VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION BENEFITS – DIFFERENT, NOT BETTER
Vocational rehabilitation as it existed some years ago is largely gone – at least as it pertains to injuries after January 1, 2004.
In the “good old days” an injured worker was paid a bi-weekly benefit while they participated in a vocation rehabilitation, had a vocational rehabilitation counselor who was paid by the carrier or self-insured defendant to assist them, and often a “plan” was developed wherein the injured employee would go through a training program for months (again at the expense of the defendant), and receive some job placement assistance thereafter – with the goal of trying to secure a new vocation/job.
For injuries after 1/1/04 and before 1/1/13 if an injured employee does not return to their job within 60 days of the termination of their temporary disability benefit, he or she, if they have a permanent disability/impairment, is eligible for a Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher for use at an accredited or state-approved school. Although dependent on the level of disability the maximum amount of the voucher is $10,000.00 And, there are regulations regarding the form of payment, direct reimbursement to the injured employee, etc.
For injuries on or after 1/1/13, assuming the injured worker qualified for such, the supplemental job displacement benefit will be in the form of a voucher limited to a total of $6,000.00
Between 1/1/04 and before 1/1/13 you could settle with the defendant for a lump sum payment in lieu of the voucher and/or as additional monies for a voucher as a part of a settlement of your permanent disability and/or future medical. For injuries on or after 1/1/13 settlement is not permitted.
In the “good old days” tens of thousands of dollars could be devoted to an injured employee’s vocational retraining. Now, an injured employee can receive the benefit of a very limited supplemental job displacement voucher, along with “another” $5,000.00 through the “Return-To-Work Supplemental Program” as was discussed in a prior blog.
Clearly, the commitment to returning injured workers into the work force, at least monetarily, has greatly diminished over time.