The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Longshore Program (also known as DLHWC) enacted several sweeping changes during this most interesting year. From changes to their administrative structure to how claims forms are submitted, here’s a recap of four of these new developments.
Pursuant to Industry Notice No. 175, the DOL established three new compensation districts and re-designated the nine former compensation districts as suboffices:
The map below shows the states that comprise each compensation district.
Claims will be assigned on a rotating basis between the suboffice of the Eastern, Western, or Southern compensation districts based on the place of injury. For example, an injury that occurs in Florida will be assigned to either the Jacksonville, New Orleans or Houston suboffice based on the rotation.
The DOL enacted a new policy to accept electronic signatures on documents submitted on longshore claims. Industry Notice No. 179 explains the types of acceptable electronic signatures and the recordkeeping required for those adopting this new policy. As most companies are paperless, and with an increasing number of communications generated through email, this was a welcomed change that has the potential to speed up claims resolution by eliminating delays when multiple parties are required to physically sign documents.
The DOL issued Industry Notice No. 180, which outlined new procedures and forms for stakeholders to use to request an action of the DLHWC. These forms include:
The new forms function like a cover sheet and, upon receipt, alert the DOL to the filing which enables them to more efficiently take the appropriate action. For example, when a Form LS-8 (a settlement approval request) is uploaded by a party via the DLHWC’s online upload portal (SEAPortal), the responsible claims examiner will be notified of the request and an internal timetable will be initialized, ensuring that the application will be acted upon within the time required by the Longshore Act and code of federal regulations.
In August, the DOL Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) announced the merger of the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) with the Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC) into the Division of Federal Employees’, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DFELHWC).
Tony Rios, former DFEC Director and Acting DLHWC Director, was named the first DFELHWC Director. A new position, Deputy Director of Longshore Claims, was also created, with responsibility overseeing the Longshore Program policy and operations. The Longshore Program leadership in the national office and District Directors will report to the yet-to-be-named Deputy Director of Longshore Claims. The new organizational chart can be viewed here.
According to Rios, “reorganization will allow the Longshore program to benefit from DFEC’s administrative resources and infrastructure, such as its information technology (IT) platforms, particularly as OWCP moves towards its vision of a single enterprise wide IT system serving all four programs.” He adds, “Administration of these claims will remain in separate entities within the same Division, but this reorganization will improve operations as a whole and allow both workforces to optimize the handling of all claims.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Widener joined AEU in 2019 as Director of Claims Advisory Services. David began his longshore career in 2003 with F.A. Richard/American Equity Risk Services, where he was a claims supervisor for eight years. He joined the U.S. Department of Labor as a claims examiner in 2011, and was promoted to District Director six months later, overseeing operations for the Houston District Office. He is a frequent speaker at Loyola Law School’s Annual Longshore Conference, Longshore Claims Association meetings, and Defense Base Act seminars. He has developed and conducted continuing legal education seminars in conjunction with Loyola Law School and the U.S. Department of Labor. David has a B.S. in finance from Louisiana State University and is a credentialed mediator for the state of Texas.