The Benefits Review Board recently published a new decision addressing “compensation” under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”): Wheeler v. Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. In Wheeler, the BRB determined that, for purposes of modification under Section 22 of the LHWCA, the term “compensation” did not include the payment of medical benefits.
The term “compensation” has been defined differently by different courts. The Supreme Court of the United States previously stated that “compensation” did not include the payment of medical care for purposes of Section 13(a) of the LHWCA. Marshall v. Pletz, 317 U.S. 383 (1943). In the Court’s opinion, Sections 2(12), 6, 8, 10, and 14 of the LHWCA used the term “compensation” to refer to periodic money payments, but not an employer’s expense of medical care.
Later courts and administrative bodies have interpreted “compensation” broadly. See, e.g., Lazarus v. Chevron USA, Inc., 958 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir. 1992). In Lazarus, the Fifth Circuit restricted its holding to the LHWCA’s Section 18(a), which deals with enforcement of awards. If a Claimant was awarded reimbursement of amounts he expended for medical care, then those amounts may be considered “compensation.” Further, as noted by the BRB in Wheeler, the holding in Lazarus was limited to cases “in which the employer refuses or neglects to furnish medical services, and the employee incurs expense or debt in obtaining such services; in such a case, an award of medical expenses obtained by the employee against the employer was held to be ‘compensation’…”
Reading Pletz and Wheeler together indicates that Sections 2(12), 6, 8, 10, 13, 14 and 22 of the LHWCA uses the term “compensation” to mean “periodic money payment.”
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)