In 2021, the General Assembly of Virginia enacted new laws with retroactive effect that could make it much easier for a limited class of employees who contracted COVID-19 to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Still, it is uncertain whether employees who contracted COVID-19 before July 1, 2021, will ever gain any advantage from the new provisions.
According to the summary of House Bill 1985 on the General Assembly’s Legislative Information System (“LIS”), the bill “Establishes a presumption that COVID-19 causing the death or disability of health care providers is an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act” (emphasis added). This presumption is retroactive to March 12, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2021.
House Bill 1985 requires “a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 from a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant after . . . presenting with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that required medical treatment.” The bill allows recovery without an accompanying positive COVID-19 test from March 12, 2020, through June 30, 2020. From July 1, 2020, through December 30, 2021, a positive test is required to gain benefits.
The LIS summary states that House Bill 2207 “Establishes a presumption that COVID-19 causing the death or disability of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law-enforcement officers, correctional officers, and regional jail officers is an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act” (emphasis added). This presumption is retroactive to July 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2021.
House Bill 2207 allows recovery if “the claimant received a diagnosis of COVID-19 from a licensed physician, after either a presumptive positive test or a laboratory confirmed test for COVID-19, and presented with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that required medical treatment.” In other words, the beneficiary class that House Bill 2207 describes (i.e., firefighters, police officers, etc.) must have a positive COVID-19 test to gain benefits.
Senate Bill 1375 is identical to House Bill 2207.
The new laws discussed above become effective on July 1, 2021. They are retroactive as explained above. However, workers’ compensation insurers will certainly argue that the retroactivity provisions are unconstitutional. It is likely that the retroactivity issue will be hotly contested, and there is reason for concern that the issue will not resolve in favor of claimants. HammondTownsend will provide updates here regarding this matter.
HammondTownsend is a Virginia workers’ compensation law firm with offices located throughout the Commonwealth. If you fall within the class of employees described above and contracted COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to contact HammondTownsend for a free consultation. We can help you with the workers’ compensation process from start to finish.