Workers Compensation Reform 2012 Part IV: Vocational Rehabilitation

Workers Compensation Reform 2012 Part IV: Vocational Rehabilitation.

Prior to 2005, California injured workers had an excellent program of workers compensation vocational rehabilitation benefits. It included a budget for schooling, equipment, payments while you went to school, and adequate compensation for a competent counselor. In the workers compensation reform of 2004 in Senate Bill 899, workers compensation vocational rehabilitation was essentially eliminated for anyone injured on or after January 1, 2005. For injured workers injured before that date, the program of vocational rehabilitation was phased out in 2009.

The remnant of work comp vocational rehabilitation was the supplemental job displacement voucher program. This program gave injured workers a voucher to attend school however it was a limited in potential value ranging from $4000-$10,000 depending on your level of permanent disability. This voucher also had numerous restrictions on how it could be used.

The new workers compensation supplemental job displacement voucher in the workers compensation reform in SB 863 has some changes. The voucher is now a flat rate of $6000. I must be awarded sooner than its previous version once permanent disability rating is established however it expires within two years. They cannot be made part of any lump sum settlement so it is a use it or lose it benefit. An experienced workers compensation attorney can help you make the right choice and how to use your vocational rehabilitation supplemental job displacement voucher and help you select a counselor to find the best program for you.

The following is a list of questions and answers posted by the California Division of Worker’s Compensation:

How are the supplemental job displacement (SJDB) vouchers changing?

Currently, the voucher amount ranges from $4,000 to $10,000, depending on the PD rating. For injuries occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the voucher amount will be $6,000 across the board, regardless of the PD rating.

When is the voucher available?

Under current law, the voucher is to be offered to an injured worker when his or her PD level has been determined, either by way of an agreement between the worker and the employer or insurance company, or by way of an award by a workers’ compensation judge. Under SB 863, the voucher will be due 60 days after a treating doctor, agreed medical evaluator, or qualified medical evaluator declares the injured worker permanent and stationary, and issues a report outlining the worker’s work capacities, if the employer does not offer the worker a job. The job must pay no less than 85 percent of the worker’s earnings at the time of the injury, and must be expected to last at least 12 months.

Does the voucher have an expiration date?

Currently, vouchers do not expire. Under SB 863, they will expire if not used within two years of being issued.

Can the voucher be settled for a cash payment?

Under SB 863, vouchers cannot be settled for cash.

What can the voucher be used for?

The voucher can be used for training at a California public school or any other provider listed on the state’s eligible training provider list. It can also be used to pay licensing or certification and testing fees, to purchase tools required by a training course, to purchase computer equipment of up to $1,000 and to reimburse up to $500 in miscellaneous expenses. Up to 10 percent, or $600 may be used to pay for the services of a licensed placement agency or vocational counselor.