Beginning March 1, 2016, the Board will no longer require hearings for law judges to review all Section 32 settlement agreements. In a Board bulletin issued last week, the Board announced they will begin utilizing a desk review process under certain circumstances.
According to the announcement:
In cases where the injured worker (other than a minor dependent) is represented by an attorney, desk review will be utilized when only indemnity is settled, or when all parties to the agreement request desk review. This use of desk review will reduce the time it takes to approve a Section 32 Waiver Agreement and allow calendar time to be prioritized for cases with pressing issues. The Board will continue to review other Section 32 Waiver Agreements through the hearing process.
Due to the change in the process, the Board has revised the standard Board forms (C-32 and C-32.1) that must accompany all settlement agreements. The Board has created a new mandatory Board form (C-32-I) for “indemnity only” settlements. Per the announcement, in the future the Board will release another mandatory Board form for all “full and final” settlement agreements. Additionally, the Board has produced a six minute video, which the Board now requires injured workers to view before their settlement agreement will be approved by the Board.
A streamlined Proposed Notice of Approval – Section 32 Waiver Agreement (PD-32) has been created that communicates to health care providers the status of medical treatment after the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is binding. It indicates the date on which the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is deemed to have been submitted to the Board and the date on which the Section 32 Waiver Agreement is binding.
It is likely this new process will be welcomed by all. This should result in faster settlement approvals, rather than waiting in excess of 45 days for a settlement hearing to be scheduled. Additionally, this should allow the Board to schedule hearings faster for other matters.