Despite the digital age, New Hampshire workers injured in the course and scope of their employment have been paid their weekly disability benefits through paper check mailed to their home address. Current Labor Department Regulations allow the insurance carrier to make a direct deposit to the claimant’s bank account, or to arrange for payment by “paycard,” but these alternatives are almost never used. Generally, paper checks are mailed out, and in the case of ongoing disability, the carrier will place the claimant on “repetitive pay” so that the paper checks are processed automatically on a designated day of the week, often mailed from a central location, not from the claims adjuster’s office. This process of mailing paper checks tends to work in most cases, meaning that the claimant receives his or her check on or close to the same day each week. For example, a check processed and issued on Friday or Saturday generally will show up in the claimant’s mailbox on Monday. When this happens, the claimant is content and has no cause to complain. But there can be delays in the mail, especially over holiday weekends. This becomes a source of stress and frustration for a claimant living “paycheck to paycheck” who counts on receiving the check to timely pay the bills. While this is a workable system, it can be – and has now been – improved.
On June 25, 2018, Governor Sununu passed into law Senate Bill 84, amending RSA 281-A:40, entitled “Memorandum of Payment” to say that “payment shall be made by direct deposit 6 weeks from the date of disability if the injured worker elects this payment method.” The insurance company must notify the claimant, in writing, of the right to select this method, and if the worker makes no election, payment must be made by a mailed paper check. These changes take effect on January 1, 2019 and should apply both to new and existing claims.
The new law benefits both the claimant and the carrier. The carrier can dispense with having to mail weekly checks, saving on postage, in favor of an automatic payment system that can be manually altered if the claimant returns to work or if the Department of Labor grants permission to reduce or terminate weekly benefits. The claimant can enjoy greater assurance that his or her money will be available for use on the same day each week, without having to wait for a mailed check which must then be presented to the bank for deposit. Finally, this will cut down on, if not eliminate, calls by claimants to their counsel or to the Labor Department, complaining that their weekly check is late. Although the agency takes the position that a check is not late until a full week has passed, this has not stopped the flow of angry calls and e-mails. Presumably the new law will improve the situation.