Vermont Bar Journal
Fall 2008 - #12.
New Workers' Compensation Legislation
The Vermont Bar Journal #175, Volume 34, No. 3 FALL 2008
New Workers' Compensation Legislationby J. Stephen Monahan, Esq. & Nathaniel K. Seeley, Esq.This year, the Vermont legislature passed "workers' compensation reform" legislation, Act 208 (S.345). Governor Douglas signed the bill into law on June 11, 2008. The Act amended several sections of existing law and directed that several issues be studied. This package of legislation permits employers to pay for first-aid only injuries without reporting to the insurer (reports still must be filed with the Department of Labor), requires that low-deductible insurance policies be offered to employers that request them, changes the number of weeks used to calculate an injured worker's average weekly wage to 26 weeks, delays the implementation of COLA for TTD benefits, permits the award of attorney fees even in the absence of a formal hearing, and requires insurers to evaluate the medical status of any injured worker receiving TTD for 104 weeks. The Act made changes to the criminal fraud statutes and requires insurers to file fraud-prevention reports with the Department of Labor, on request. It also requires studies designed to evaluate different aspects of the workers' compensation system and report findings and recommendations to the legislature. The Department of Labor is directed to investigate and propose rules and legislation relating to improving workplace safety and to returning injured employees to work more quickly. The legislature has also directed the forest products industries and the Secretary of Agriculture to work with the Department of Labor and the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration to develop programs and practices to reduce the cost of workers' compensation insurance in the agriculture and forest product markets.
Creation of an Employee Classification and Fraud Enforcement Task Force
The most significant of the study groups created by the legislature is a ten-member Workers' Compensation Employee Classification, Coding, and Fraud Enforcement Task Force created to "investigate and analyze misclassification and miscoding of employees and occurrences of fraud in the workers' compensation program . . . " and to offer recommendations on ways to improve detection and prosecution of fraud, ways to improve outreach and education to the business community on properly distinguishing between independent contractors and employees and proper risk coding of employees, and ways to "improve...