The 2016 election season is in the books. As I watched the returns, I noticed that Senator Johnny Isakson was reelected in Georgia. This is important for the Longshore and Defense Base Act community because Senator Isakson has been one of the leading voices proposing amendments to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Nearly any amendment made to the Longshore Act will necessarily affect the Defense Base Act.
Take a look at Senate Bill S. 669, which Senator Isakson introduced to the Senate on March 29, 2011. Some of the changes are good. For example, funeral benefits presently pay out at $3,000. That amount has not been increased since 1984. An increase to $7,500 (if not more) is warranted.
Other proposed amendments are game-changers. The four that should stick out to claimants include:
- Incorporating a proportional payment system whereby disability payments can be reduced by prior disability ratings or prior impairments from non-occupational factors. Any claimants with a prior VA rating or prior injuries would see their benefits reduced in proportion to the seriousness of the original injury and impairment.
- Completely retooling the medical benefits statute (33 U.S.C. 907) to incorporate “health care panels.” The claimant would be given their choice of treating physicians if the carrier did not have a predesignated network or panel of physicians to choose from. Otherwise, the claimant picks from the panel.
- Using “spendable earnings” instead of an average weekly wage model to determine compensation. Per this proposed amendment, “spendable earnings” is determined by dividing the claimant’s actual earnings by 52 and then subtracting taxes. This proposal would prove unworkable for foreign national DBA claimants.
- Shortening the time for providing notice and filing a Longshore claim. Frankly, I don’t think that the time for filing claims is long enough now. It certainly shouldn’t be any shorter. Just consider the present difficulties in filing claims for delayed-onset PTSD or asbestosis. Now double those difficulties.
Isakson has been reelected. If you happen to be a Defense Base Act claimant residing in Georgia, keep on the lookout for any proposed amendments to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In the event that Senator Isakson proposes legislation that might hurt your claim, reach out to him. I get the idea that he might not understand that Defense Base Act contractors, many of whom are veterans, could be hurt by short-sighted legislation.
Attribution: Photograph from Wikipedia.