Introduced Bill – Protecting Injured Government Workers’ Act of 2012

____________________________                                            Councilmember Michael A. Brown

A BILL

IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Councilmember ____________________________ introduced the following bill, which was referred to the Committee on ____________________________.

To amend the District of Columbia’s Public Sector Workers’ Compensation Program to repeal the prohibition of claims for mental stress or emotional conditions or diseases; establish that treating physicians have preference over other opinions absent compelling reasons to the contrary; provide that a claimant who begins to receive compensation will continue to do so until an administrative law judge upholds a determination to suspend, reduce, or terminate compensation; require the availability of disability compensation subject to annual review of a claimants status by an administrative law judge if an injury lasts longer than 500 weeks without being reclassified as permanent; and clarify the applicability of the additional award owed to claimants when Office of Administrative Hearings orders are not followed within 30 days.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the “Protecting Injured Government Workers Act of 2012.”  Sec. 2.  Title XXIII of the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978, Public Sector Workers’ Compensation, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-139; D.C. Official Code §§ 1-623.01 et seq.), is amended as follows: (a) Section 2302(b) and (c) (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.02(b) and (c)) are repealed.  (b) Section 2323(a-2)(4) (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.23(a-2)(4)) is amended by inserting the phrase “In all medical opinions used under this section, the diagnosis or medical opinion of the employee’s treating physician shall be accorded great weight over other opinions, absent compelling reasons to the contrary” at the end of paragraph. Section 2324 (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.24) is amended by adding a new subsection (a-5) to read as follows” “In all medical opinions used under this section, the diagnosis or medical opinion of the employee’s treating physician shall be accorded great weight over other opinions, absent compelling reasons to the contrary.” (c) Section 2324(a-3)(2) (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.24(a-3)(2)) is amended to read as follows: “(2) If after the commencement of payment, the Mayor makes a determination to suspend, reduce, or terminate compensation, compensation shall nonetheless continue until the claimant is no longer eligible to request a hearing on the claim pursuant to § 1-623.24 (b)(1) or, if the claimant requests a hearing, until the determination is upheld by a Department of Employment Services Administrative Law Judge under subsection (b) of this section and under § 1-623.28; provided that the Mayor or his or her designee may recoup benefits under § 1-623.29.  The claimant shall not be required to repay monies received until after all administrative remedies have been exhausted.” (d) Sec. 2306a (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.06a) is amended to read as follows: “(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, for any one injury causing temporary total or temporary partial disability, the payment for disability benefits shall not continue for more than a total of 500 weeks without a determination by an Office of Administrative Hearings judge that the claimant remains partially or totally disabled and, if so, whether the injury is likely to be temporary or permanent, provided, that within the last 52 weeks, the Mayor initiates a hearing before an Office of Administrative Hearings judge for purposes of making those determinations. The hearing shall be conducted pursuant to the provisions of § 1-623.24(b). If it is determined that the claimant remains partially or totally disabled, payment for disability benefits shall continue; provided that if it is also determined that the injury is likely to be temporary, additional hearings will be held on an annual basis to determine whether the claimant remains partially or totally disabled until it is determined that they have recovered or that their disability is permanent. Within 30 days after the hearing, the Mayor shall notify the claimant, the Attorney General, and the Office of Personnel in writing of his or her decision and any disability award that he or she may make and the basis of the decision.” (e) Section 2324(g) (D.C. Official Code § 1-623.24(g) is amended to read as follows: “(g) If the Mayor or his or her designee fails to make payments of the award for compensation as required by subsection (a-3)(1), (a-4)(2), or (b)(3) of this section or fails to comply within 30 days with an Office of Administrative Hearings order to pay providers for health or other services, an additional award of an amount equal to one month of the compensation for each 30-day period that payment is not made in full shall be paid to the claimant; provided, that the additional award shall not exceed 12 months’ compensation for each order. This award shall apply automatically in all cases in which the Mayor or his or her designees fails to comply with an order within 30 days and is enforceable both independently of the original order or concurrently with it. In addition, the claimant may file with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia a lien against the Public Sector Workers’ Compensation Fund, the General Fund of the District of Columbia, or any other District fund or property to pay the compensation award. The Court shall fix the terms and manner of enforcement of the lien against the compensation award.” Sec. 3.  The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (84 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).  Sec. 4.  This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(1)) and publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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