Changes that apply to all dates of injury:
Pursuant to Labor Code section 4658.5(d), a time limit is now imposed on an applicant’s use of the voucher. For all vouchers issued after January 1, 2013, a statutory time limit of two years after the date the voucher is furnished to the employee or five years after the date of injury, whichever is later. Note that there is no time limit on vouchers issued before January 1, 2013.
Labor Code section 4658.5(e) has added that an employer is not liable for any injuries incurred by an applicant while using the voucher. In the past, injuries incurred under the previous program of vocational rehabilitation were compensable. However, this is no longer the case with the voucher program.
Changes for dates of injury on or after January 1, 2013:
Labor Code section 4658.7(b) sets forth the eligibility criteria for the supplemental job displacement benefit for dates of injury after January 1, 2013. A permanently partially disabled worker is entitled to the voucher unless the employer makes an offer or regular, modified, or alternative work, as defined by Labor Code section 4658.1, that meets this criteria:
- The offer is made no later than 60 days after receipt of the first report received from either the primary treating physician, an agreed medical evaluator or a qualified medical evaluator finding that the disability from all conditions for which compensation is claimed has become permanent and stationary, and that the injury has caused permanent partial disability.
- The offer is for regular, modified or alternative work lasting at least 12 months.
You will note the distinction that for dates of injuries prior to January 1, 2013, the time period required for the offer of work pursuant to Labor Code section 4658.6, is 30 days. It is important to refer to the date of injury to ensure that the proper deadlines are met.
The medical report that invokes the time period must be made on a specific form that is created by the administrative director. Pursuant to Labor Code section 4658.7(h)(2), the form must fully inform “the employer of work capacities and of activity restrictions resulting from the injury that are relevant to the potential regular work, modified work, or alternative work.”
Labor Code section 4658.7(b)(1)(A) permits the employer to send the medical evaluator a job description for the applicant’s regular work or proposed modified or alternative work. The physician is then to “evaluate and describe in the form whether the work capacities and activity restrictions are compatible with the physical requirements set forth in that job description.”
The form that is completed by the physician shall be forwarded by the carrier to the employer in order to fully inform the employer “of work capacities and activity restrictions resulting from the injury that are relevant to potential regular, modified, or alternative work.” (Labor Code §4658.7(b)(1)(B)).
If the employer does not make the offer for regular, modified, or alternative work, the supplemental job displacement benefit shall be offered to the employee within 20 days after the expiration of the 60 day period. (Labor Code §4658.7(c)).
All permanently partially disabled workers who are not returned to work are entitled to receive the same $6,000.00 voucher. (Labor Code §4658.7(d)). There are no longer varying amounts for the voucher based upon the level of permanent partial disability.
The uses for the voucher have been expanded to the following:
- Payment for education-related retraining or skill enhancement, or both, at a California public school or with a provider that is certified and on the state’s Eligible Training Provider List (EPTL), as authorized by the federal Workforce Investment Act (P.L. 105-220), including payment of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses required by the school for retraining or skill enhancement.
- Payment for occupational licensing or professional certification fees, related examination fees, and examination preparation course fees.
- Payment for the services of licensed placement agencies, vocational or return-to-work counseling, and résumé preparation, all up to a combined limit of 10 percent of the amount of the voucher.
- Purchase of tools required by a training or educational program in which the employee is enrolled.
- Purchase of computer equipment, up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).
Up to five hundred dollars ($500) as a miscellaneous expense reimbursement or advance, payable upon request and without need for itemized documentation or accounting. The employee shall not be entitled to any other voucher payment for transportation, travel expenses, telephone or Internet access, clothing or uniforms, or incidental expenses.
(Labor Code §4658.7(e)).
The employee shall not be entitled to payment or reimbursement of any expenses that have not been incurred and submitted with appropriate documentation to the employer prior to the expiration date (two years after the date the voucher is furnished or five years after the date of injury, whichever is later). (Labor Code §4658.7(f))).
Finally, section 4658(g) does not permit settlement or commutation of a claim for the supplemental job displacement benefit. Therefore, the voucher may only be used as outlined in the statute.