Ouray, Colorado
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In May of '91 I was instructed by my Supvsr. that rather than have the warehouse men add a 128# cocktail table to the other items of a large order I sold to a local Private Country Club, in Davision, MI to the delivery truck, I had to pick it up and deliver it in my Buick Park Avenue. Three men wearing appropriate safety gear came out of the warehouse with the table. One man guided the other as they maneuvered the fau stone table into the leather upholstered back seat of my vehicle. The delivery truck was advised to wait at the client's location for my arrival - approx. 15 minutes - and unload the table and place it with the rest of the furniture I had sold. They left less than 5 min. before I arrived. Employee of the Country Club offered to assist me in unloading the table. Wearing work attire of 3" hi heels and dress suit, I was in kneeling/squatting and lifting the table from the inside as the man was outside bearing the weight and lifting it up and out of my vehicle. As I was about to bring my end out, he lost his grip and the table slammed me back, pinning me to the floor under the 128# weight. He eventually got the weight off me and we got the table out of the vehicle and placed with the other furniture.

My injuries were: the "Bladder Tuck/Lift" procedure of approx. 10 years earlier was torn apart and my bladder laid in my body cavity. I suffered injury to L4-L5 in my low back and a nerve was pinched in that area, left hip suffered torn ligaments and tendons and such, my tail bone was fractured, suffered a massive hernia tear and neck suffered whiplash and forceful impact.

My bladder was surgically reattached to my pubic bone. Few weeks later a substance was seeping out thru both of the incisions of the surgery. A second emergency surgery had to be performed and revealed that my entire body cavity was filled with Staph infection caused by rejection of the synthetic sutures and surgical buttons that replaced the previous ones that had been torn apart from the previous surgery. During the hours that it took to clean out the Staph infection, a large hernia was created. A highly specialized/experienced surgeon was called into to perform the delicate surgery to repair the hernia with my own tissue, since the "mesh" commonly used was synthetic. My instructions upon release from the hospital was to life nothing heavier that a Tea Cup and simply limit all physical movement for at least the next 4-6 weeks. Once healed, I spent approx a year in extensive, specialized physical therapy to strength the multiple injuries and regain strength and normal flexibility.

During my long recovery period I kept in touch with my fellow sales assoc. and kept an eye on all of the new products and displays. On one such occasion the owner, Art VanElslander was visiting our store and I spoke with him and actually apologized for suffering the accident and told him how eager I was to return to work. He appeared angry and was very short with his comments regarding the ignorant actions of my Suprv. When I finally was cleared to return to work with restrictions - the first thing I noticed was that they had hired a new group of rookie sales people and I my personal locker had been given to someone else. I was also advised that I would be denied access to the sales floor - where my sales generated my commission, perks and bonuses for at least 6 - 8 weeks. I would be sitting thru the Award Winning Sales Training with all the Newbies. Sitting at least 8 hours a day staring at tv monitor and lifting and using heavy Manual was clearly included in the list of "restrictions" that were part of the medical approval for my return to work. I rec'd a phone call that evening from an "anonymous" employee that it was common knowledge that good Art had no intention of letting me ever back on the Sales Floor and it was his intent to force me to quit. I had been offered a far more lucrative job offer while I was off on disability leave. I politely turned it down stating that I loved my position at Art Van. The morning of my second day back to work I called and advised the Management that I was leaving to take a better position with another company. (The copy of two forms that I rec'd. in the mail yesterday both have small box near the bottom of the page with the heading "Termination Reason - "B". i.e. Art Van Elslander lied AND made it a permanent record in the State of Michigan Worker's Compensation Agency! This was his 1st lie.)

I moved out of state for the new job and within less than a month I was sought out by a Major, Nationwide, High End Furniture Retail Store. The bedding sales rep. who called on me at the store I was managing at the time had advised the Mgr. of this highly respected store about the "extensive and unique training program that Art VanElslander put all his design/sales assocs. thru..........on an ongoing basis. This rep. had also met me and observed me as I served customers. The store interviewed 150 applicants and I was given the only available position.

I rec'd the absolute best medical treatment and physical therapy by the most qualified professions, i the most up to-date facilities at the hands of the top doctors and therapist in their field during my treatment that ultimately allowed me to return to work.

Art VanElslander is "Self-Insured" for his worker's compensation coverage. Sedgwick James was the FIRST company that "covered" my work injury. Good Art never did dispute my claim and I never even had to go to Court! After moving out of State and starting work at my new position, I had to find new medical specialists and physical therapist to continue on with the rigerous physical therapy I was informed that I would have to follow for the rest of my life to extend the length of time before the expected major surgeries would be necessary and the usual aray of other medical issues that would develop - due to the severity of my injuries. I was also advised to NEVER agree to settle my WC Claim for any amount of money, as the expense of the appropriate medical treatment would be substantial and most like continue for the rest of my life. I followed all of their excellent advise and my claim remains open to this day.

When my very first doctor sent the usual form to bill my existing WC Claim he was advised by Sedgwick James of Michigan. Inc. that they no longer represented Mr. VanElslander and they forward all their claims to the new company he hired. We contacted the new Carrier only to be advised that they too no longer represented Mr. VanElslander and they never rec'd. my claim number or name from Sedgwick James of Michigan. Inc. I hired an attorney in my state who had to hire an atty in Michigan and work jointly with them to take legal action against VanElslander. The Michigan atty. was new to the are and within a few weeks he quit, stating that VanElslander had an entire firm of attorneys that all but sat on the steps of the State of Michigan Department of Labor - Worker's Disability offices. They had the reputation of successfully dragging out every single claim for months and years on end, thus discouraging any Michgian attorneys from representing any employees/victims of Art VanElslander.

I received a Judgment in the Social Security Courts, deeming me to be Totally and Permanently Lifetime Disabled due to injuries suffered while working for Art Van Furniture in '91 and it was effective "1994". During the time I continued to work prior to becoming disabled my employer instructed me use the generous Employee Medical, Dental and Vision employee coverage of my company. It was at least equal to the same employee benefits I had at Art Van.

Prior to my FIRST Total Left Hip Replacement I asked for assistance from then US Senator Grams to force VanElslander to resume paying all of my medical benefits and percentage of my wage - paying all the years of my wage that he scamed me out of. All the while that VanElslander was jumping thru the generous loop holes in the Michigan WC Laws, other insurance companies were paying all of the expenses he had been stealing from me! After several months of working his way thru tons of government red tap, Senator Grams was advised by the then head of HHR that it would be cheaper and less time consuming to just put me on Medicare rather than take action against my employer to obtain my RIGHTS under the law. The head of HHR even somehow made it possible that Medicare agreed to cover the entire expense of that surgery......no co-pays or anything from me!

I document the long list of surgeries, medical treatments, physical therapies, etc. that my employer's insurance or any number of government agencie paid for that rightfully the LEGAL responsibility of Mr. Art VanElslander.

In 2007-'08 (prior to the creation of H.E.A.T. fraud unit) I turned my employer in for Medicare Fraud. By the I had lost all my savings and sold anything of value to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expense. I figured if MY government would not enforce my rights so I could get the money to continue desperately needed medical treatment - perhaps the government would go after my employer for the money he took from them over all the years that they paid medical expenses and eventually government programs expenses for Social Services emergency funds, LEAP, Food Stamps, medical transportation expense, monthly commodities (when I could physically make it to the Social Services office to pick them up on the day each month that they are dumped there). Then there are the Medicare and Medicaid benefits, the prescription drug program.....and the list goes on.

After an investigation of almost a year, Medicare advised me that Art Van Furniture told them that they had no record that I ever was employed by them. DUH....I politely suggested that Medicare check my IRS records for those years and determine who I received my taxable income from. When they found that I had been an employee at Art Van Furniture before the accident, during my disability leave and the one day that I returned to work. They notified Art VanElslander that he was in fact Guilty of Fraud - yeah me! They sent him two letters threatening to take legal action against him. He simply ignored both. Medicare then called and advised me that it was not worth the expense and time to take action against an employer for "just one citizen"! They closed my file.

I had my first total left hip replacement in '98. The socket portion and ball at the top of the steel spike was replaced again in 2007 by one of the most respected joint replacements specialists in the country, at one of the highest rated medical facilities in the country. The spike portion could not be replaced at the same time as my femur had been broken during the first implant and wired back together with a bone graph. I had to wait for more of the "glue" to release in hopes of being able to save the remaining femur. It is well past that time but, I can not afford expense that remains after Medicare & Medicaid pay their portion. IF I can ever have the spike replaced, they will determine if my right hip will have to be totally replaced as well - they are expecting that it will. There are two titanium screws holding my left SI Joint in place. I've had two failed surgeries to L4-L5 and the disc is totally gone and arthritis has set in behind it. There is a pinched nerve a bit lower in my low back. There are three vertebra that continue to be "bulging", arthritis has set in behind and nodule has grown over it......the headaches they create are almost constant now all but unbearable. I have had FOUR surgeries to reattach my bladder. The most recent was a Burch Suspension in '07 that failed within a few weeks. The adbominal pains have yet to be properly diagnosed as yet - again due to fact I can't afford it. It is expected that it is due to rejection of the synthetics used to form the sling. During my 1st day back to physical therapy in '06 the therapist put me on resistance equipment that caused the nerve in my right elbow to be severely pinched , causing severe nerve damage in my right hand. At some point since my accident, I developed Fybromyalgia and Myofacial Disease, arthritis in severeral areas, suffered extreme weight loss, anemia, survived a number of massive infections and just over a year ago I developed high blood pressure from the stress of the 20 years of financial abuse by VanElslander........and the list goes on and on and on!!

I have been shoved from one Federal and State government office to another for years. Over a year ago I asked assistance from Senator Bennett and after 5 months or so I get a call that the Michigan WC Bureau advised them that my claim had been closed!! Either the Michigan government office lied or the Senator's office lied and my documents prove it. I spoke with the Michigan WC office today regarding the 4 useless printouts that I received in response to my doctor sending them an Authorization for Release of Medical Information - my records. Any doctor in this country that receives such form MUST BY LAW forward all the patient's records. Appears that these laws don't effect State governments. When I politely asked for my records to be forwarded asap, I was advised that they only release such records when a legal action is taken! WHAT legal action? My claim is open and was undisputed by VanElslander! What good are our citizens RIGHTS if we can't gain access to them! Medicare is State and Medicaid is Federal....or vice verse. What difference does it make? Appears that neither have to enforce them! I am living on mega prescribed heavy pain killers, nerve blockers, muscle relaxants, thyroid meds, high blood pressure meds and the list goes on. Neither govt. agency cares the least about paying for a lifetime of drugs for all the patients they are allowing to suffer and die from failure to use their POWER to enforce our Worker's Compensation Laws and prosecute those employers who refuse to abide by them......regardless of what State has what type of WC laws to PROTECT it's citizens.

Google Art Van Furniture and you can read all about how VanElslander is a generous multi-million or billionaire that even donated a million dollars to a local hospital for a cancer wing or some such. Wonder how much he has saved by torturing the employees that have been injured while working in one of his 30+ high end furniture stores in Michigan? You can be assured that his family will always get the absolute best medical care that money can buy!! While I lay here and wait for the knock on my door to tell me they are going to take my home and vehicle since I can no longer meet my monthly expenses due to my medical expenses! Shame on you Art - shame on you. AND....shame on my government for being so skilled at passing the buck and pushing some of the folks who paid for your salaries and health benefits for most of their adult lives - those that voted you into your office to PROTECT AND SERVE US!!

To quote the head of HHR in 1998 and Medicare Fraud Division in 208........"It is too expensive to enforce these laws for just one citizen.........much cheaper to simply put them on State and Federal assistance". In recent years I have called, emailed and or written the Governors of both states, the Atty. Generals of both states, 3 US Senators, my President, the newly in-powered H.E.A.T. Medicare Fraud Unit and every advocacy I could find on line with all of this info and begging for help. I am too sick, weak, racked with chronic pain and chronic fatigue and...and.... To keep repeating the same sad story to the same officials. I only wish I had the energy and strength to continue to fight because everyone has to know that there are at least thousands upon thousands of other citizen/victims just like me!!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE VAN ELSLANDER FAMILY.....THE LARGEST INDEPENDENTLY OWNED RETAIL BUSINESS OWNER IN THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES!!! At what cost to some of your employees?!?

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Anonymous
#615759

I have been raised in this company.Literally been around it since birth.

Your story for the beginning makes absolutely no sense at all. There is absolutely no reason they would have had you deliver this table in your personal vehicle without you having made a mistake or insisting on it in some other way. You were instructed to have the drivers unload it. You did not follow directions.

You should have called the warehouse and had them send someone to come unload it . You're lucky you didn't get fired on the spot.

The Art Van business, and the family are kind, generous people who are so strong and successful in this community for treating their employees and the public so well.Don't you dare go all over the World Wide Web diminishing their character because you made poor choices!

Anonymous
#446380

im sorry you had to go through this.i was once an employee for aint van.

i was injured from falling between a loading dock and a truck. i was sent to "their clinic" down the road for treatment and my knee was bleeding and swelling up. at least i would have expected the rest of the day off but no the doc said i was fine what B.S.

im glad i work at a place now that takes care of you when your hurt.*** Art Van and his *** *** son.

Anonymous
#435967

Your nuts have no idea medically what your talking about, and in the end art van won't take care of you for harassing this woman!

Anonymous
#421851

A Bladder tuck or suspension is NOT elective surgery, by any means and it had been performed several years earlier! There are no "lifting restrictions" for one's bladder being attached to the pubic bone - as it is no where near abdominal muscles or spine. Ask any OBGN or many women who have given birth! A ridiculous assumption.

I did not "chose" to make the delivery. I was "ordered" to by my Supvsr. Employees could be, and were, fired for refusing the orders of their supvsr. or managment. There were no warehouse employees at the stores and sales associates moved furniture around the store routinely.

The supvsr. called the warehouse and made the arrangements for the delivery truck to meet me at the client's location to unload the table. I did called for the truck to return and was informed that no one was available and I was to "handle" it myself. There were chuckles, that it was "just a small table"!

If there was ANY possibility that I could have been fired under the circumstances, or that I could have been found legally responsible for my injuries, Art Van's attorneys would have disputed my claim in Court! It was the supvsr. that got called on the carpet!

It was the "employer" that ordered the employee to perform an "unsafe" task. There was a Judgment that confirmed this fact!

Anonymous
#421484

This is your own fault. You knew that you had previous Elective and Cosmetic Surgery leaving you vulnerable to extraordinary injury just by doing a little lifting.

You chose to get the elective surgery, then you chose to lift something heavier than you could handle WHILE WEARING NO SAFETY GEAR.

They should have fired you immediately for performing your job in an unsafe manner. A normal person would have just rescheduled or called back the team of workers.

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