There have been many questions raised about the impact of the Executive Orders dealing with COVID-19 on the Worker’s Disability Compensation Agency, the hearing operations, and their various stakeholders including injured workers, employers, and insurance carriers. The Worker’s Disability Compensation Agency released the following statement to address these questions:
- The Workers’ Disability Compensation Agency is continuing in operation. Although staff is working remotely where possible, claims, insurance coverage, and other filings are being handled routinely. Time-sensitive filings should be accomplished in the usual fashion and in accord with existing requirements. Requests for extensions or alternative means of compliance will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- The hearings offices will continue to operate but hearings, meetings, conferences or other matters shall be conducted by teleconference unless specifically arranged with the magistrate and only for the most severe of circumstances. Redemptions must be pre-scheduled with specific date and time. All such hearings shall be conducted by teleconference with all necessary documents provided to the magistrate in advance of the call. Staff at the hearing site will handle incoming papers and send out the signed redemption orders by electronic means (email, fax, etc.)
- The restrictions on individual activity specified in the orders will impact on an injured worker’s ability to attend scheduled medical evaluations as well as continue to do job search activities. Since medical evaluations typically require the examiner to be in close proximity to the examinee (2020-19 paragraph 3a) and since “independent medical evaluations” are by definition not for purposes of treatment, facilities where such examinations take place are likely to be “closed to ingress, use and occupancy by members of the public” (2020-20 paragraph 1). Also, potential employment that might have been found by job search efforts, are shut down or severely restricted with unemployment rapidly increasing. During the effective period of the orders, and any extensions, related additional orders or expansion, failure to attend such evaluations or conduct job searches, should not adversely impact on the entitlement to benefits. It is recommended that any scheduled evaluations during this time be canceled or delayed in order to avoid “no show” fees/costs. Demands or threats made to injured workers relative to attending evaluations or conducting job searches may be considered a violation of the Executive Orders. In addition to sanctions that may apply under the Act, be aware of the provision in 2020-19, paragraph 7 and 2020-21 paragraph 14 “Consistent with MCL 10.33 and MCL 30.405(3), a willful violation of this order is a misdemeanor.”