WCI 2020 – The Virtual Edition

David Langham, Deputy Chief Judge, Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims

There is a cost-free opportunity on the horizon for exceptional workers’ compensation education. This is produced like no other, with literally the cream of the crop speaking/presenting for your viewing, edification, and illumination. We have to get over whether our lives, options, and opportunities are what we want during COVID, and instead we need to focus on the great opportunities with which we are nonetheless presented. 

COVID-19 has had multiple impacts on our lives, professional and personal. It has changed the way we work, restricted our personal interaction, forced us to “improvise, adapt and overcome,” (Clint Eastwood as Gunny Highway, Heartbreak Ridge, 1986). This has included individual efforts, corporate efforts, and group efforts. When I think of workers’ compensation and group/community-focused effort, my mind turns to the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI). For decades, under the leadership of Jim McConnaughhay and Steve Rissman, the WCI has evolved, grown, and expanded. It is the must-attend for so many each August, one that I have missed perhaps twice in the last 27 years. 

This blog has included multiple references to WCI events over the years. Recently, there was Thanks to All the Attorney Speakers at #WCI2019, which illustrates the depth of programming at a normal August WCI (and the vast assortment of lawyers that engage, present, and contribute). There has been mention of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary, which WCI supports and helped establish. The WCI has been a steadfast partner in the OJCC Winter Seminar each year in Tallahassee. And, of course, the recognition of WCI by Comp Laude for its philanthropic work has been featured. It is fair to say I am a fan of the educational efforts of this non-profit. 

The WCI has absolutely “improvise(d), adapt(ed), and overcome” for 2020. With the COVID threat, the resulting economic challenges, the reticence regarding travel, and the efforts of so many to shelter from this virus, both the new WCI Cybersecurity Forum and the broader workers’ compensation curriculum will be remote-programs. The workers’ compensation portion will be presented in August. The registration process has not opened for the August 17-19, 2020 virtual WCI. However, you can sign up for alerts so that you are notified when registration opens. Details are coming soon, but WCI360 released an overview last week. Remember, Nothing is Over Until We Say It Is!

What is known at this time is that the 2020 Virtual Conference will include: 

Monday, August 17, 2020

An annual favorite from the Outfront Ideas team of Kimberly George and Mark Walls; this will be an hour on Monday morning, August 17, 2020. It will feature a panel discussion on the effects of COVID-19 from the perspectives of various businesses. 

Also Monday morning Roy Franco and Heather Sanderson will conduct an unprecedented “Medicare Townhall” featuring John Jenkins from The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. This second hour Monday morning will focus on “The Best Defense: Avoiding Civil Monetary Penalties and Mandatory Insurer Reporting Under MSA Compliance.” The impact of Medicare on this community of workers’ compensation is undeniable, and challenging. This program should provide great insight for those responsible for compliance, and beyond. 

Monday afternoon, there will also be the Florida Case Law Update, which is a perennial audience draw each August. This program will be two hours and features Geoff Bichler, Marc Golden, David Beach and Mark Zeintz. Lou Stern will moderate this discussion. These are some exceptionally experienced, long-term, practitioners of the workers’ compensation community. 

Also Monday afternoon will be a multi-state panel discussion featuring representatives of the annual Multi-state Breakout session. This will be moderated by Steve Christie and features representatives from: California, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The annual live surgery will proceed on Tuesday morning, August 18, 2020. This one hour program will feature Dr. Michael Riggenbach of Orlando Orthopedics, performing an upper extremity surgery. Dr. Lawrence Halperin will moderate the surgery. And, there will be the ever-popular opportunity for questions and answers with the physicians. A live surgery, on simulcast! 

Also Tuesday morning is another multi-state breakout panel discussion moderated by Catlin Beyl and featuring representatives from: Georgia, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Whether on Monday or Tuesday, you can find perspectives from a wide variety of jurisdictions. 

Tuesday afternoon will feature two one-hour presentations by the National Workers’ Compensation Review. One will focus upon the AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment, including the American Medical Association Vice President David Sosnow, and Dr. Douglas Martin. The second program by the Review will focus on worker s’ compensation presumptions and COVID-19. This will be moderated by Kip Kubin. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

On Wednesday, August 19, 2020 there will be a rendition of the Florida-mandated “5 Hour Law & Ethics course.” This program is moderated by Michael Bunte and Scott Silver. This is a must-have for those adjusting Florida claims. It features regulatory panel discussions, ethics, and a two-hour case law update. While it is a mandated program for Florida claims handlers, the depth and breadth makes it of value to anyone with an interest in workers’ compensation. 

We can readily see that 2020 program will not be “the same.” Remember, it is an adaptation, not a just a shift to “virtual.” Admittedly, the WCI leadership has undertaken significant improvisation, adopting and producing a new, concise, and creative program within the challenges of COVID-19. And, from all indications, WCI has overcome the presented challenges with an exceptional, deep, and broad set of educational opportunities. I am convinced Gunny Highway would agree that WCI has indeed “improvise(d), adapt(ed) and overcome.” 

I am saving the dates (August 17-19, 2020), and encourage you to do so also. The program is exciting, the price is absolutely right ($0), and we owe it to ourselves and workers’ compensation generally to sharpen our tools periodically as we prepare to continue our efforts to make this community as strong. vibrant, and effective as practical. 

And, if you happen to be one of those that plans ahead, the WCI360.com website already has registration available for August 2021. I look forward to returning there myself next year. There are also a vast assortment of COVID-19 resources available on the WCI360.com page. My own various musings on COVID-19 are collected on the Announcement Blog for your convenience. A recent podcast interview by Sedgwick Institute’s Chris Mandel is here. “See” you in August!