Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp appeal board turns 100 in 2015

It has been 100 years since Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board came into existence. It has gone through many changes in that time, but it remains the next place to go for injured workers whose initial claim for workers’ compensation gets denied.

In 1915, the Workmen’s Compensation Board came into existence to hear petitions and appeals arising from decisions made by Workmen’s Compensation Referees. The first thing that readers probably have noticed is that the committee’s name refers to “workmen” only. It was not 1996 that the Board’s name changed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, recognizing that women can and do get hurt on the job.

For nearly 60 years, the Board acted as the final finder of fact in any workers’ compensation case. It could set aside a referee’s decision for any reason, substitute its own findings and draw its own conclusions from the evidence on the record.

Then in 1972, the law was amended to reduce the Board’s power. Workers’ comp referees were now under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Labor and Industry, instead of the Board’s. Also, from then on the Board could only change or overturn a referee’s decision if that change was based on competent evidence. Since it was no longer the final finder of fact, the Board’s name changed to the Workmen’s Compensation Appeal Board. It kept that name until it later received the gender-neutral moniker we mentioned above.

Being denied a workers’ compensation claim can seem discouraging at first, but it is not the end. Many people with legitimate claims get turned down at first, but prevail on appeal.

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