The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDWC) is expanding a promising program state-wide to expedite the resolution of some disputes.
TDWC initiated the pilot in May 2015 in Welasco, and was later brought to Dallas. It is currently available in 20 offices.
Under the program, the dispute is split into related claim issues so that the hearing officer can decide on the issue that has wider impact first. This step then paves the way for the resolution of secondary issues under the claim. To date, 50% of disputes entered into the program were scheduled for a hearing, while 33% resulted in full resolution.
Workers’ Compensation commissioner Ryan Brannan said the outcomes are encouraging.
“The division has a number of tools in its toolkit to manage claims disputes,” Brannan noted. “The two-step approach to deciding some of the most complex issues in a dispute can be a good option for system participants in certain cases.”
The program addresses disputes by removing addressing the issues piecemeal, thereby expediting its progress. When an employee raises a dispute about a claim, it usually involves three issues: the extent of injury, the date the patient achieved maximum medical improvement, and the injury’s impairment rating.
Deputy Commissioner for Hearings Kerry Sullivan explained that even as the extent of injury is a “threshold issue” that has an impact on other issues, it was addressed simultaneously in the process, serving as a bottleneck to dispute resolution.
Workers are not required to enroll in the program as it is voluntary. It is only resorted to when both parties agree to it.