The United States Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) has implemented a series of new procedures and required forms for the administration of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and its related compensation programs, which include the Defense Base Act, the Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
New Compensation Districts
Effective April 6, 2020, the former numerical compensation districts were eliminated and those offices were consolidated into three new compensation districts, titled the Eastern, Western and Southern Districts. Each district has sub-offices; the Eastern District includes Boston, New York and Norfolk; the Southern District includes Jacksonville, New Orleans and Houston; and the Western District includes San Francisco, Seattle and Long Beach.
New National Contact Information
DLHWC has a new phone system with a single nationwide number, which is 202-513-6809. In order to use this system, a caller needs either the OWCP number assigned to the claim or the Social Security number and date of birth of the claimant. The system will automatically refer the caller to the Claims Examiner assigned to the claim.
Electronic Signatures Authorized
On April 20, 2020, OWCP issued Industry Notice No. 179, which allows for electronic signatures on any documents submitted to DLHWC, including settlement applications, claim forms, notices of payments, reports of injury and other documents. Electronic signatures may be made with third-party applications such as Adobe Sign or DocuSign; by having the signatory use a touch-pad, mouse, or equivalent tool to digitally sign or draw a signature on the document; or in the form of a “/s,” followed by the signatory’s name, typed above a signature line. Parties are cautioned to maintain a record that shows the date the signature was made and how the signature was obtained to avoid any dispute regarding the signature’s authenticity.
On January 27, 2020, DLHWC announced the increase in penalties that may be assessed under the Act, pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.
Section 14(g): Failure to Report Termination of Payments (Form LS-208) Increases the penalty from $292 to $297.
Section 30(e): Penalty for Late Report of Injury or Death (Form LS-202) Increases the maximum penalty $24,017 to $24,441. The District Director has discretion in assessing this penalty, but there is a graded schedule of January 15, 2020:
- 1stlate report: $500
- 2ndlate report: $1,000
- 3rdlate report: $2,000
- 4thlate report: $4,000
- 5thlate report: $8,000
- 6thlate report: $16,000
- 7thlate report (& above): $24,441 (statutory maximum)
Section 49: Discrimination Against Employees The penalty increased from a $2,402 minimum and a $12,007 maximum to a $2,444 minimum and $12,219 maximum.
New Claims Can Be Filed Via SEA Portal
New claims can now be submitted via the DLHWC’s online claim portal. There are specific procedures for submitting new claims.
New Procedures for Requesting DLHWC Intervention and New Forms
Effective May 4, 2020, new forms have been implemented to request intervention from DLHWC in pending claims before that office.
The forms are to be used with any request for specific action, as follows:
Form LS-4 (Attorney Fee Approval Request)
Form LS-5 (Application for Special Fund Relief)
Form LS-6 (Commutation Application)
Form LS-7 (Request for Intervention)
Form LS-8 (Settlement Approval Request)
Form LS-9 (Stipulation Approval Request)
These new forms are used in addition to the party’s substantive request. They do not replace the pleadings required pursuant to the regulations implementing the Act. The forms are designed to clearly outline to DLHWC what a party is seeking that office to do.
Probably the most broadly reaching form will be the Form LS-7, used to assist in resolving disputes in claims. This will include requesting an informal conference, a request for authorization of a medical procedure or treatment, timely payment of compensation, default of an award of benefits, or a request for modification of an award.