Oklahoma state representative, Mark McCullough told the press last week that he was prepared to introduce legislation designed to improve his state’s workers’ compensation system. Representative McCullough also said that the legislation will be based on recent recommendations from The Task Force on Vocational Rehabilitation in Workers’ Compensation, including reforms that would return employees to work whenever possible, as a way to both control costs and reduce litigation.
In addition, the group recommended that vocational rehabilitation should begin much earlier than is currently required, and that medical guidelines that are evidence-based should be implemented in order to identify and confirm workplace injuries.
McCullough, an attorney, served as chair of the task force, which put the workers’ compensation system and the issue of vocational rehabilitation under review. In their report, the task force observed, “Vocational rehabilitation through our system is utilized infrequently, rarely successfully places an injured worker in a difference occupation, is not attractive to the injured worker for a variety of reasons, occurs much too late in the case timeline and is perhaps cynically used to settle a claim for a higher dollar amount with no real belief by either part that the funds will actually be used for the purposes of vocational rehabilitation.”
McCullough said that his legislation would include reforms to begin vocational rehabilitation before Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) in some cases, and may involve having a physician’s advisory council draft at set of fact-specific injuries to serve as a “trigger” for cases where earlier vocational rehabilitation may be advisable.
In addition, the legislation will also contain provisions from a bill McCullough originally filed last year. That bill, which was a product of a working group sponsored by The State Chamber, would turn Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation system into an administrative system, which all states except Oklahoma and Nebraska have already embraced.