The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) hears and decides appeals from the Decisions and Orders of the approximately 90 workers' compensation judges (WCJs) throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in cases involving injuries, occupational diseases, and fatal claims arising in the course of employment. Any aggrieved party may appeal the decision of a WCJ by filing a Notice of Appeal with the WCAB within 20 days of the issuance of the WCJ's decision and order. According to an annually published schedule, the WCAB hears arguments in numerous locations (including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Scranton, and Erie), and electronically during the COVID emergency. The WCAB reviews a WCJ's decision to assure that it is supported by substantial and competent evidence and is legally in accordance with the Workers' Compensation Act (Act), regulations, and case law. Per that Act, WCAB decisions and orders must be concurred in by a majority of all Commissioners.
In addition to its appellate work, the WCAB has original jurisdiction over the appointment of fiduciary guardianships, commutation petitions, trustee payments, attorney fee petitions, total disability conversion determinations per instances of dual specific loss claims, rehearing petitions, and supersedeas petitions (requests for a stay of the WCJ's decision pending appeal) both before the Board and Commonwealth Court. Most of this work 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.
In a typical year, the WCAB will receive more than 1000 appeals and cross-appeals, issue more than 1,000 appellate opinions, rule on 500 to 700 petitions for supersedes, and decide approximately 100 counsel fee petitions. WCAB opinions are published commercially and compiled in the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Law Reporter.
The WCAB was the first Commonwealth agency to "go live" with the
Workers' Compensation Automation and Integration System (WCAIS) in September 2012. Appeals and petitions can be filed with the WCAB electronically using WCAIS. Appeals can also be filed on paper using the
LICB-2526 form and mailed to the WCAB Central Office Harrisburg. The WCAB continues to make assessments and adjustments to WCAIS in order to improve public service and maintain the integrity of the administrative appellate process.
Created in 1915 as a quasi-judicial administrative body, the Workmen's Compensation Board was established to hear 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.
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 change also removed from the Board its original jurisdiction over petitions assigned to Referees, now known as workers’ compensation judges. 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, thereby making the referee the final finder of fact in such 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." In 1996, with Act 57, the Board's name was again changed, becoming the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.
In 2011, the Department of Labor and Industry embarked on a workers’ compensation technology upgrade, which resulted in the Workers’ Compensation Automation and Integration System (WCAIS). Through WCAIS, the Board can receive appeals, petitions, briefs, and motions in addition to circulating and voting on opinions. This upgrade has enabled the Board to reduce the time from filing an appeal to final decision.
Information on WCAIS can be found here.
The Commissioners of the Board are:
| Alfonso Frioni, Jr., Esq., Chairman
|Sandra D. Crawford, Esq.
||Thomas P. Cummings, Esq.
|William I. Gabig, Esq.
||Robert A. Krebs, Esq.
|David H. Wilderman, Esq.
||James A. Zurick, Esq.
The Secretary of the Board is Steven Loux, Esq.
PA Workers’ Compensation Act