In a concerted effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication (WCOA), and Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) have taken swift and impactful action to sustain the operation of Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. The Commonwealth is working diligently to educate its employees and judges to handle hearings over the phone.
The BWC continues to receive, and process claims at the same level it did before the outbreak of COVID-19. All forms generated via an accepted electronic (EDI) transaction will continue to generate and be returned via the same method as previously.
Although requests for records and the filing of agreements and notifications of modification/suspension continue to be processed, it is expected that there will be short delays due to mail processing.
The telephonic C&R approval hearings that began March 16, 2020, have been expanded. On March 30, 2020, the Bureau started conducting all scheduled hearings telephonically. At this time, it is anticipated that there will be at least four to six weeks without live hearings.
The WCOA directs that Petitions should be filed as they would normally. A hearing notice will contain information for participants to access the hearing over Skype.
Judges are instructed to conduct pre-trials first and if they become sufficiently comfortable, conduct hearings with live testimony. Just the same, some judges are currently ready to conduct hearings and hear testimony by phone. The WCOA reports that the majority of workers’ compensation judges are trained, willing, and ready to move their cases and keep the process in motion.
While subpoenas and decisions are already permitted to be e-signed, the WCOA is working with the Governor to allow all documents in the workers’ compensation field to be e-signed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Stay tuned to the Powell Law blog for more Pennsylvania workers’ compensation updates.
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