Wrangling With John Burton Over the Future of Workers' Comp
I had the honor of working on a pretty unique project earlier this year, and I have been unable to write about it publicly until now. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) publishes an annual Peer Review Journal, and the editor, Robert Aurbach, asked me to participate in a series to be included in this years edition. This was no ordinary project, either, at least as far as I was concerned.
I was asked to pen an article presenting my view on changes the workers' compensation industry should undertake to remain viable and effective for it's "second 100 years". That article would be published alongside an article from another author outlining their particular views on what the future of workers' comp should entail. Then both of us would have the opportunity to review the other's work, and write a summary response giving our opinions on their suggestions. The entire series was intended to be a Featured Article Set providing a "Point - Counterpoint" presentation for the next IAIABC Journal.
And the author with whom I would be sparring? Why that would be John Burton, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers and Cornell, and presidentially appointed Chairman of the 1972 Federal Commission on Workmen's Compensation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity, and although the Journal will not be released until later this year, the 4 article Point - Counterpoint series has been published in advance of that event. Burton is an intellectual heavyweight in our industry, and I must admit the potential of this exchange left me feeling a bit like the industry's Admiral Stockdale, Ross Perot's hapless Vice Presidential running mate in 1992 who famously asked in a debate, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
Burton is an economist, and his primary article, entitled "Should There Be a 21st Century National Commission on Workers' Compensation Laws?", goes into very specific detail regarding the changes he proposes. It is extremely detailed, and contains a plethora of supporting charts and graphs that one would expect from a Professor Emeritus at Rutgers and Cornell who was the presidentially appointed Chairman of the 1972 Federal Commission on Workmen's Compensation. My article by comparison, "The Case for Workers' Recovery", is a more simplistic, high level view of a suggested philosophical change for our industry. While Burton plunges into excruciating detail, my simpler and intellectually challenged contribution can best be summed up as "injury bad, recovery good".
We engaged in this process several months ago, and while I had seen and responded to Burton's original article, I had absolutely no idea what his response to my submission was. I have spent months dreading the possibility that he would title his review of my article “Bob Wilson is a Blithering Idiot”. Fortunately, that was not the case.
Ultimately, while we support the concept of workers' compensation and its continuation, as well as agree on numerous points and identified problems, Burton and I do have distinct differences of opinion on what solutions would be best employed in the future. We have managed to present both a philosophically based and process specific viewpoint in the writing of these articles.
I was honored to participate in this, and I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these articles. I think they provide an interesting contrast in philosophies, and hopefully will spark further discussion in the future. I certainly thank Dr. Burton, Mr. Aurbach and the IAIABC for allowing me to be a part of the conversation.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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