For the last several months, you have heard me harp on the 35 year decline of workers compensation benefits available and provided to injured workers. Unfortunately, overall that trend has been undisturbed as the race to the bottom continues. However, we do see the occasional glimmer of hope on the horizon. Since I have shared so much gloom with you, it only seems fair to share some optimism. Those of you in states where you are facing fights to cut benefits even lower may find little solace in this message.
We are actually starting to see a little bit of positive movement among the states. Last year, Maine made some very positive changes to their law. These changes included extending partial disability benefits by two years, reinstituting cost-of-living adjustment increases for total disability cases, extending the notice provision, and raising the maximum compensation rate. Kudos to our WILG warriors in Maine who worked very hard to better the lives of the injured workers of that state.
Today, Virginia is on the precipice of positive changes for workers in the Commonwealth. Proposed legislation there would require employers to notify injured workers on a timely basis when their claim is denied. Also, currently Virginia is one of a few states that does not recognize repetitive trauma injuries as compensable. If passed, the law will soon require a study of whether repetitive motion injuries should be covered in Virginia. This is a first step toward compensability. Virginia is also moving toward making it easier to prove that workplace exposure caused cancer in firefighters allowing them access to workers compensation benefits.
On top of that good news, multiple states have passed or are moving toward a presumption of compensability for firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancers. Many states are also considering bills that would allow first responders to receive workers compensation benefits for posttraumatic stress disorder arising from horrific events witnessed on-the-job. It is heartwarming to know that states are considering these bills to protect firefighters and first responders. Yet, it is amazing that it has taken this long to ensure coverage for the people who protect us all on a daily basis and who face such danger and witness ghastly scenes as part of their jobs.
Some other states are proposing the California style ABC test for employment versus independent contractor status. I hope these ripples are the start of a rising tide to protect injured workers. The data is on our side. Fight on WILG warriors. Shine the light on the plight of injured workers. Let’s make some positive changes!
URGENT REQUEST – Representative Mike Thompson of California introduced H.R. 4161 – the Coordination of Medicare Payments and Workers Compensation Act or “COMP Act” in August 2019. This is a bill that WILG supports and we have a very real chance of seeing it pass this year. Representative Thompson’s office has asked for some concrete examples of instances in which CMS requirements for applying the MSP Act to workers compensation settlements has impeded the settlement process and/or impaired the interests of workers compensation claimants. Some pertinent examples would be situations where CMS does not respect state law, extensive delays, or lack of proportionality of CMS demands when the settlement is based on a liability compromise. If you have a good example of this from your practice, please email it to Caitlin Shields (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can provide these to Representative Thompson’s office as soon as possible. Thank you!
Mr. William L. Smith II Esq.
Chappell, Smith & Arden
P.O. Box 12330
Columbia SC 29211
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