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Scott Walker, Governor
Reginald J. Newson, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/news.htm
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WIWorkforce
On Twitter: @WIWorkforce

Guest Column: Worker's Compensation Proposal Represents Common-Sense Reform

By Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson and Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel

Governor Walker has proposed a biennial state budget that builds on policies that have helped turn our economy around, and it advances reforms to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to taxpayers.

To this end, we would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the advantages behind the proposed transfer of functions currently performed by DWD's Worker's Compensation (WC) Division to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) and the Department of Administration's Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA). Much has been said publicly about this budget provision, and some have questioned the logic behind this transfer.

The Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA) already conducts hearings for more than a dozen state agencies, including hearings for our DWD’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and for OCI. Consolidating adjudicatory functions of the Worker's Compensation program in Hearings and Appeals will allow for cross-training to ensure coverage of cases, promote consistency and independence, and maximize the talents and experience of each administrative law judge. All proper communications between the Worker's Compensation staff and the Administrative Law Judges will, of course, continue. Consolidation also will allow for the pursuit of efficiencies in case management, record production and storage, and IT investment.

Moving specific parts of WC to OCI makes policy and economic sense as well. In Wisconsin, Worker's Compensation is an insurance program regulated by OCI, DWD, and the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau. OCI also already manages three insurance funds -- Local Government Property Insurance Fund (LGPIF), State Life Insurance Fund (SLIF), and the Injured Patient and Families Compensation Fund (IPFCF) along with processing thousands of customer complaints each year. Keeping insurance programs under the umbrella of one agency is a common-sense step to streamline and clarify government services. It provides employees, employers, and insurers a one-stop shop.

The Governor's budget proposal does more than streamline service delivery and ensure injured workers can continue to move quickly through the Worker's Compensation system. His proposal also helps DWD sharpen its focus on developing Wisconsin's talent with nimble, demand-driven strategies that provide employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.

Wisconsin has had a Worker's Compensation program since 1911 and the program has experienced many changes over the past century. The Governor's budget proposal works to continue the strong tradition of a well-run Worker's Compensation program, while at the same time recognizing that even strong government programs can be improved.

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