Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Moving the Cheese? Again?

Who moved your cheese?

I am proud of the job the OJCC is doing in bringing service to our customers. There are so many in that description, but in the end this workers' compensation system is about the injured worker and the business for which she or he works. I quote Walt Disney is a figure I sometimes quote in presentations. One of his best is "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse." Likewise, I hope we can remember that the people of Florida are our responsibility, and I hope we never lose sight of the fact that injured workers' and their employers are the core of our responsibility.

I struggle sometimes with the question "what do you do." I struggle because on any given day I may be working on computer software design or testing, dealing with a customer's issue or problem, writing a report, working on an article, updating a website, listening to someone's suggestion for improvement, dealing with workload distribution, hearing a case, preparing orders, the list goes on. It is hard to encapsulate these varied tasks into a coherent job description. But, one of my key responsibilities is finding ways that we can re-engineer our process to make the workers' compensation litigation system function better.

Unfortunately, to do so, we have to change the way  certain processes work from time to time. That always comes with a certain level of anticipation and sometimes a certain level of anxiety. The fact is that change is hard on people. We are all creatures of habit to some degree, and that routine provides us with familiarity and some modicum of comfort.

We are moving your cheese again in September, although you may have already seen the signs. The way you request and receive information on child support arrearage for Florida residents will change officially September 3, 2013. We put up signs at the WCI conference last week, and provided announcement flyers also. I had the opportunity to talk about the change at several meetings. Essentially, the OJCC is now going to provide one-stop-shopping for arrearage data. 

In the past, attorneys have had to request child support information from the Department of Revenue (DOR), and the counties in which the injured worker resided at time of accident and time of settlement. About a year ago we began a data-sharing agreement with DOR, and last winter we began the process of providing that DOR data to attorneys when requested. After that change, the requests remained multiple, one to the OJCC and one or two to the counties. The benefit of that change, though, is that our provision of DOR information was served through e-JCC. A request by any counsel resulted in information for all counsel. We also saved the state a bundle on postage or fax costs by using our e-service. 

Now we have access to the Circuit and County data as well. Officially beginning September 1, 2013, a single request for child support data to the OJCC will result in an e-served response with information from the DOR and all 67 Florida Counties! One request, one response, one-stop-shopping! The response will be general, providing aggregate totals of support due. This process is designed to put the information in your hands that you need to be able to discuss settlement of a case. Let's face it, information about these totals may be critical to making such a decision. 

If the case settles, you may need more detail, as to specific support case numbers. This might be needed to plan a distribution of the arrearage payback. Some may prefer instead to simply pay the arrearage portion of the settlement to the central depository and allow them to distribute among multiple cases. If you need that data to make the settlement proceed, simply file a request that explains that and asks for the detail that you require. By proceeding in this manner, we can provide the aggregate total or "no record found" information that is needed in the vast majority of cases, and then provide the details only when they are required. 

We will continue to distribute the information through e-JCC, by e-service. This way when one counsel requests, all counsel will receive the reply. Therefore, before you make a request, please look at the docket and see if there is already a recent response upon which you could rely. 

This will save you time and money. No more faxes or stamps to send to the counties and Tallahassee. No more preparation of multiple forms. One request, one response. Of course we cover only the Florida counties, so if the injured worker lived or was injured out of state that information must be accumulated independently of the OJCC.

The information on support will be part of our docket, as we serve it upon you. Therefore, there is no longer a need to include that document in the settlement package you later file. Simply include in your motion, in the arearage paragraph, "the child support arrearage is _________ accoring to the report on the OJCC docket dated ________." Enough said 

On 09.05.13 I got a message about this. A caller asked if the attorneys still need to spell out the distribution of the money between claimant and any child support payee. The short answer is yes. The language you strike is what is marked through here, and what you add in instead is bold underline here, and you leave the remainder of the language that spells out how the proceeds will be distributed: According to the attached information, there is an outstanding child support arrearage of $__________ [If no arrearage, enter "0"]"The child support arrearage is _________ according to the report on the OJCC docket dated ________."The claimant agrees that the sum of $_________ shall be withheld from the settlement proceeds and paid directly to the proper authorities.  [Statement regarding whether claimant’s attorney or carrier is paying the child support arrearage from settlement.]

This deployment of our new process is the result of a great deal of effort by OJCC staff. I am grateful to so many, but the following should be mentioned: Susan Brown, DOAH IT Director; Stephanie Hayes, OJCC Counsel; Lyna Hickman, Panama City Commission Clerk; Julie Hunsaker, OJCC Clerk; and Jeanette Randall, Pensacola District Commission Clerk. While I am at it, thank you, our customers, for your patience and understanding as we implement this change to your process. I hope you like the cost and time savings of the new process. We are proud to have brought it to you. 

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