The OJCC budget, divided by the number of petitions for benefits (PFB) closed, reflects that the overall cost per PFB closed fluctuated in recent years, due in large part to the significant fluctuation in PFB closure rates. These figures demonstrate relevance when considered in comparison to filing fees in Florida’s Circuit Courts. For “small claims” filings, the Circuit filing fees may be as low as fifty-five dollars ($55.00), but for civil claims with a value over $2,500.00, the filing fee is three hundred dollars ($300.00); for larger claims the Circuit filing fee may be as high as four hundred dollars ($400.00).
The OJCC is demonstrably more financially efficient, with a per-petition cost well below the Circuit Court filing fees. Additionally, in the majority of instances, the OJCC cost is inclusive of mediation services, which generally are an additional cost to the parties in other civil litigation. Over the last fifteen fiscal years, the average cost per petition closed was $232.00, just above half the comparable Circuit Court filing fee.
Another illustration of the cost-effectiveness of the OJCC is the volume of child support arrearages collected through the judges’ efforts. The Judges of Compensation Claims are statutorily required to ensure that the rights of child support recipients are considered when support payers settle their workers’ compensation case.
Each judge devotes considerable time and effort to the investigation and verification of child support arrearages when cases are settled. The significant amounts of child support collected through these efforts for the last fifteen (15) fiscal years are represented in this table, which total over $160 million ($162,740,517). When the judges were given the responsibility for recovering these arrearages, no staff or budget was added to the OJCC to accomplish this task.
The volume of child support arrearages collected is particularly interesting when considered in light of the overall OJCC budget. Over the last fifteen (15) fiscal years, the OJCC has collected an average of 63% of its overall budget annually in past-due child support to the benefit and advantage of support recipients throughout Florida.
In 2012-13, the OJCC undertook the duties associated with reporting arrearage information on behalf of the Department of Revenue (DOR). In 2013-14 the OJCC integrated the process of reporting Circuit Clerks’ arrearage information. This combination eliminated redundancy and waste across the process for all Florida workers’ compensation litigants. Litigants in Florida’s workers’ compensation adjudication system now get all of their required child support arrearage information from the OJCC instead of DOR and the Circuit Clerks.
These tremendous child support services on behalf of support recipients have been delivered without any additional staff or funding for the OJCC operations. Because of the sensitive nature of this data, the burden of investigating these support inquiries has fallen primarily on the OJCC mediators and Commission Clerks.