by Honorable David B. Torrey
Workers’ Compensation Judge
National workers’ compensation leaders have formed a committee to plan a commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1972 publication of the Report of the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws.
That report condemned the current status of compensation laws (limited coverages, poverty-level rates) as a “national disgrace” and set forth, among other things, nineteen essential recommendations for a modern law. According to many contemporary observers, the threat of a federal takeover loomed over states, lest they fail to comply and modernize. And notably, during the 1970s a proposed federal law was advanced (unsuccessfully) in Congress.
Many states responded to the National Commission and updated their laws. A typical response was that of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As the Supreme Court of my state remarked, “With the Commission report as a background, the Pennsylvania Legislature in the years 1972 through 1974 undertook a massive overhaul of the State’s Workmen’s Compensation Law and Occupational Disease Law which, among other items, caused the average weekly payment to rise from $60.00 per week to a present $187.00 per week. It was the intention of the Legislature to have the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Law comply with as many of the essential recommendations of the Commission as possible.” Heckendorn v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 465 A.2d 609 (Pa. 1983).
The Chairman of the National Commission, Emeritus Professor John F. Burton, Jr., Esq., OWCP Director Chris Godfrey, and past WILG Chair Alan Peirce, are among the members of the commemoration planning committee. Other members are Professor Les Boden, Professor Mike Duff, Attorney Jim Gallen, Professor Emily Spieler, IAIABC leader Jennifer Wolf, NASI workers’ compensation researcher Ellen Weiss, and Dave Torrey.
The Committee is still formulating its official mission statement, so stay tuned!
Professor Burton, who has published follow-ups over the years, features the National Commission’s Report on his website, https://workerscompresources.com./