Thursday, June 2, 2011

Texas Finds Value in Ombudsman Program

Texas does things differently, and in my opinion, does some things better than other states (okay - sometimes does things not so well either).

One of the unique Texas programs is the process of subjecting state agencies to periodic reviews by the Sunset Advisory Commission.

To those of you not from Texas, each state agency, depending on legislatively dictated time frames issued as part of authorizing legislation, gets a functional and budgetary review by the Commission, comprised of House, Senate and public members. The Commission then makes recommendations to the Legislature about efficiency, funding, or other issues that it may uncover during the review process.

The Commission held hearings on the Texas Division of Workers Compensation last year and issued recommendations to the Legislature. Many of those recommendations were incorporated into the legislation that was recently passed and now pending signature by the Governor.

A part of those recommendations were to continue the Division and another unique agency related to workers' compensation - Office of Injured Employee Counsel (OIEC). This agency provides counsel and assistance to injured workers attempting to navigate the workers' compensation system on their own, free of charge.

Other states have programs similar to OIEC - these offices typically do not provide representation services to injured workers but do provide assistance to those who either wish to remain in propria persona, or can not find private counsel to take their cases.

These programs aren't for all cases, nor for all states. But at least in Texas independent review finds that such a program is valuable to its citizens.

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