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Workers' Compensation Services

COVID-19 & Workers' Compensation System

March 23, 2020 Update

As Pennsylvania and the nation continue to implement mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Office of Adjudication, and Workers' Compensation Appeal Board have taken rapid and impactable measures to keep the workers' compensation system operating in Pennsylvania.

The following updates provide the current status, and future workers' compensation initiatives that will ensure the system maintains operation for all stakeholders.

Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC)

The WCAIS system is a web-based system, so many staff members have the ability to work from home and continue to perform their daily functions.

WC claims are submitted through the electronic EDI process by insurers, so the bureau continues to receive, and process claims at the pre COVID-19 levels at BWC. All forms generated via an accepted EDI transaction will continue to generate and be returned via the same method as previously, which is electronic format, and automatically attached to the claim in WCAIS.

The filing of agreements and notifications of modification/suspension continue to be processed. We can expect short delays due to mail process delays so BWC staff are asking that all documents of this type be uploaded to WCAIS using the Actions Tab.

We can expect short delays in the response time for record requests due to mail handling – either by subpoena or regular request. Staff are working diligently to complete requests. 

Responding to subpoenas will be our priority as we continue to keep the workers' compensation process moving forward. We are doing a WCAIS enhancement release on April 2, 2020, that will allow for a revised electronic process for record requests.

Medical fee applications will continue to be processed. Staff are requesting online filing and have adapted procedures to assist with that process. Staff are also adapting correspondence to be delivered electronically rather than by regular mail.

Workers' Compensation Office of Adjudication (WCOA)

Claims litigation process – most judges and staff members have been trained on conducting telephonic hearings. Additional staff have been brought into process mail and process printings. This will assist with the petition's unit process continuance.

Telephonic C&R approval hearings began March 16, 2020, with success and are being expanded.

The protocol to request a special C&R telephone hearing during this period is as follows: 

  1. Send an e-mail request to the Judge Manager of the district where the case is pending (SE District, JM San Angelo, hsanangelo@pa.gov; Eastern District, JM Wertheimer, kwertheime@pa.gov; Central District, JM Goduto, rgoduto@pa.gov; Western District, JM Cicola, dcicola@pa.gov)
  2. Your request must include the case caption, dispute number, names and e-mail addresses of counsel, telephone numbers if available, and whether the case requires translation services (include language of testimony to be translated). WCOA staff will schedule the court reporter.
  3. The WCJ assigned to hear the case will advise the parties how the telephone conference is to be arranged and how the C&R documents are to be transmitted prior to the telephone hearing.

The suspension of Section 449 of the Workers' Compensation Act (77 P.S. 1000.5), (c) (below/strikethrough) has been approved and implemented. Compromise and Release Agreements are no longer required to be attested by two witnesses or a notary public for the duration of the Governor's disaster declaration.

  • Telephonic petition hearings will begin on March 30, 2020.
  • Requests to schedule C&R hearings are being accepted in all district offices.
  • The majority of workers' compensation judges are trained, willing and ready to get their cases moving and keep the WC process in motion.
  • Two additional staff trainings are taking place today on the topic of telephonic hearings.

Workers' Compensation Appeal Board

The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board is currently operating, but services are restricted to essential functions.

As part of the ongoing disaster declaration to address the spread of COVID-19, the Governor has suspended Section 424 of the Workers' Compensation Act (77 P.S. Section 855) and portions of the Special Rules of Administrative Practice and Procedure before the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board that require the Board to conduct oral argument (Section 111.17). 

ACCORDINGLY: Appeals scheduled for argument before the Appeal Board shall be decided "on-briefs- only" unless a party files a specific request that its appeal be re-listed for oral argument at a future date.

Specific requests to re-list a hearing should be uploaded to WCAIS under the "Documents & Correspondence Tab" of the specific appeal. "Incoming Correspondence" should be selected from the Category drop-down and document type is "Inbound Appeal Related Correspondence." The "document description" should read "Request to re-list for Oral Argument."

Other requests or questions may be submitted by email to the WCAB Resource Account at RA-LI-WCAB@pa.gov, which will be actively monitored.

WCAIS

If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to the following by email:


COVID-19 Workers' Compensation Guidance

 

On March 6, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf issued an emergency disaster declaration throughout the commonwealth due to the new coronavirus known as COVID-19. 

  

Because Pennsylvanians might be exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, we are providing important Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation guidance regarding filing options and claims. 

  

Two Filing Options for COVID-19 

  • Option 1: An employee can file a typical “disease-as-injury” workers’ compensation claim, which would require the employee to provide medical evidence that they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employees must provide this type of evidence for all injury-related claims. 
  • Option 2: An employee could file an “occupational disease” workers’ compensation claim, which would require showing that COVID-19 is occurring more in the employee’s industry or occupation than in the general population, such as the healthcare industry.    

 

WCAIS Forms

BWC Forms
WCOA Forms


Workers' Compensation Conference

June 1 – 2 Workers’ Compensation Conference Cancelled

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, to protect the health and safety of our attendees, speakers and guests, the Workers’ Compensation Conference scheduled for June 1 – 2, 2020 in Hershey, PA, has been cancelled. If you have already registered, your registration will be automatically cancelled and a refund will be processed as quickly as possible.

If you made reservations for overnight accommodations at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center under the room block “BWC Conference” your reservation will automatically be cancelled.

For questions or additional information, please contact Luanne Bell at lubell@pa.gov.

Your understanding is appreciated. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s conference.

FAQs for Safety Committees during the COVID-19 Crisis

  1. Can our safety committee miss monthly meetings during the COVID-19 crisis?

    The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation commends all employers for making the safety of their employees a priority – especially when dealing with COVID-19. The Bureau recognizes what an asset a safety committee can be during a crisis. However, we will not view the lack of in-person safety committee meetings as an issue of non-compliance. When evaluating compliance with the regulations, the safety committee process is evaluated for a three-year period. The inability to hold meetings during this defined crisis period will not impact that evaluation. In addition, we do not intend to require employers focused on getting operational again to double-up on safety committee meetings.

  2. What happens if all committee members do not receive their annual training?

    Annual training can be conducted anytime during the safety committee’s policy period. Training is not required to be the last step prior to submitting a renewal application. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis we understand that many safety committees will be unable to meet to receive the training. Health and Safety will continue offering the certification at least once a week throughout the COVID-19 situation. Committee members can register for certification training by going to the PATHS training calendar at www.dli.pa.gov/PATHS. Once registered, you can log in from home as long as you have a cell phone, tablet or computer with internet access. In instances where all committee members are not trained we will not view the lack of training as an issue of noncompliance.

  3. Will there be any extensions to the certification deadline to get our initial or renewal application submitted?

    We encourage everyone to attempt to submit their applications via HandS within the regulated timeframe of 90-30 days prior to the policy renewal for initial applications and 90-15 days prior to the policy renewal for renewal applications. We understand that the evolving COVID-19 situation is affecting everyone’s ability to maintain normal operations; for this reason we will allow for late submissions of safety committees that have deadlines that fall during the defined crisis period. Once your company resumes daily operations contact BWC, Health & Safety at RA-LI-BWC-Safety@pa.gov.