State MVPs move governor’s priorities forward

Posted on Aug 29, 2017 in Capitol Connection, Featured

DLIR’s Three Amigos: Streamlined workers’ comp

DLIR’s Three Amigos: Jodie Nakamura, Ryan Mercado and Liam Tobin

They’ve been dubbed “The Three Amigos” by their co-workers at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations — three millennials hired as office assistants to help digitize the mountains of paperwork from some 20,000 claims a year in the disability compensation division.

Jodie Nakamura, Ryan Mercado and Liam Tobin have gone above and beyond their humble job titles to modernize and cut in half the wait time for an injured worker to get a hearing date.  What used to take anywhere from six months to a year now can be scheduled in a month. They’ve also helped train other employees in their division in computer-based skills. For these and other contributions, they were named DLIR’s “Outstanding Team of the Year.”

“It’s been a team effort of the whole division with lots of cooperation from everyone,” said Nakamura. She also was quick to credit division administrator JoAnn Vidinhar for the push to improve the process and serve the public better. Tobin said the rewards come from being able to help people who are struggling because they can’t work anymore. “Their whole life depends on what happens with workers’ compensation. They depend on us to be as timely and efficient as possible,” he explained.

The three agree the best part of their job is knowing they’re reaching people who need a decision as quickly as possible for their claim. Nakamura, a UH-Mānoa graduate and former preschool teacher, added, “Sometimes people say, ‘The state takes a long time to do things,’ but we tell them we’re trying our best to improve the system.”

Mercado, whose computer-based training was part of his degree from UH-Mānoa’s Academy of Creative Media, said they’re working on an “optimization project” with a $3.2 million appropriation from the state Legislature to digitize what up to now has been volumes of paper-based records. “It’s part of modernizing state government and testing out new ways of doing things,” he said.

Their supervisor, James Fukumoto, added, “With their computer skills, our ‘Three Amigos’ have taught many of us so much in such a short time. The governor and the whole state should be proud of their accomplishments. We got lucky when we hired these three. The private sector’s loss is the state of Hawai‘i’s gain.”

(For more MVPs, click HERE)

Read more in our September issue