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The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act sets forth specifically prescribed categories for grievously injured employees who qualify for Lifetime Income Benefits (LIBs), most of which are straightforward: those who suffer permanent loss of use in both eyes, both feet, or both hands, or a combination of one hand and one foot; spinal injuries resulting in paralysis of both arms, both legs, or one leg and one arm; and significant third-degree burn victims.
However, one classification has fostered equal parts ambiguity and scorn among system participants for decades: head trauma injuries resulting in “incurable insanity or imbecility.” The phrasing of this portion of the statute, found in Texas Labor Code Section 408.161(a)(6), is not only inherently vague (as neither “insanity” nor “imbecility” is defined anywhere in the Act), but also antiquated, relying on medical terminology established during the reign of Queen Victoria.
At long last, the Legislature is poised to rid us of the much-maligned clause. House Bill 2468 replaces the unfortunate “incurable insanity or imbecility” with “permanent major neurocognitive disorder.” But while the revision may be exponentially more tactful, is it any clearer?
“Permanent major neurocognitive disorder” is not yet defined in the statute, other than to say it necessitates “occasional supervision in the routine daily tasks of self-care” and renders an employee “permanently unemployable.” What constitutes “occasional supervision” or permanent unemployability remains to be seen. If left unaddressed in the corresponding rules the DWC has been charged with drafting, it is foreseeable that these phrases could generate as much uncertainty as those they replace.
If signed by Governor Abbott, House Bill 2468 goes into effect September 1, 2023.
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