Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Workers' Compensation Medical Marijuana Formal Hearing Decision


The Vermont Department of Labor has issued a decision regarding medical marijuana reimbursement.   Michael Hall v. Safelite Group Inc., Op. No. 06-18WC (2018).  The Department found that even though, under the facts in this specific case, the medical marijuana was reasonable and necessary treatment,  the carrier was not required to reimburse the claimant for medical marijuana.  The Department held that 18 V.S.A. 4474c(b)(4) controlled as the more specific statute. Other states ordering reimbursement  did not have a similar language prohibiting the reimbursement, therefore, under the state statutory structure, the Department could not order the carrier to reimburse the claimant for medical marijuana.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mileage Rate Increase Effective January 1, 2018

Effective January 1, 2018, the Workers’ Compensation mileage reimbursement rate increased from $.535 to $.545 per mile.  The mileage reimbursement rate, as determined by Rule 4.1310, is for mileage traveled for medical treatment, to attend an employer’s independent medical examination or attend a vocational rehabilitation meeting.  The rate is the rate that is in effect for classified state employees.

Per the changes to the Rules in 2015, you can no longer deduct the mileage traveled to/from work from the reimbursable mileage.

The Department of Labor's Mileage and Meal Reimbursement table is now updated with the 2018 information.  The table can be found at: http://labor.vermont.gov/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Mileage-and-Meals-Reimbursement-Rates.pdf 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

NEW FORM 25 AND FORM 32 ARE LIVE! REGISTRATION FOR MAY 3 AND 4, 2018 VERMONT WORKERS' COMPENSATION CONFERENCE IS LIVE!

The Department of Labor has put out a revised Form 25 (Wage Statement) and a revised Form 32 (Agreement for Temporary Compensation).  The revised forms can be found on the Department's website at: http://labor.vermont.gov/forms/#comp .  Please update your forms so that you are using the revised forms.

The Form 25 was revised to change paragraphs 3 and 4 in the instructions portion of the Form.  Paragraphs 3 and 4 used to exclude weeks where the employee was not paid for more than 1/2 of a work week.  The revised Form 25 states that weeks are excluded where the employee was paid for less than 1/2 of a work week.  The change is to clarify which weeks are excluded in the calculation of the employee's average weekly wage.

The Form 32 was revised to reflect the 2015 Rules, which clarified that the statutory language of "two-thirds" should be interpreted as "0.667" for the calculation of the employee's compensation rate.  The Form 32 now specifically states the calculation of the employee's compensation rate as "0.667".

Registration for the Vermont Workers' Compensation Conference is live on the Department of Labor's website at the following link:

http://labor.vermont.gov/workers-compensation/adjusters-attorneys-insurers/adjuster-licensing-training/

The Conference is scheduled for May 3 and 4, 2018.  The Conference will begin at 12:30 PM on May 3, 2018 and will conclude at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2018.  We look forward to seeing you there!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Update on Marijuana Legislation by Corina N. Schaffner-Fegard

Governor Phil Scott signed H.511 into law on January 22, 2018 which legalizes marijuana to a limited degree.  It decriminalizes personal possession for individuals 21 or older, of no more than 1 ounce of Marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish and two mature marijuana and four immature plants on private property.  This limit also applies per dwelling unit. Anything above these amounts is still a controlled substance and carries penalties of increasing severity based on the amount found in the possession of the individual.  Additional restrictions of use include, no use in public places or while driving.  This legislation has not opened the path to commercial sales for recreational use at this time, which is being reviewed by a task force.   Furthermore, nothing in the new bill requires an employer to permit of accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the work place.  Employers have the right to include prohibition of marijuana use in their policies and cannot be sued for discharging an employee who violates these policies.  

Federal law still classifies Marijuana as a Class I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and given Attorney General Session’s recent remarks we are not expecting any changes to the Controlled Substances Act at this point. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

LICENSING LETTERS FROM DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL REGULATION REGARDING LICENSE RENEWAL

If you received a letter recently from the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation advising you that your license will expire in March 2018 and that your renewal status is "pending", you aren't the only one!

We spoke with the Department of Financial Regulation this morning.  They have a system issue with the licensing system and are in the process of fixing it.  The letters were sent to adjusters who should NOT have received them, as the adjusters attended one of the Vermont Adjusters' Conferences that were presented by the Vermont Department of Labor and Ryan Smith & Carbine, Ltd. in January 2017 or June 2017.

The Department of Financial Regulation is working to fix the issue and will likely be sending updated letters out as soon as the issue is addressed.  We were assured this morning that if you attended one of the Vermont Adjusters' Conferences in January or June 2017, you have fulfilled your continuing education requirement and should get a follow-up letter confirming that your license will renew in March 2018.

We will update this post as we learn more information from the Department of Financial Regulation or Department of Labor.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

S.56: New Standard for Mental-Mental Claims; Presumption For Emergency Personnel Diagnosed with PTSD

Governor Phil Scott signed Senate Bill 56 on June 15, 2017. The pertinent section of the Bill for workers’ compensation purposes is Section 18, which contains a new standard for so-called “mental-mental” claims.  

“Mental-mental” claims are claims for workers’ compensation benefits for a mental condition that arose from a mental stimulus.  Previously,  the injured worker was required to prove a causal connection between the stress and the injury, that the stresses encountered while working for the employer were significant and objectively real, that the job placed greater emotional strain and tension on him/her than other employees, and the stress could not be the result of bona fide personnel issues.  However, the amendment to  21 V.S.A. §601(11)(J)(i) provides that a mental condition resulting from a work-related event or stress shall be a compensable claim if it is demonstrated by the preponderance of the evidence that: “(I) the work-related event or work-related stress was extraordinary and unusual in comparison to pressures and tensions experienced by the average employee across all occupations; and (II) the work-related event or work-related stress, and not some other event or source of stress, was the predominant cause of the mental condition.”  The section also provides that a mental condition is not compensable if it results from disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or similar action taken in good faith by the employer.  The employee will still have the burden of proof to demonstrate that he/she can meet the standard by a preponderance of the evidence, but it is likely that employers and carriers will see a rise in mental-mental claims with the change in the standard.

Section 18 also amends 21 V.S.A. §601(11) to state that “in the case of police officers, rescue or ambulance workers, or firefighters, post-traumatic stress disorder that is diagnosed by a mental health professional shall be presumed to have been incurred during service in the line of duty and shall be compensable, unless it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by nonservice-connected risk factors or nonservice-connected exposure.”  The amendment further states that a police officer, rescue or ambulance worker or firefighter who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder within three years of his/her last date of employment as a police officer, rescue or ambulance worker, or firefighter shall be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under this section.  The amendment creates a presumption that any emergency worker diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder has a compensable workers’ compensation claim for benefits.  In order to deny the compensability of the claim, the carrier/employer will have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by something unrelated to the emergency service work.

A “mental health professional” is defined as a person with professional training, experience and demonstrated competence in the treatment and diagnosis of mental conditions, who is certified or licensed to provide mental health care services and for whom diagnosis of mental conditions are within his/her scope of practice, including a physician, nurse with recognized psychiatric specialties, psychologist, clinical social worker, mental health counselor, or alcohol or drug abuse counselor.  The categories of mental health professionals are very broad as written in the amended statute.  In Vermont, there are specific licensure requirements for some, but not all, categories of mental health care providers.  There will likely be future challenges and disputes regarding whether specific providers fit within the definition as amended by the Legislature.  It does not appear that licensure is required.

The effective date for S.56 is July 1, 2017.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Annual Adjustment of Workers' Compensation Benefits - JULY 1, 2017

The new Form 28(FY18) and the Form 28A(FY18), which you should use to update claimant’s rates as of July 1, 2017, are now available.  You can download both forms from the Department of Labor's website at:  http://labor.vermont.gov/forms/#comp.  Please make copies as needed.


The new maximum for those injuries arising after June 30, 1986 is $1,281.00.  The new maximum for injuries prior to June 30, 1986 is $854.00.  The minimum in all cases is $427.00.

To calculate the July 1, 2017 COLA increase, multiply the July 1, 2016 compensation rate by 1.018 and add the appropriate dependency benefit, if any.


Please be aware of the requirement to forward a copy of the Form 28 to the injured worker or dependent.