VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PLAN
There have been many efforts over the years to assist injured employees to return to work when they have been unable to return to their normal job because of their injuries. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) was created in the mid 1970s. Originally, there was a Permanent Disability attributed to a worker who could not return to work and no further assistance in finding new or different work. Insurance carriers and employers, along with unions and the Legislature, developed a system called Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) which required the injured workers to actively participate in the process in order to receive the VR benefits.
WORKERS COMP BENEFITS
The legislature initiated laws which allowed for rehabilitation counselors to assist workers and provide a “Vocational Rehabilitation Plan” for successful return to the labor market. Included as benefits were payments to the rehabilitation counselor, weekly monetary benefits to the injured worker of up to $246 per week during the pendency of their vocational rehabilitation plan, and payment of schooling and equipment. Total expenditure on any vocational rehabilitation plan was eventually capped at $16,000 per plan.
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION VOUCHER
This traditional Vocational Rehabilitation benefit was terminated by the Legislature on December 31, 2003. In its place, for injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2004, is the Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher, (SJDV). The voucher has no cash value to the injured worker, but can be used for tuition, books and supplies at a California public school, or with a provider that is certified and on the state’s Eligible Training Provider List, (EPTL). For injured workers with a date of injury between January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2012, the maximum redeemable value of the SJDV was between $4,000 to $10,000, depending upon the injured worker’s severity of injury. For workers with dates of injury on or after January 1, 2013, the value of the SJDV is fixed at $6,000.
CA WORKERS COMP FUND
Many workers injured on or after January 1, 2013 may not be aware that in addition to the SJDV, they are also eligible to receive $5,000 from the State of California’s “Return to Work Fund.” The State has an annual fund of $120 million dollars to provide these monies to injured workers. The $5,000 benefit may be used by the injured worker for any purpose.
RETURN TO WORK FUND MONEY
In order to qualify for receipt of the additional $5,000 Return to Work Fund money, injured workers must have obtained a Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher. Job counselors are available usually for a fee of 10% to assist injured workers with this process, which requires receipt and submission of numerous forms. The Return to Work Fund money may only be obtained on the internet. More information about the Return to Work program and how to use the forms can be found at the state’s website.
Injured workers interested in retaining the services of a rehabilitation counselor to help with both the SJDV and the Return to Work Fund can find a list of counselors at the State of California Department of industrial relations website.
For more information regarding this issue or if you have a workers’ compensation injury, contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney .