Here is an interesting tangent that we can check out that brings together a lot of the health care issues that we discuss here at this blog with a lot of the workers’ comp issues that we frequently cover as well. The issue is a recent law passed in the state of Vermont, that would give special workers’ comp benefits to fire fighters.
The Vermont governor, Gov. Jim Douglas, signed the bill into law just this past Tuesday. What it does is automatically give fire fighters workers’ comp benefits if they come down with certain types of cancers. The reasoning is that those types of cancers will then automatically be suspected to have been caused by something that was related to the fire fighters’ line of work.
There is a chance for employers and their workers’ comp insurance companies to show that the cancer is not in fact caused by the fire fighter’s job, but the burden of proof falls squarely on their shoulders to provide the medical proof of their claim.
Some of the cancers covered in the new bill include lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the nymph nodes in a person’s body; leukemia, which is a form of cancer of the blood; as well as such other cancers as bladder cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer, kidney cancer, gastro intestinal cancer, liver cancer, pancreas cancer, testicular cancer, and skin cancer.
Under the new law, if the fire fighter contracts one of these types of cancers, they could get as much as 10 years of workers’ comp benefits after they retire from their jobs. I know of no other workers’ comp law similar to this, especially one that deals specifically with fire fighters, but like the good human resources and labor law nerd I am, I will definitely have to look into it.
One of the best ways to get your employees back to work after they have been hurt on the job might be to train them for a completely different position at their company. That’s right. The injury that they might have suffered could have left them unable to do their former job, but instead of giving up on themselves, these workers could be retrained to find another—perhaps even better and more profitable position—at your company.
That is the onus behind the new Vermont rule change from the Department of Labor in the state of Vermont. Yes, the Green Mountain state is all about helping employees return to work, and making workers’ comp less costly for the employers of the state, so it has adopted the so called VT ADC 24 010 new rule changes to the workers’ comp system.
These new rules from the Vermont Department of Labor changes the workers’ comp vocational rehabilitation rules in the state. These rules changes were actually brought about by the state legislature that requested that the Vermont Department of Labor come up with some new rules changes that would revise the way that vocational rehab is done. Vocational rehabilitation, by the way, is a fancy way to say work retraining.
In any way, the new rules make it so that any worker who has been injured on the job and is getting paid for 90 days straight or more for a temporary total disability—any sort of injury that fully knocks them out of work for a limited amount time—these workers must after those 90 days have a mandatory screening to determine if they would be capable and eligible for some form of vocational rehab. There was also a fee schedule, or a payment rate, set up for this vocational rehab. Both rules went into effect on March 5.
This past fall, the Vermont workers’ comp vocational rehab rules were approved and reviewed by a public hearing. The final proposed ruling was filed with the state’s secretary of state office, as well as with the legislative committee on administrative rules, just this past week in December. (December 8 to be exact.) So if you missed the outcome, sorry, but at least you have me to fill you in on the Vermont workers’ comp news that you missed.
The whole focus of the new workers’ comp labor law ruling the state of Vermont was on vocational rehab. Vocational rehab is given to a work when they are unable to return to work after an injury because of the seriousness of their disability. They then have to get trained for another occupation, perhaps at the same employer, perhaps not, for which they do not have any prior experience or training.
The injured worker can only get this vocational rehab if they are going to eventually lead back to some form of suitable employment. And to this end, the vocational rehab plan for each employee usually involves the help and planning from not only the employee and their physicians, but also the employer and the insurance company providing the employer’s workers’ comp and disability insurance. The insurance commissioner in the state can even get involved according to the new Vermont labor law, to make sure that the rehab plan is suitable to get the employer back to a paying job.
Basically, this process is part of a nationwide effort on the part of insurance regulators, state workers’ comp divisions like Vermont’s, insurance companies, and employers to get employees to return to work after they have been injured. All parties involved are finding return to work the best way perhaps to save money on workers’ comp and disability.
More news is coming out of the state of Vermont’s Labor Department. Well, it could also be considered no news, as well. The Vermont Department of Labor has announced just this month that it is postponing its plans for the time being to alter the way that workers when injured are evaluated in the workers’ comp system for claims.
The Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division had stepped in and asked the Vermont legislature to not consider the changes just yet. The part of the legislature in Vermont in charge of such decisions is the Administrative Rules Committee.
What the Vermont Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division decided before was possibly to change the rules that dealt with the ways that the state of Vermont could determine just what kind of and how bad of an injury a worker had gotten on the job. The Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division decided they needed more time to think over their plans before moving forward with those plans.
The Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division also considered creating a new set of rules when it comes to the rates that vocational rehab counselors would get in the state of Vermont when working with patients in the state workers’ comp system. As we all remember, vocational rehab counselors help workers get back to work after they have been injured, by retraining them how to do their job with their injuries, or training them to learn a new job.
The Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division will, however, have something for the legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee to consider as early as January 11 of the new year, which will be the next date that the Administrative Rules Committee is meeting.
Vermont is known for its maple syrup and for its long ski season and superb scenery. But if you are an employee who gets hurt in the state, you would rather have the state known for its excellent workers’ comp system. And if you are an employer with that employee who gets hurt, you will want a workers’ comp system that will be fair to you too.
In Vermont, the system could do all that—as long as you are sure to follow the proper procedures for reporting the injury in the first place. In the state, employees have the first responsibility after an accident to report their possible or definite injury as soon as possible after it happens.
As soon as the employee gives you word of the injury, then it is up to you the employer to follow through with the reporting. You have 72 hours after hearing from your employee to then go and report the injury to the Workers’ Comp Division in the state. Also notified will be your insurance adjuster from your insurance company for workers’ comp, or from your special claims handling firm that comes into the picture in these circumstances.
Once your adjuster and insurance company are called in, they have up to 21 days to investigate the accident and the injury and determine whether or not it was really work related. If it was, they can accept the claim and begin to pay for medical care and disability related lost wages. If they determine that the injury was not work related, then they do not have to accept the claim and make any payments.
In this case, the employee can still contend that they were injured at work. If their claim is dismissed by your insurance company, the employee can contact the Workers’ Comp Division and contest the insurance company’s decision.