Good news for those of us who like e-filing! The Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board sent out letters last week unveiling its electronic filing and service system (it’s called Electronic File and Service Request “EFSR”). EFSR is immediately available at https://dol-appeals.entellitrak.com/.
E-Filing modernizes the black-lung-benefits process by making it easier for parties and their attorneys to know the status of an appeal and to more easily exchange documents with the Board and the other parties.
The system has some notable differences from the federal judiciary’s E-Filing system (PACER):
- EFSR provides a docket-entry summary of the status of the case, but it does provide access to the documents themselves. So for example, the “case status” summary will show that the Board issued a decision, but a copy of the decision is not available via EFSR. (It is not clear if this is a transitional issue and new documents will be available or whether the “case status” area is only meant to display the docket entries.)
- There does not appear to be a way to check on the status of cases without specifically requesting the Department of Labor to provide a user with access. While this does not present much of a barrier for the parties’ attorneys, it is a barrier for observers and interested parties who may wish to file amicus briefs.
- (In addition there appears to be a glitch with the form used to request access. The form requires entry of a “date of decision,” but if the Board has not issued a decision, what is the relevant date? The ALJ’s decision? In addition, the form requires entry of the last four digits of the claimant’s social security number, even though it is not clear why this should be required to provide access to a public docket.)
- Registering with EFSR is optional, and even if an attorney chooses to register, she can decide not to participate in service via EFSR, so attorneys who decide to opt-in will still have to mail physical copies of all pleadings.
These are of course minor problems that could easily be fixed by the system’s designers or will fix themselves if most attorneys decide to opt-in.
The Board’s adoption of EFSR combined with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs’s shift towards digitizing claim files should encourage the Office of Administrative Law Judges to adopt an E-Filing system.
Below is the text of the letter from the Benefits Review Board announcing EFSR.
On July 9, 2014, all parties to appeals before the Benefits Review Board (BRB) may use the Board’s Electronic File and Service Request (EFSR) system. The EFSR portal allows parties to file new appeals electronically, receive electronic service of Board issuances, file briefs and motions electronically, and check the status of existing appeals via a webbased interface accessible 24 hours every day in lieu of paper documents.
The EFSR system is open to any party to an appeal before the Board. An e-Filer must register as a user and must be validated by the Board before e-filing any document. An eFiler will complete an online registration form. A valid e-mail address is required to register as an e-Filer. Once registered, an e-Filer will be able to use the EFSR for electronic filing (eFile), which is the submission of forms and documents to the Board through the Internet instead of using postal mail and fax. After the Board has accepted an e-Filing, it is handled just as it would be had it been filed in a more traditional manner. eFilers will also have access to electronic service (eService), which is simply a way to receive documents issued by the Board through the Internet in lieu of mailing paper notices/documents.
Information regarding registration for access to the EFSR system, as well as a step by
step user guide and FAQs can be found at: https://dol-appeals.entellitrak.com
If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at: Boards-EFSRHelp@dol.gov