February 23 2016
Effective March 1, 2016, the Board will utilize a desk review process, as authorized by Rule 300.36(e), to review and approve or disapprove Section 32 Waiver Agreements in certain circumstances. In cases where the injured worker (other than a minor dependent) is represented by an attorney, desk review will be utilized when only indemnity is settled, or when all parties to the agreement request desk review. This use of desk review will reduce the time it takes to approve a Section 32 Waiver Agreement and allow calendar time to be prioritized for cases with pressing issues. The Board will continue to review other Section 32 Waiver Agreements through the hearing process.
Section 32 Waiver Agreements are a negotiated agreement between the injured worker and the carrier to settle indemnity and/or medical benefits on a claim. The Section 32 Waiver Agreement is not binding unless it is approved by the Workers' Compensation Board. Currently, Section 32 Waiver Agreements must be reviewed by a Workers' Compensation Law Judge at a hearing. This hearing adds a significant amount of time to the approval process and places a burden on all parties to the Section 32 Waiver agreement. In 2013 only 2% of Section 32 Waiver Agreements were disapproved by the Board.
Form C-32 (Waiver Agreement – Section 32 WCL) has been revised to obtain information pertinent to the issues addressed in the Section 32 Waiver Agreement. This form is also used to provide consent for desk review. Form C-32.1 (Claimant Release) now presents important information to the injured worker about the Section 32 Waiver Agreement resolution process. The questions the injured worker must answer have been updated. Counsel for the injured worker must attest that the Section 32 Waiver Agreement has been reviewed with the injured worker and that the injured worker understands the document. Use of the new Form C-32 and Form C-32.1 will be mandatory, effective March 1, 2016.
In addition, the Board has developed a video, entitled Settling Your Claim, which educates injured workers about the nature of a Section 32 Waiver Agreement and the implications of the agreement on their claim. The Board is requiring that injured workers watch this video before they enter into a Section 32 Waiver Agreement. It will be available on the Board's website. Attorneys must inform their clients about the video as part of their review of the Section 32 Waiver Agreement.
The Board has created a Form C-32-I to use in Section 32 Waiver Agreements that settle only indemnity. Use of the new Form C-32-I will be mandatory effective March 1, 2016. The Board plans to issue in the near future an additional mandatory form for Section 32 Waiver Agreements that settle both indemnity and medical.
A streamlined Proposed Notice of Approval – Section 32 Waiver Agreement (PD-32) has been created that communicates to health care providers the status of medical treatment after the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is binding. It indicates the date on which the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is deemed to have been submitted to the Board and the date on which the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is binding.
This updated Section 32 Waiver Agreement Resolution Process will benefit all parties and expedite the timeframe for approval.
Robert E. Beloten