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W.Va. changing workers' compensation offices

September 29, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Rumors that the state of West Virginia is closing its Workers' Compensation Fund office in Martinsburg are unfounded, according to the head of the agency.

"Stories circulating about that are untrue. We are not closing that office," said Ed Burdette, executive director of the West Virginia Worker's Compensation Fund in Charleston, W.Va.

While the Martinsburg office will remain open, the state will eliminate the three claims manager positions at the office over the next eight months as part of a statewide overhaul, Burdette said.

Claims manager positions in Martinsburg and the agency's other five regional offices in the state will be moved to Charleston in an attempt to centralize operations, Burdette said.


"A couple of years ago we decided to try to manage claims from the field offices, but we've concluded the best way to do that is from the central office," Burdette said.

The job of a claims manager is to examine work-related injury claims and determine if the worker should receive benefits, Burdette said.

The managers also make sure payments are being made and that attempts are being made to get the recipients back to work, he said.

The Martinsburg office handles claims for the five-county area of Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Hardy and Hampshire.

Of the 4,106 claims filed with the Martinsburg office last year, the bulk were handled in Charleston, Burdette said.

To handle questions about workers' compensation claims, the agency plans to replace the claims managers in Martinsburg with customer service representatives, Burdette said.

The representatives will not only deal with claims but with employers and medical vendors, he said.

"They would be knowledgeable about all aspects of the system to help people get through the maze," Burdette said.

Burdette, who visited the Workers' Compensation Fund office in the Berkeley Plaza Shopping Center as part of Gov. Cecil Underwood's Cabinet visit Aug. 30, said the reorganization will enhance government services, not take them away.

One workers' compensation recipient is not so sure.

"It doesn't make any sense. Right now there are three people I can talk to face-to-face in that office," Ruth Gosnell said.

Gosnell said she has received workers' compensation since 1984 when she injured her knee while working at Corning Glass in Martinsburg.

"I've dealt with Charleston before. All I used to get was excuses and the run-around," Gosnell said.

Gosnell is also upset about the fate of the three claims workers now in Martinsburg.

"Gov. Underwood said he would bring jobs to the Panhandle and here he is doing away with three jobs," Gosnell said.

Burdette said claims managers at the Martinsburg office will have the option to move to Charleston or possibly switch to other positions.

A manager at the Workers' Compensation Fund office in Martinsburg declined comment and referred all questions to Charleston.

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