THE LEAD STORY
In a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, ten ranking Democrats on key Senate and House committees this week urged the Department of Labor to respond to a claimed pattern of detrimental changes in state workers' compensation laws. The lawmakers contend that state reforms enacted over the past ten years have reduced protections and benefits for injured workers.
ISN'T THE REGULATION OF WC USUALLY A STATE ISSUE?
Yes. But the authors of this letter, including Democratic Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders (D-VT) argue that state workers' compensation systems that fail to provide adequate remedy to injured workers tend to push claimants into the Social Security Disability System prematurely.
In response, the DOL acknowledged that American workers and their families deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing a workplace injury won't knock them out of the middle class and that it anticipates working stakeholders to find real solutions.
CYBER SECURITY LEGISLATION
SHARING OF CYBER THREATS
The Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) this week.
ON THE ONE HAND…
The CISA aims to enhance cyber threat information sharing between the private sector and the government to help thwart breaches. The bill encourages cyber threat information sharing, in part, by providing organizations that share information with protection against liability.
BUT ON THE OTHER HAND…
Opponents to the bill, including Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR), contended the bill would lead to the exposure of private information of American citizens to spy agencies and law enforcement. CISA now heads over to the House.
MAKING OUR WAY AROUND THE COUNTRY
Illinois legislators returned to Springfield this week to work on the state's nearly five-month budget stalemate. Workers' compensation reform is one of the main initiatives of first term Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and significant portions of his budget plan are tied to workers' compensation reform. The Governor also wants to make Illinois a right-to-work state, which runs counter to the ideals of the Democrat-controlled chambers of the General Assembly. It seems the two sides are not in agreement on many things, including where to house the IL WC Commission offices.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a number of new measures to support the mission of the Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation. He noted that there are 30 employers under investigation for exploiting employees, including failing to carry workers' compensation or contribute to the unemployment insurance fund. The Task Force will coordinate outreach and education with workers and employers, promote investigations and prosecutions, and cultivate data collection efforts. Governor Cuomo has created an Anti-Retaliation Unit and a Mediation Unit within the State Department of Labor to eliminate retaliation against workers who assert their rights and to expedite the speedy disposition of cases generated by the Task Force's investigations. The Governor has also launched a new website to provide workers, employers and the general public with information about the Task Force and how to come forward and help combat worker exploitation.
Virginia is one of the few remaining states without a medical fee schedule for workers' compensation claims. Earlier this year, Virginia passed House Bill 1820 legislation to study the impact of a fee schedule and prepare recommendations to prepare for more predictable bill repricing in the State. The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission has presented interim steps toward a hybrid bill review system. Currently, the state is divided into 19 communities, each with similar charges, known as the Prevailing Community Rate. Under the new plan, that number will be reduced to five regions, with those charging similar amounts grouped together, although they are not necessarily geographically in the same part of the state.
The Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) will be updating the clinical topic medical treatment guidelines of the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS) by posting two new additional guidelines related to asthma and occupational lung disease. The proposed guidelines incorporate by reference the June 6, 2015, version of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's Occupational Interstitial Lung Disease Guideline and the Occupational / Work Related Asthma Guideline.
A GHASTLY COMBINATION
This year, Halloween coincides with the end of daylight savings time. Both of which bring their ownbrand of ghoulish workplace accidents.