The Impact of 1984 Amendments on the Longshore Program
HRD-90-76BR, Mar 8, 1990
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the impact of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act Amendments of 1984, intended to improve and expedite the processing of claims involving occupationally induced diseases, focusing on the: (1) claims filing and appeals process at three Department of Labor (DOL) district offices; (2) extent of employer voluntary compensation and resolutions; (3) benefits provided by the amendments; and (4) district offices' recordkeeping practices.
GAO found that the amendments: (1) increased the permanent membership of the Benefits Review Board from three to five to expedite case processing and reduce the backlog of cases awaiting hearing or appeal; (2) authorized DOL to appoint up to four administrative law judges as temporary members; (3) extended the statute of limitations for filing occupational disease claims; (4) clarified the wage rates to be used in computing occupational disease benefits for retirees; (5) changed the provisions concerning eligibility for survivor benefits; and (6) extended benefit coverage for retirees. GAO also found that, at the district offices: (1) average case processing time and the number of backlog cases did not decrease as a result of the amendments, with the majority of claims filed since the enactment of the amendments still pending resolution; (2) employers and claimants continued to dispute most occupational disease claims, and employers routinely contested occupational disease claims and seldom voluntarily provided benefits; (3) over 90 percent of reviewed claims involved asbestos-related diseases; and (4) case examiners did not always use the DOL Longshore Automated Case Management System, and could not provide data on the number of occupational disease cases at their offices, case processing times, or case loads and trends.