by Jennifer M. Smith, Esq.
You just received a hearing request over the authorization of physical therapy. Wouldn’t it be nice if the issue could be resolved by your defense attorney over a conference call with the judge rather than through the hearing process? The Georgia State Board of Worker’s Compensation agrees. With their new program “Expedited Resolution of Issues,” the Board hopes to provide a faster resolution to some of the less complicated issues in workers’ compensation cases.
As discussed by two of the newest Administrative Law Judges at a recent Workers’ Compensation Section breakfast meeting, the program is designed to promote conference calls with judges instead of motions or evidentiary hearings. Judge Tifverman and Judge Mitchell explained that the anticipated result is much quicker resolution of issues along with less expense for both sides. The program is designed for issues in compensable claims which should not require an evidentiary hearing. As indicated on the State Board website, https://sbwc.georgia.gov, the types of issues intended to be addressed by the program include, but are not limited to: “problems obtaining authorization to treat with a panel or other authorized provider; problems obtaining medication prescribed by the authorized provider; authorization for diagnostic testing recommended by the authorized provider; unpaid medical bills; or accidental or improper suspension of benefits.” The program should not be used for change of physician requests and the judge may determine during the call that more information is needed and therefore may recommend a hearing or motion instead. Judge Tifverman and Judge Mitchell further explained that the program is new, so not every detail of the program has been determined. For instance, if one party does not agree with the judge’s decision on the conference call and wants to appeal, the judges expected that an appeal could be initiated, but the exact process of doing so had not been addressed yet.
To take advantage of the “Expedited Resolution of Issues” program, the parties should call the office of the ALJ assigned to the claim to set up the conference call.