Monday, December 22, 2003

Legislation Addressing Caso and Other Issues Sent to Governor Rendell for Signature

House Bill 88 was sent to the Governor December 17, 2003 for action by December 27, 2003. The major provision of this legislation is to eliminate the requirement that an expert who will conduct a vocational evaluation be approved by the Department. The expert will have to meet the minimum qualifications established by the Department through regulation to conduct a vocational interview.

An additional requirement is that the vocational expert shall comply with the code of professional ethics for rehabilitation counselors pertaining to the conduct of expert witnesses. An element of this is the practice of using vocational counselors who are employed within the corporate structure of the insurance carrier, and who often do vocational assessments only for that carrier. Language prohibiting this was stricken from the final version of the bill. All the bill requires now is disclosure of the relationship at the time the exam is scheduled.

This disclosure may still be a powerful provision, because it will allow Claimant's Counsel to preserve an objection to the competency of the vocational witness on the basis of the witness' conflict of interest. The WCJ determines the competency of a vocational witness without regard to the provisions of the Act about the qualifications of vocational witnesses to conduct vocational interviews and the regulations related thereto. Wheeler v WCAB (Reading Hospital and Medical Center)

The final element of the legislation (at least on its face) is the inclusion within the definition of "employe" individuals who, while in the course and scope of their employment, go to the aid of a person and suffer injury or death as a direct result of preventing the commission of a crime, lawfully apprehending a person reasonably suspected of having committed a crime, aiding the victim of a crime or rendering emergency care, first aid or rescue at the scene of an emergency.

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