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SUPPORT FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS Injured in the Line of Duty
The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling on February 19, 2019, which affects all volunteer firefighters in the state. Workers’ compensation claimants are entitled to receive temporary disability benefits equaling 70% of their gross average weekly wage, up to the state maximum, if they suffer a “lost wage” due to their injuries. New Jersey law provides that all volunteer firefighters injured during the course of their volunteer duties shall be paid at the maximum compensation rate in effect in the year of their accident, regardless of their salary level in their jobs outside of the firehouse. N.J.S.A. 34:15-75. Jennifer Kocanowski was a volunteer firefighter for 17 years who was injured while volunteering at the Finderne Fire Department, in Bridgewater, New Jersey. For the majority of that time, she worked in various paid positions outside of the firehouse. However, she quit her job in October, 2013 to care for her ailing parents and thereafter settle her father’s estate. She returned to the fire department around July 2014, but did not return to paid employment. On March 6, 2015 she was responding to a multi-alarm fire when she slipped and fell carrying equipment, sustaining multiple injuries which required two surgeries and prevented her being able to return to work. The township’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier denied that Ms. Kocanowski was eligible for temporary disability benefits, since she did not suffer a lost wage due to the injury. In support of its position, the insurance carrier pointed to N.J.S.A. 34:15-38, which sets forth the method for calculating the dates though which temporary disability benefits are owed, measuring from the day the employee
is “first unable to continue at work” up to the first day “the employee is able to resume work.” The Workers’ Compensation Judge denied Ms. Kocanowski’s Motion for Temporary Disability Benefits because she was not employed at the time of her accident. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial judge’s ruling, holding that a loss of earnings was a prerequisite for a volunteer firefighter to be eligible for temporary disability benefits. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The Supreme Court analyzed the legislative history of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which has progressively expanded protections for volunteer firefighters over the years. In 1931, the law provided that temporary compensation for volunteer firefighters was based on the weekly salary they received in private employment, and if not employed at the time of the injury, would be based upon the salary of their most recent job prior to the accident. The statute was amended in 1952, to provide that all volunteer firefighters shall be paid at the same, maximum rate for temporary disability. The Court determined that the New Jersey legislature intended to encourage volunteerism by providing multiple protections and exemptions for volunteer firefighters, since they perform such a vital public service, without which our municipalities would need to bear the exorbitant expense of paid fire departments. In short, the Supreme Court ruled that the history of the Act revealed that the Legislature intended to increase rather than decrease disability coverage for volunteer firefighters, not create new obstacles for coverage. As such, it was ridiculous to conclude that unemployed firefighters in 1931 would be paid a temporary disability rate based on their last employment, but an unemployed
firefighter in 2019 would be entitled to zero benefits. The Supreme Court thus found in favor of Ms. Kocanowski, directing the Workers’ Compensation Court to award her temporary disability benefits. As a result of this decision, volunteer firefighters will not have to worry that they will be left without benefits if an injury occurs when they are between jobs. Good news for our brave firefighters and the communities they serve! –Lisa Pezzano Mickey My first cousin, James Russo, Jr., the Chief of the White Meadow Lake Fire Company, in Rockaway Township, New Jersey. So proud of him!
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THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING FLAGS An Inside Job
Theft is a serious matter, made even more grave when the victims are fallen war heroes. Such was the situation that stumped police in Hudson, New York, in 2012. The crime was first committed in July of the previous year. Flags had been placed around the graves of soldiers in Cedar Park Cemetery — only to go missing right around Independence Day. Veterans groups and locals were outraged and mystified by the crime. Some worried that a hate group was to blame, as the missing flags had adorned the graves of Jewish soldiers. Veterans worked to replace the flags, one by one, and right the wrong. No culprit was found, and the community moved on — until the following July, when the mystery repeated itself. Like the year before, flags were placed on veterans’ graves in honor of Independence Day, and again, they went missing sometime in the night, this time taken from the graves of African American Civil War soldiers. Cemetery caretaker and veteran Vincent Wallace was appalled, as was the rest of his community. “I just can’t comprehend the mindset that would allow someone to do this,”Wallace said. When retirement approaches, you may be thinking about the freedom you’ll enjoy after putting in your last nine-to-five. It’s a culmination of years of hard work and a cause for celebration! Before you get to celebrate, though, it’s important to consider what kind of support you might need down the road. With our generation living longer than our parents, there’s a possibility that we may require additional support services. You and your spouse may not know if either of you will need in-home care, but considering this possibility and the financial factors that come with it can help you better enjoy this exciting phase of your life. In most cases, neither Medicare or Medicaid covers in-home care. There are some exceptions, like home- and community-based services that are state and locally funded and cover those who qualify through Medicaid. If you or your spouse are veterans and meet the requirements, you may be eligible for aid and attendance benefits. These benefits are paid for by the VA in addition to a veteran’s monthly pension. It may cover the costs of in-home care for veterans who require the aid of another person or are housebound. Visit Benefits. va.gov to learn more. Still, you may not want to rely on qualifying for one of these services. Consider adapting your estate plan to include designated in-home care. Meet with your attorney to review your living trust and see if it addresses a caregiver.
Determined to find out who was to blame, police put up surveillance cameras and recorded the goings-on in the cemetery. As they watched the tapes, sure enough, they saw one of the culprits sitting atop a gravestone with an empty flagpole in front of him. It was a groundhog.
Apparently, the wooden flagpoles attract groundhogs, something other groundskeepers have experienced as well.
“I’m glad we don’t have someone who has taken it upon themselves to desecrate the stones and the flags in front of them,” said Hudson mayor Bill Hallenbeck. “We can all rest a little easier knowing that it was a critter and not a human defacing our flags, especially those of the veterans,” added Hudson’s police commissioner.
Turns out Punxsutawney Phil has some very naughty cousins — ones who aren’t subject to the law.
Creating a Home Care Plan
TO LIVE YOUR BEST RETIREMENT
Talk to your family members and loved ones about the possibility that you or your spouse may need this service. While a family member may offer to step into that role, consider how easily they will be able to carry it out. Even a part-time caregiver could provide you with support and make your family members feel like they are not doing it alone. Planning for the possibility that you may need in-home care services can help make your retirement even more enjoyable. Knowing you’ll have a close helping hand can ease your family’s worries and even strengthen your bond.
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TAKE A BREAK
Donate With Care The Right Way to Donate After Spring-Cleaning Spring is in the air, and it’s time to celebrate with another round of spring-cleaning. Banish the clutter and make room in your life for something new! Many charities see a sharp increase in donations as spring-cleaning season starts. Donating your used books, kids’ toys, and gently worn clothing allows your old items to have a second life. However, when filling that donation box, make sure you’re donating each item because it can do good and not just because you feel bad about throwing it away. Charities have a big problem with well-meaning citizens dropping off items that are better left in the trash. There are many items charities simply cannot handle. Most charities will have lists of items they can and cannot accept on their websites. Some items that you should not donate include:
Loose remote controls
ASPARAGUS AND AVOCADO SOUP
• Personal care items, like soap, shampoo, or makeup
This hearty soup is the perfect meal for those late winter days when you think spring will never come. It can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock.
Tangled cords or phone chargers
Any broken, damaged, or dirty items
These items may be unsafe to sell, costly to ship, or impossible to refurbish effectively. When a charity regularly receives items they cannot use, they have to spend hours of manpower sorting through things that end up in the trash anyway. This process can be expensive for organizations with already-strained resources. Some local charities spend over $1,000 a year on dumpster and trash removal fees for unusable donations. While charities will have no choice but to throw unusable donations in the trash, there are services you can use to make your spring cleaning eco-friendly, even for items you can’t donate. For example, if you have torn or stained blue jeans, reach out to Blue Jeans Go Green. This program keeps denim out of landfills by turning it into insulation. And while Goodwill can’t take your batteries or old flip phone, you can check out Call2Recycle.org to learn how to safely recycle your e-waste.
• 12 ounces asparagus • 1 tablespoon olive oil • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped • 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed • Juice of 1/2 lemon • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil • Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 425 F. 2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. 3. Transfer asparagus to blender. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. 4. Season to taste and serve.
Your donations can be a big help to local charities. Just don’t “donate” your garbage.
Inspired by CookEatPaleo.com
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
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Helping Firefighters in NJ
The Curious Case of the Disappearing Flags Considering the Costs of Home Care Asparagus and Avacado Soup Why Charities Hate Spring-Cleaning
Getting the Most Out of Your Digital Home Assistant
Get the Most Out of Your Digital Home Assistant
More and more people are welcoming in the Amazon Echo or the Google Home into their spaces. Everyone knows they make great Bluetooth speakers and can tell you the weather forecast, but they’re also capable of so much more. Digital assistants can do a variety of tasks depending on how much you want them to do for you. For example, if you want your digital assistant to be heavily involved in your daily life, you can use the Echo or the Home as the core of your “connected home.”You can connect numerous compatible devices to these assistants, including other Bluetooth or networked speakers, lights, thermostats, coffee makers, refrigerators, and even microwaves. Of course, therein lies the challenge — you must have compatible devices to make a connected home efficient. And let’s be honest: Many of us aren’t going to buy a connected fridge or Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs just to get the most out of our digital assistants.
What you can do, however, is make use of what you already have. Here are some ways to put your digital assistants to work without committing to a connected home. Both the Echo and the Home make excellent communication hubs. In the home, they can be used as a local intercom system. Do you have a few Echo Dots or Google Home Minis? If you do,
you’re set. You can communicate in any room where another device is present.
Your digital assistant can also make outgoing calls. As long as the device has access to your contacts (or the person you’re trying to contact has an Echo or Home), you can easily make the connection. Want to send a text message? No problem! You can dictate a text to anyone in your smartphone’s contact list and send it without ever touching your phone. Aside from communications, the assistants can handle calendars, appointments, emails, and more. You can ask for information relevant to you, like “When is my flight again?” Google Home can recognize your voice, or the voice of anyone in the house, and respond accordingly. There’s no worry that anyone’s calendar or appointments will be mixed up with yours. If you want to learn more, search for tutorials online. We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to what these digital assistants can do for you.
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