Corrections deputy attacked by inmate nearly 8 years ago still fighting for workers' comp

PIERCE COUNTY -- A Pierce County correctional deputy attacked on the job nearly eight years ago is now in a fight to determine who will pay for her additional medical treatment. Ann VanZuyt said her workers’ compensation claim remains in limbo.

“Oh my gosh, it’s been horrible,” said VanZuyt.

Court records show she was attacked by an inmate in 2007. VanZuyt suffered injuries to her neck and back.

“He grabbed me by the pony tail and slammed me across the desk,” said VanZuyt.

Since then, she has had multiple surgeries, which she says were covered by workers’ comp, but medical problems still persist.

“I’ve had a lot of secondary issues going on after back surgery, numbness tingling of the leg, numbness tingling of the female organs, bladder issues,” said VanZuyt.

Dr. Richard Seroussi says he is unable to move forward with any treatment for VanZuyt because the workers’ comp officials insist there be more independent medical evaluations. Dr. Seroussi claims the process has taken months and is now at a standstill.

“Why are we withholding it (treatment) from this woman who was serving the public good,” said Seroussi.

Penser North America is the contracted third party administrator of Pierce County’s self-insured Washington state workers’ compensation program.  Both the county and Penser would not comment on any aspect of VanZuyt’s claim, citing medical privacy restrictions.

Penser president Phil Valdens said in a statement, “Washington state workers’ compensation is a medically driven system.   A third party administrator cannot make arbitrary decisions on claims.  Our actions are dictated by medical opinion.”

He also added, “Penser has been working within the Labor & Industries community for many years and prides itself on our good reputation and standing within the communities in which we provide services.”

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries also cannot release information on cases. However, a spokesperson said an injured worker can file a grievance with the state or dispute the findings when a claim is closed.

For VanZuyt, she’s unsure if she’ll ever fully recover, but she believes additional treatment will improve her quality of life.

“It’s just a never-ending situation that doesn’t have any answers,” said VanZuyt.