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Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation Offers Insightful Updates at the 61st Annual Symposium

29 Jun, 2023 Claire Muselman

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Des Moines, IA ( – The 61st Annual Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium held its highly anticipated Agency Update session on June 22, 2023. Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner Joseph S. Cortese II provided attendees an engaging and comprehensive overview of the Division's operational landscape in the past year. This flagship event was hosted at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott and attracted industry professionals from across the state.

Most of Commissioner Cortese's presentation focused on key Division statistics, revealing a remarkable consistency in the number of petitions filed with the Division over the past several years. Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 saw 3,295 new petitions being filed, excluding those for alternate care. This figure closely follows the trends set in previous years, with 3,265, 3,399, 3,534, and 3,339 petitions filed in FY 2021, FY 2020, FY 2019, and FY 2018, respectively.

Cortese also revealed a detailed breakdown of the First Reports, Hearings, and Settlements during FY 2022. The agency received 15,193 First Reports of Injury, held 212 arbitration hearings, and approved 4,175 settlements. These statistics indicate a slight downturn compared to the previous fiscal year, which recorded 16,579 First Reports of Injury, 267 arbitration hearings, and 4,583 approved settlements.

Managing the Alternate Medical Care Petitions and decisions is an essential component of the Division's operations, which has seen a moderate decline over the past few years. These petitions are typically filed due to a lack of authorization for treatment recommended by an authorized physician and are often dismissed when authorization is given. As of May 31, 2023, the agency had registered 535 Alternate Care Petitions and made 72 decisions.

In a display of the Division's efficacy and dedication to resolving longstanding issues, Commissioner Cortese proudly announced the elimination of the backlog of appeals to the Commissioner. This burden had plagued the agency for decades. This achievement was reached in 2021, and the agency has since striven to keep the number of pending appeals to the Commissioner as low as possible. As of the end of May 2023, the agency handled 35 cases on appeal to the Commissioner. Of that number, only eight cases were fully submitted on appeal and waiting for a decision.

Another groundbreaking improvement was the implementation of internet-based video hearings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiated in March 2020, the Division decided to continue this mode of hearing indefinitely from October 29, 2022. This major shift in the operation has helped streamline proceedings and vastly improved the agency's efficiency. It provides a practical solution to scheduling and conducting hearings, allowing the agency and parties to manage their time and resources effectively.

The Commissioner also discussed the Petitions for Judicial Review. When a case is appealed from the Commissioner to the Iowa District Court, the party filing the appeal must ensure that a copy of the Petition for Judicial Review is sent to the Division. This process is crucial as the Division has 30 days from receiving the Judicial Review Petition to certify the case record and deliver the certified record to the District Court. The Commissioner reiterated the importance of this process, emphasizing that any failure to provide the Petition for Judicial Review to the Division may cause significant delays and hinder the judicial review process.

Amidst discussion of Division achievements and challenges, Commissioner Cortese took a moment to pay tribute to the staff, saying, "At the Division of Workers' Compensation, we have 12 Deputy Work Comp Commissioners who hear the cases, who write the arbitration decisions, who help with appeals, who rule on all the motions, and who perform other important time-consuming and difficult duties." He continued to recognize and praise the Assistant Commissioner, two compliance analysts, a hearing administrator, two docket clerks, three word processors, an appeals support clerk, a records request clerk, and their administrative secretary. Cortese highlighted each staff member's crucial role in making the Division run as smoothly as possible despite the minimal resources and increasing budget constraints.

Personal reflections and gratitude marked the closing remarks by Commissioner Cortese. He expressed how serving the people of Iowa and the workers' compensation community as the Workers' Compensation Commissioner was a great honor. Cortese acknowledged his reappointment by Governor Reynolds and confirmation by the Iowa Senate for a second six-year term, which began in May 2021. He welcomed attendees to contact him with questions and concerns, vowing to lend a listening ear and provide necessary assistance.

"Thank you to everyone at the Division of Workers' Compensation, and everyone else, for the generous support and the kind consideration I have received in the eight years since I took over as Commissioner. I look forward to the next several years," Cortese concluded, fostering an atmosphere of optimism for the future of the Iowa Division of Workers' Compensation.

These updates offer valuable insights into the Division's ongoing commitment to streamlining its operations and tackling challenges head-on while setting a positive tone for future progress. The Agency Update session at the 61st Annual Symposium served as a promising indication of the resilience and commitment of the Iowa Division of Workers' Compensation to serve its community effectively.

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    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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