Evans. A three-judge panel comprised of Judges Eric W. Quandt, David P. Reid and Margaret Bomhoff overturned his decision, but not before severely questioning the actions of the players in this case. Judges Quandt and Reid initially questioned whether the actions of the Chief and his wife were fraudulent. Judge Quandt said, “I'm saying why go to this enormous elaborate scheme, which I would call fraud, to create these documents for a guy they've never met? Why shouldn't this panel refer the [couple] to the workers' compensation fraud unit? Because this is outrageous to me. This isn't right.”
It wasn’t right, but he voted to approve it anyway.
In the final decision, both justices who questioned the fraudulent activities of the pair ended up voting to award benefits. The vote was 2-1, with Judge Bomhoff dissenting. The panel ruled the fire department was the employer and workers' compensation benefits should be paid. The decision was ultimately based on what had been written down, versus the testimony provided in court. The Court of Civil Appeals then upheld that decision in August.
I clearly should not have to elaborate on what my opinions are on this ridiculous story. It is a heaping pile of odoriferous canine excrement. It is outrageous that so many people could craft fake documents and falsify applications, then testify before a court as to their actions, and still have someone walk away with over half a million dollars to which they were not entitled. Granted, some of the fraud was perpetrated by people who had no direct financial interest in it, but that doesn’t make it right.
Except the court now says it does. In fact, with the courts anointment of the entire affair, it downright stinks; like a big flaming bag of odoriferous canine excrement.