The Workers' Compensation Advisory Council is making progress toward a definition of what constitutes a permanent and total disability, but more discussion will be held at a Jan. 6 meeting.

State Industrial Commission members hoped a proposed bill could be approved by the council and filed with the Legislature, but a new draft apparently contained some language that some members didn't like, and more work is needed.During a meeting in early December, the council asked attorneys Jinks Dabney, Lisa Michelle Church, Dennis Lloyd and Ed Havas to look at a draft of a bill and resubmit it to the group.

Because David Bird, a council member and an attorney, raised so many issues about the bill, he was added to the attorney group. Ed Mayne, another council member and president of the AFL-CIO, will nominate a person from labor's side to serve in an attempt to maintain a balance.

Dabney said the four attorneys spent five hours discussing the language of the proposed bill and figures the most recent language is 70-80 percent of what everyone wants. Lloyd said there still are some problems with the bill, but the group submitted it to the entire council anyway.

Bird said the most recent bill isn't a compromise and is unacceptable to him because of major changes that attempt to define permanent total disability. He said it appears the language was drafted so that attorneys for an injured worker and employers feel they can win their case in court.

At issue is the first paragraph of the bill, which says, "In cases of permanent total disability solely caused or significantly contributed to by an industrial accident or occupational disease, the employee shall receive compensation as outlined in this section."

Bird said he has problems with the words "solely" and "significantly contributed to." He also has concerns about wording on gainful employment by a permanently and totally disabled person before benefits are reduced, as well as attorney fees.

Mayne said the council has been spinning its wheels on the definition for a long time, and said it's good to see something is finally being done.

According to the latest draft, to find an employee permanently and totally disabled, the commission must conclude that the person is not gainfully employed and the employee has impairments caused by the accident that limit the ability to perform essential functions in the work for which the person was qualified.

The commission also must determine if the employee cannot perform work reasonably available in the national economy, taking into consideration the person's age, education, past work experience and residual functional capacity.

The proposed bill also would allow for re-evaluation of permanently and totally disabled people every two years and specifies what records or medical examinations can be used in the process.