Some 2018 Comp Laude Honorees


I planned to proudly to stand on the stage at Comp Laude 2018. I was to have the honor of presenting the Magna Comp Laude award to a most deserving individual. A great many outstanding workers' compensation community members were nominated for the Comp Laude this year. Those I nominated are listed in 2018 Comp Laude Finalists Named. I planned to, but did not. I got distracted this year by Hurricane Michael. I spent Wednesday glued to the Weather Channel, the NOAA website, and Twitter, striving to keep up. 

As an aside, it is such an honor to be associated with the Comp Laude. It is inspirational and rewarding. It helps me remember David DePaolo, who always inspired me with his enthusiasm. Comp Laude inspires and motivates me. I am proud of it, and of those amazing professionals that make it a reality each year. 

I am also proud of all of those who were nominated. In a shameless plug, I suggest that everyone reading this post knows someone worthy of nomination. And the nominations for 2019 will open soon enough. Get ready now to recognize your leaders, your exemplars, your inspirations. 

You cannot win if you are not nominated. But, more important, by making a nomination you are making a huge statement about your nominee and about your personal commitment to the goal of recognizing those that motivate and influence you. You cannot control who wins, but you alone decide who is nominated. 

I am so proud of everyone nominated, the finalists, and those ultimately selected. I cannot call those selected "winners" as that implicates that not everyone is a winner (OK, not every kid gets a trophy). In my opinion, everyone that was nominated is a winner. But, from a phenomenal crowd of finalists, I am so very proud of my nominees that were selected. What follows is the explanation of each that I submitted in the nomination process.

Summa Comp Laude - Workers' Compensation Institute (WCI)

The nomination of Workers’ Compensation Institute’s (WCI) philanthropy is founded on action. WCI produces and presents the nation’s largest workers’ compensation education event each year in Orlando, Florida. Some 8,000+ people converge on the world’s largest Marriott hotel and there are four days of an incredibly diverse and densely-packed educational agenda. For decades, WCI has devoted a portion of its proceeds to fund scholarships for children of injured workers.

But, in 2012 WCI initiated a broader philanthropy, and some background will assist. Orlando is a frequent destination for children who are honored by the Make a Wish Foundation and similar efforts. Sick children are brought to Orlando to escape the day-to-day of serious illness. In 1986, Henri Landwirth started a grand facility to provide those children and their families with accommodations during their Orlando visit. He named it Give Kids the World Village (GKTW).

It is a like no other hotel, offering the anticipated lodging, but with intriguing twists. Children staying at GKTW ( enjoy an 84 acre facility complete with meals, entertainment, resort tickets, transportation, and more. “More,” like an ice cream parlor that is open for breakfast (yes, ice cream for breakfast), a train, swimming pools, you name it. It has delivered on its promise in excess of 160,000 times since its founding.

In 2012, WCI adopted GKTW as its official philanthropy. And there is an element of fundraising and financial contribution involved. Each year, since 2014, the Saturday night before the WCI conference, a Gala and silent auction is held. In four short years, WCI has raised and donated over $200,000 to GKTW. And additional fundraising has been added since. But, at that Gala, workers’ compensation professionals from across the country are gathering, dining, bidding, and contributing to a phenomenal cause. Impressive, yes; but, that is not the best part.

In partnership with conference attendees, sponsors, and partners, WCI buses volunteers to GKTW Village each Saturday morning before the conference, the morning before the Gala. And those volunteers provide the labor to make GKTW Village work. They scoop ice cream, drive the train, and interact with the kids and their families. But, they also weed, trim, paint, rake, sweep, repair, and anything else that is asked. They contribute sweat, emotion, and heart where it is needed most, in the lives of children struggling with medical challenges.

The work party groups have grown over the last four years. In 2017, over 700 volunteers participated in the GKTW philanthropy work day. They promoted human welfare, demonstrated goodwill to people, and performed an act of humanitarian love. Seven hundred workers’ compensation professionals from all walks of life, professions, businesses, and perspectives came together to give back, to build, and to serve. 

There are a great many benefits that come from financial donation to such an enterprise as GKTW. Operating such an enterprise is undoubtedly expensive. And, the benefits of $200,000 can hardly be overstated. 

However, the focus here should be on the 700 plus volunteers and their day of work. Barriers were overcome, conversations were started, and friendships were formed. People from across the amalgamation that we refer to as “workers’ compensation” met and learned from each other in service to others. People came together for the benefit of children and contributed their time, sweat, and effort. They formed teams, wore matching t-shirts, and they were a bit competitive. But, they contributed. 

When we discuss philanthropy in workers’ compensation, I can think of no function more laudable. The GKTW workday is philanthropy of the mind, the heart, and the body. It is contribution of effort, teamwork, and cooperation. It builds bridges, spans chasms, and promotes understanding (or at least interaction). It is a great effort and a great investment on behalf of selfless volunteers under Florida’s August sun. 

Magna Comp Laude - Tom Glasson, AIG Insurance

Tom Glasson is a fixture at numerous conferences and conventions around the country. He is active in the International Association of Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC), the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA), and more. When the industry elected to have a National Conversation regarding workers' compensation in 2016, Mr. Glasson was a natural invitee. His depth of knowledge is unparalleled. He has a vast appreciation for state subtleties and distinctions in substance and procedure.

Mr. Glasson is a soft-spoken advocate for change in the systems. He explains the benefits of communication, state-to-state interaction, and maintaining focus on the heart of this industry – employers and employees. Professionally, he is focused on the assessment and management of risk. At heart, professionally, he is an insurance person. But, he is engaged and engaging on the issues that are at the heart of the challenges that we face and confront.

Mr. Glasson is an advocate for simplification, streamlining, and reducing system friction. I have heard him repeatedly discuss the benefits that would inure to injured workers and employers if state processes were focused more upon them, and less on bureaucracy. He is a critic of government waste and inefficiency, but always quick with a compliment. My favorite phrase from him is his seemingly constant “you know what I like about (fill in your state) is . . . ."

Mr. Glasson engages by always finding something positive to say. That may be followed with a criticism, suggestion, or thought. But he leads with compliments and is always gracious and engaging. Mr. Glasson is adept at starting conversations and thoughtfully examining the issues on the table. His experience is deep and his perspective is broad.

Mr. Glasson’s biography speaks for itself. He is an engaged in planning and producing educational programming for SAWCA. He is a lecturer at programs like the Workers’ Compensation Institute. He is proof positive that differences in perspective do not have to be divisive or damaging. He makes an art form of disagreeing without being disagreeable. He steers the conversation, challenges thoughtfully and artfully, and brings perspective respectfully. 

Mr. Glasson epitomizes the spirit of engaged, listening and conversing about workers’ compensation that is needed in this country. Despite his travel and engagement schedule, he has time to work with young people, mentor the next generation in claims, and strive to better an entire system. He epitomizes the spirit of Comp Laude.

Industry Leader - Steve Rissman

Steve Rissman has practiced workers’ compensation for his entire professional career. That career now approaches 50 years. His successes have included legal practice and education. I have never litigated against him, but having observed a great many lawyers over the years, and knowing his tenacity and drive as I do, I believe he would be the worthy adversary that so many have described.

Steve has “been there” and “done that” in Florida workers’ compensation. He has served in the process of workers’ compensation rules, served as chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of The Florida Bar, served on the statewide nominating commission for Judges, been involved with innumerable committees and conferences and groups.

Steve is one of the four founders of the Workers’ Compensation Institute, and for the last 30+ years has been the curriculum chairperson of the largest gathering of workers’ compensation professionals in America. The WCI attracts 8,000+ each August in Orlando. Steve is the architect behind the curriculum for hundreds of breakout sessions. He coordinates topics and themes, interacts with speakers and program leaders, and manages the many demands and needs of all of those agendas. To refer to the task as herculean is an understatement. This year’s WCI program includes more than 450 speakers. Throughout the WCI, he is constantly on the move, checking room set-ups, gathering attendee feedback, and facilitating problem solutions. Certainly, he is a leader of a great team, but despite the many others involved, Steve is always on the field, engaged, active, and focused on the program’s success. 

Steve has been recognized as a “super lawyer,” and many other superlatives. But, he is a man that is about the community of workers’ compensation. Steve was a driving force behind the establishment of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute Hall of Fame. He was its first President and remains so to this day. This group recognizes each inductee’s “lifetime achievement” in workers’ compensation. There is no fanfare, no reward, for forming such a group. Steve formed the group for others, not himself. Through it, those who have likewise “been there” and “done that” in Florida workers’ compensation recognize each other. It is an imperfect group of imperfect people. There are a great many significant egos in that room. And yet, Steve successfully leads the Hall to fairly honor and recognize those who have contributed so much time, effort, and dedication to Florida workers’ compensation. 

Steve has been honored by induction to the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers. He has delivered untold lectures on workers’ compensation law, professionalism, ethics, and more. He has built and managed one of the largest and longest-standing workers’ compensation law firms in the state. And despite that success and stature, he is concerned primarily about recognizing others, encouraging others, inspiring others.  

He knows the value of talented professionals, and he strives to engage them in the WCI programming. He is focused on their growth, their development, and their success. As is obvious to far too few of us, the future we all face depends on those talented professionals that are on the path that could one day lead to the Hall of Fame. We need those up-and-comers, as they will be tomorrow’s “been there” and “done that.” And along the way, they will each have likely gained something of value from the educational programs that are Steve’s hallmark. 

Steve is an advocate, a critic, an educator, a mentor, a leader, and more. He is most worthy of Comp Laude recognition for his achievements and for his focus on training, persistently, the “next generation” for over 30 years. 

Applicant Attorney - Geoffrey Bichler

Mr. Bichler is an exemplary attorney representing injured workers in Florida. He has developed a practice focused on “first responders,” a description that was not always well defined in Florida workers’ compensation. He has been an advocate for both expanding and clarifying the various statutory presumptions created in favor of first responders, including firefighters, police, correctional officers, and more. 

Mr. Bichler has been involved in the legislative process in Florida through his leadership in the Florida Workers’ Advocates and the Workers’ Compensation Section of The Florida Bar. That involvement has also seen him involved in regulatory discussions about both the fundamentals of workers’ compensation and the processes for adjudicating disputes involving those benefits.

Mr. Bichler is a member of the Board of Directors of Kids Chance of Florida (KCFL). He has been involved since just after the founding of that affiliate in late 2015. He has been an active participant in the KCFL scholarship selection committee. Those efforts have been instrumental in establishing criteria for acceptance, defining award categories, and the actual selection of worthy scholarship recipients. 

Mr. Bichler is known for his advocacy and involvement. He is a persistent, but professional, advocate on behalf of his clients. His leadership in the field of workers’ compensation has been inspiring to others in this field and he inspires emulation of professional, passionate, and patient practice of law. He is adept at disagreeing without being disagreeable, at focusing criticism on action, inaction, or outcome rather than on people or even institutions/entities.

Mr. Bichler is integrally involved in the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI), which produces and presents the largest workers’ compensation educational conference in the country. Mr. Bichler is a member of the WCI Committee, and is in charge of planning curriculum for both the attorney program and the first responder/heart and lung bill programs. That includes recruiting and arranging national and state speakers, balancing topics among competing interests, and producing a program of value to an assortment of interests and concerns. 

Mr. Bichler has been a steady and professional advocate for many changes in heart/lung and now PTSD presumption in Florida. He has much responsibility for the legislative changes in that specialty over the last 20 years. He is a consummate professional and a respected leader in the field of workers’ compensation. He leads by example and treats those around him with dignity and respect despite ideological or other differences of opinion.


David Langham is the Florida Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims. He blogs weekly regarding system issues, regulations and decisions. He has published many articles and delivered more than 1,000 professional speeches.



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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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