ISSUE: 2014 – Part One

Jack_crop 72dpiCalendar year 2014 was a relatively quiet year for Longshore Act jurisprudence, but the U.S. Department of Labor, which administers the Longshore Act, was busy with administrative matters.

First, here’s a summary of recent U.S. Department of Labor announcements.

INDUSTRY NOTICE No. 147, NOTICE TO INSURANCE CARRIERS, SELF-INSURED EMPLOYERS UNDER THE LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT, AND OTHER INTERESTED PERSONS

SUBJECT: Maximum and Minimum Compensation Rates Under the Longshore Act, Effective October 1, 2014; Adjustments of Permanent Total Disability and Death Cases

“Section 6(b)(3) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides that prior to October 1 of each year, based on the national average weekly wage for the three calendar quarters ending June 30 of that year, The Secretary of Labor shall determine the national average weekly wage (NAWW) to be applicable for the 12-month period beginning October 1. It has been determined that the applicable NAWW for the period beginning October 1, 2014, and ending September 30, 2015, is $688.51.”

The Notice states that the maximum compensation rate for total disability and death is 200 percent of the NAWW, and thus the maximum weekly rate effective October 1, 2014, is $1,377.02.

The minimum compensation rate is 50 percent of the NAWW, or $344.26 (if an employee’s average weekly wage is less than this amount then he receives his entire average weekly wage as compensation for total disability).

INDUSTRY NOTICE No. 148, TO INSURANCE CARRIERS AND SELF-INSURED EMPLOYERS UNDER THE LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT (LHWCA), AND ITS EXTENSIONS, AND OTHER INTERESTED PERSONS

SUBJECT: The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal)

This Notice announced the DLHWC’s release of a new web-based electronic portal that stakeholders may use to submit case related documents. “Stakeholders” are considered to be injured workers, employers/carriers, their representatives, and OWCP certified vocational rehabilitation counselors.

The Notice states that, “Any person with an internet connection and specific information about a DLHWC case can upload documents directly into a case file. Users do not have to register or enroll to use the SEAPortal. To file a document through the SEAPortal, a user needs the OWCP case number and the claimant’s last name, date of birth and date of injury. If OWCP has not yet assigned a case number, send the LS-201, LS-202, LS-203, or LS-262 to the DLHWC Central Case Create site in New York at the following address: U.S. Department of Labor, OWCP/DLHWC, 201 Varick Street, Room 740, Post Office Box 249, New York, NY 10014-0249).”

To access the SEAPortal, visit the OWCP/DLHWC website and look for the link:

http://www.dol.gov/owcp.dlhwc

Or access the SEAPortal directly at:

https://seaportal.dol-esa.gov

INDUSTRY NOTICE No. 146, TO INSURANCE CARRIERS, SELF-INSURED EMPLOYERS UNDER THE LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT (LHWCA) AND OTHER INTERESTED PERSONS

SUBJECT: Consolidation of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) District Office in Baltimore, MD with the District Office in Norfolk, VA

The DLHWC Baltimore District Office closed on September 30, 2014. Case work began transitioning to the Norfolk, VA District Office on September 1. The Norfolk office now has jurisdiction over Longshore cases and extensions arising in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Norfolk office is located at:

U.S. Department of Labor, OWCP
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation
Federal Building, Room 212
200 Granby Mall
Norfolk, VA 23510

In accordance with the previously issued Industry Notice No. 144 (November 14, 2013) all forms submitted for the creation of a new case should still be submitted to the central case create site at the New York District Office. Also pursuant to Industry Notice 144, following case create, mail should still be sent to the central mail receipt site at the Jacksonville District Office.

OSHA NOTE: Although not pertaining directly to the administration of the Longshore Act by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, another U. S. Department of Labor agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), released an important updated record keeping rule regarding fatalities and severe injuries that goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

Under the new rule, effective January 1, 2015, employers will have to report the following to OSHA:

All work-related fatalities
All work related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees (formerly three or more)
All work related amputations (new)
All work related losses of an eye (new)

Employers have three options for reporting events to OSHA:

By telephone to the nearest OSHA Area Office during normal business hours
By telephone to the 24 hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742
OSHA is developing a new means of reporting events electronically, which will be available soon at www.osha.gov.

For more information about the updated reporting requirements, visit OSHA’s webpage on the revised recordkeeping rule at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014.

Benefits Review Board NOTE:

The BRB has posted a NOTICE REGARDING AVAILABILITY OF ELECTRONIC FILING AND ELECTRONIC SERVICE:

“All parties to appeals before the Benefits Review Board (BRB) may now use the Board’s Electronic File and Service Request (EFSR) system. The EFSR portal allows parties to file new appeals electronically, receive electronic service of Board issuances, file briefs and motions electronically, and check the status of existing appeals via a web-based interface accessible 24 hours every day in lieu of paper documents.

The EFSR system is open to any party to an appeal before the Board. An e-Filer must register as a user and must be validated by the Board before e-filing any document. An e-Filer will complete an online registration form. A valid e-mail address is required to register as a e-Filer. Once registered, an e-Filer will be able to use the EFSR for electronic filing (eFile) ….”

Information regarding registration for access to the EFSR system, as well as a step by step user guide and FAQs can be found at: https://dol-appeals.entellitrak.com.

The Board can be contacted at Boards-EFSR-Help@dol.gov.

Next time, I’ll briefly discuss a few interesting Longshore and Jones Act cases that were decided during 2014.

John A. (Jack) Martone served for 27 years in the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Programs, as the Chief, Branch of Insurance and Financial Management, and the Acting Director, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation. Jack joined The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. (AEU) in 2006, where he serves as Senior Vice President, AEU Advisory Services and is the moderator of the AEU Longshore Blog.

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