“I Can’t Return To Work. Now What?”

Your doctor has issued a final report and determined you are unable to return to work, now what?

In workers’ compensation, this is known as reaching MMI or being P&S. When this happens, if your injury occurred after January 1 2013, labor code section 4658.7 applies to your case. This labor code section determines if you are eligible for a supplemental job displacement benefit voucher.

Once the claims administrator for your file has received a report from either your primary treating physician, an agreed medical evaluator, or a qualified medical evaluator, which finds that the disability from your work-related injury has become permanent and stationary or has reached maximum medical improvement and the injury has caused permanent disability, you will be entitled to receive the supplemental job displacement benefit voucher.

However if your employer makes an offer of regular, modified, or alternative work, and you are able to return to work, you will not receive the voucher. The employer’s offer must meet the following criteria:

  • The offer must be made no later than 60 days after receipt by the claims administrator of the doctor’s report finding permanent partial disability.
  • Second, the offer must be for regular work, modified work, or alternative work lasting at least 12 months and pays at least 85% of your earnings at the time of your injury.

If you are eligible for the voucher, the proctor will provide up to an aggregate of $6000 for education-related retraining or skill enhancement or both, at a California public school or a certified provider. Also covered by the voucher are payments for occupational licensing, professional certification fees, related examination fees, and examination preparation course fees. The services of license placement agencies, or vocational and return to work counseling can be reimbursed up to 10% of the amount of the voucher. Up to $1000 can be used for the purchase of computer equipment and up to $500 for miscellaneous expenses is allowed.

Once issued, the voucher expires after two years from the date that the voucher is furnished to the employee, or five years after the date of injury, whichever is later.

In addition to the voucher benefit, you may also apply for a return to work supplement with it one year from the date of the voucher being served upon you. This benefit is in the amounts of $5000 from the state of California and is separate from the voucher.

It is highly recommended that all injured workers avail themselves of the services of a vocational rehabilitation or return to work counselor when obtaining these benefits. A vocational rehabilitation or return to work counselor can help you to maximize your supplemental job displacement benefits.