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Prepared by Thomas W. Atchison, Esq. and Jennifer R. Augustin, Esq.
A bill was signed by Gov. Dayton on May 16 that has changed the way workers' compensation claims have been handled for over three decades - it recognizes mental-mental injuries as compensable. The following is a summary of several significant workers' compensation changes. We recently issued a survey regarding claim compensability to workers' compensation claims adjusters and have included those survey results at the conclusion.
Mental-Mental Claims: The definition of occupational disease has been expanded to include mental impairment. A mental impairment is defined as a “diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.” However, a mental impairment is not considered a disease if it results from a disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, promotion, termination, retirement, or similar action taken in good faith by the employer. Effective date: Applies to injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.
Attorney Fees: Attorney fees will now be paid on a straight 20% contingency fee. The 25/20 formula has been eliminated. Further, the maximum fee has been increased to $26,000.00 per injury and per case. Partial reimbursement of fees to the employee under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, Subdivision 7 shall only apply to contingent fees payable from the employee’s compensation benefits; subdivision 7 fees are not payable for resolution of a medical or rehabilitation dispute. Effective date: Applies to injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.
Compensation Rates: The maximum compensation rate will be 102% of statewide average weekly wage for the period ending December 31 of the preceding year. The current maximum compensation rate of $850 is eliminated, while the minimum compensation rate of $130 remains unchanged. Effective date: Applies to injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.
Cost of Living Adjustments: For injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013, the adjustment shall not exceed 3% nor shall it be less than 0%. The initial adjustment is deferred until the third anniversary of the date of injury and the adjustment made at that time shall be for the last year only. Effective date: Injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.
Rehabilitation Services: Job placement services must not exceed 20 hours per month or 26 consecutive or intermittent weeks. At the point 13 weeks consecutive or intermittent weeks of job placement/development services have been provided, the QRC must consult with the parties and either file a plan amendment reflecting an agreement by the parties to extended job placement services for an additional 13 consecutive or intermittent weeks, or file a request for a Rehabilitation Conference. The commissioner or compensation judge may amend or modify the rehabilitation plan, but it may not order more than 26 total consecutive or intermittent weeks of job placement services. Effective date: Applies to injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.
Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant: A QRC must not provide medical, rehabilitation, or disability case management services related to an injury that is compensable under Chapter 176 when the services are part of the same claim, unless the case management services are part of an approved rehabilitation plan. Effective date: October 1, 2013, for all dates of injury.
Pain Contract: The commissioner shall adopt rules establishing standards and procedures for health care provider treatment. The rules shall include criteria for the long-term use of opioids or other scheduled medications to alleviate intractable pain and improve function, including the use of written contracts between the injured worker and the health care provider who prescribes the medication. Effective date: October 1, 2013, and applies to employees with all dates of injury who receive treatment after the rules are adopted.
Patient Advocate Pilot Program: The Commissioner shall implement a two-year patient advocate program for employees with back injuries who are considering back fusion surgery.