Return to Work Program
Any of us who appear at the various boards of the WCAB have seen the computer work- stations specifically installed for injured workers to apply for payments from the $120 million fund created by SB 863. Workers can apply via these kiosks or online at the Department of Industrial Relations website.
The application process started Monday April 13th with determinations expected to take 60 days. If accepted an injured worker would be given a one-time payment of $5,000 from the Return-to-Work program.
Eligibility for this $5,000 payment will be determined primarily by whether the applicant received a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Voucher from the carrier. If the applicant was eligible for a voucher, they are eligible for a $5,000 payment from the Return-to-Work fund.
Seems harmless enough because the payment comes from the state. What does this mean for us defendants? It means that a seldom used benefit in the form of the SJDV is now instantly $5,000 more valuable to workers and their attorneys.
Payments from the $120 million fund are now inevitable and we now know how this money will be distributed. Applicant attorneys will be much more diligent in making sure their clients receive vouchers on cases, meaning we must be equally diligent in disqualifying applicants from receiving vouchers in cases which a voucher should not be due. This is especially important in light of Labor Code 4658.7(g) which precludes settlement of vouchers.
The last thing a defendant wants is a case settled via C&R to be reopened in order to litigate voucher eligibility!
How can we protect ourselves?
We must ensure that we make offers of regular, modified, or alternative work on the mandated DWC-AD 10133.35 form within 60 days of receipt of a physician’s finding that all conditions have reached MMI (Form DWC-AD 10133.36). When an offer is properly issued the applicant will be disqualified from receiving a voucher. Otherwise, we run the risk of applicant attorneys pursuing the $6,000 voucher simply to ensure their client is able to collect
the extra $5,000 from the State.
Our offices are placing an extra emphasis on this issue to ensure our clients are protected. Should you have any questions about the Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher or the Return-to-Work Fund feel free to contact any of our attorneys.