Created in 1914, the NYS Workers' Compensation Board has attempted to keep up with changes in the labor market and technology, most notably a computer system being used to manage a system that annually handles more than 250,000 injuries and nearly $6 billions in awards for lost wages and medical expenses. That the system work as well as it does is a credit to the 1,500 civil servants and political appointees who work there. But there is a great deal more than can be done, and should be done. The system should be more responsive to the needs of the injured workers, as well as those employers whose insurance premiums not only pay workers' lost wages and medical expenses, but also pay all the expenses of running the Board. Having served nearly 12 years on the Board, trying to fix the system from the inside, under three governors and four chairman, former Commissioner Mike Berns tells the real story of how the system works - and what can be done to make it better.
About the Author
Michael Berns was nominated to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board and confirmed by the State Senate in 1996, serving as a Commissioner until 2008. The author of several key legal decisions affirmed by The Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, Berns annually participated in approximately 5,000 workers' compensations claims decisions. He was also active in developing methods to enhance the consistency of these decisions, as well as helping in the Board's conversion of a paper-based adjudication and claims system into a more modern computer based system. Berns has also written "Workers Compensation Section 32 Settlements: A Treasure or A Trap", a layman's guide to these complex settlements written for injured workers and their families, also available at this website. Prior to his being appointed to the Board, he served as the chief executive of several firms involved in the international distribution of American manufactured products where he was primarily responsible for establishing distribution and manufacturing facilities throughout the world. Berns has also served as an officer of, or on the board of companies ranging from real estate to manufacturing, and as a director of a number community based organizations. A member of the cast of Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera since 1988, Berns has also published articles on real estate and computer programming. Berns graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Economics, and completed some additional studies as an undergraduate at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico in Mexico City and as a graduate student at NYU's Stern School of Business. He currently lives in New York City with his wife and family.