The Department of Labor & Industry implemented Release 1 of the Workers' Compensation Automation and Integration System, or WCAIS, on Sept. 17, 2012. The first of two releases, Release 1 will activate new functionality for the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) and Helpline.
The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board's main function is the adjudication of appeals from the decisions of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation Judges (WCJ). In addition to its appellate work, the Board receives and determines petitions for counsel fees, petitions for rehearings, miscellaneous requests, commutations, and petitions for supersedeas (both before the Board and Commonwealth Court). Most of these latter petitions can be decided on the petition and answer alone, without argument, although some cases do require a hearing before the Board or referral to a WCJ for the purpose of making findings of fact.
All appeals filed with the Board are listed for argument in accordance with a yearly schedule of hearings. At present, the Board sits in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton, Johnstown, and Erie. Hearing lists close 40 days prior to the date of hearing.
The Harrisburg Office of the Board acts as a Prothonotary. This office receives and dockets all appeals and petitions and prepares hearing lists, notices, calendars and records and also requests the notes of testimony, depositions and exhibits from the WCJ. After the hearing, the appeals are assigned to the individual Commissioners of the Board for review and preparation of an opinion and order.
The Board's scope of review is limited to a determination of whether there was an error of law or abuse of discretion committed by the WCJ and whether the Judge's findings of fact are based upon substantial evidence. The WCJ has exclusive power over questions of credibility and may accept or reject testimony of any witness, including medical witnesses in whole or in part.
Created in 1915 as a quasi-judicial administrative body, the Workmen's Compensation Board heard and determined petitions and appeals from decisions of Workmen's Compensation Referees. At that time, the Workmen's Compensation Referees were under the jurisdiction of the Board and acted as its agents in conducting evidentiary hearings, findings of fact, making legal conclusions, and deciding petitions. On appeal, the Board could substitute its own findings and conclusions for those of the Referee and make its own determination from the evidence in the record. Thus, the Workmen's Compensation Board was the final finder of fact in workmen's compensation cases.
However, in 1972, extensive Amendments to the Administrative Code and the Workmen's Compensation Act removed the Referees from the jurisdiction of the Board and placed them under the supervision of the Secretary of Labor and Industry. In effect, this also removed from the Board its original jurisdiction over petitions assigned to Referees, such as claim, termination, modification, reinstatement and suspension. In addition, the amendments provided that the Board could not change or reverse a finding of a Referee if it was based on competent evidence. Accordingly, the Workmen's Compensation Referee became the final finder of fact in workmen's compensation cases. In keeping with these revisions, the Board was, in turn, transformed into an appellate body; its name changed to the "Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board".
Over the past years, changes are still being made to the Workers' Compensation Act to reflect our working society of today. In 1996, with Act 57, the Board's name changed to the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.
Currently, the Commissioners of the Board are:
|Alfonso Frioni, Jr., Chairman
|William L. Trusky, Jr., Secretary
|Sandra D. Crawford
||Thomas P. Cummings
|William I. Gabig
||Robert A. Krebs
|Susan M. McDermott
||David H. Wilderman
|James A. Zurick