In the month of April, 2012,
the Wisconsin Worker Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) successfully amended
the Worker Compensation law of Wisconsin.
The WCAC is made up of five Labor and five Management representatives who study
and advance worker compensation law reforms by recommending positive changes to
the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor.
The following are the major changes to the worker compensation system:
1) A modest increase in the permanent partial disability rate (PPD) for new injuries, increasing from current rates of $302.00 to $312.00/week, for injuries occurring before 1/01/2013, and to $322.00/week for injuries in 2013 (cash benefits are free of all taxes)
2) An agreement to modestly limit the range of situations in which an injured worker suffering permanent disfigurement may receive compensation for the effect of the disfigurement on their future earning potential. Workers will need to show an actual wage loss due to disfigurement in the work setting.
3) An agreement to allow an injured worker engaged in a program of vocational retraining following a work injury to work on a limited part-time basis(up to 24 hours) while also in school, without reduction of WC retraining benefits (meaning workers can work limited part-time while retraining and not suffer benefit reductions).
4) A significant, major, positive change to allow injured workers, who are certified by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), to have the employer and their insurance carrier pay the reasonable costs of tuition, books, and fees required during a program of approved vocational training. This provision also speeds the return to work and reduces significantly the financial burden for workers. Tuition costs can be substantial, since training can last up to 80 weeks. Workers can attend public or private colleges or programs.
5) An agreement to reign in some medical costs by narrowing the range of what constitutes reasonable medical providers fees for certain medical services to injured workers, while still continuing to allow injured workers their choice of medical provider who may treat them for their work injury.
6) An agreement to provide an audit of the medical expense databases used in determining what are the correct rates for medical providers, by Labor, management, and health care providers in a special committee.
7) Finally, WCAC created a special committee to study ways to permanently fund the cost of providing regular and periodic increases in the weekly indemnity (money) benefits paid to those who are the most seriously injured -- those injured workers found to be permanently and totally disabled by their work injury (PTD benefits). This reform is a high priority item for Labor.
In sum, the changes represent an advancement of worker compensation rights without undermining the rights of injured workers. More work needs to be done and is proceeding in the meetings of the Council and the study committees recently created. Workers who have ideas for positive change can contact Council members at the DWD website under Worker Compensation Division.