Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Do You Want Be When You Grow Up? – Minnesota Workers’ Compensation and Retraining Benefits

Are you disabled due to a Minnesota work injury and can't go back to your job? Do you need to learn new skills to compete in this job market? If so, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers' compensation retraining benefits.

If you sustain a work-related injury in Minnesota, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services if 1) you need help returning to work because of your injury, and 2) your employer is unable to offer you suitable gainful employment within your work restrictions. Vocational rehab services are coordinated between you, your employer/insurer, and your Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC). These services can include, but are not limited to: 1) modifying your job duties to fit your abilities, 2) finding work with a different employer if yours does not have suitable work available, and 3) training for a new job.

You can request vocational rehabilitation assistance at any time by contacting your workers’ compensation insurance company, and requesting a rehabilitation consultation. If you have a workers’ compensation lawyer, your lawyer may request the assistance of a QRC on your behalf.

Your rehabilitation plan may include retraining. Retraining is a formal course of study designed to assist an injured worker’s return to suitable gainful employment.

For dates of injury from October 1, 1995 through September 30, 2000, you must file a request for retraining with the Department of Labor and Industry before you receive 104 weeks of temporary total disability and/or temporary partial disability benefits. For dates of injury between October 1, 2000, and September 30, 2008, you must file a request for retraining before 156 weeks of temporary total disability and/or temporary partial disability. For dates of injury on or after October 1, 2008, you must file a request for retraining before 208 weeks of temporary total disability and/or temporary partial disability benefits.

Your Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) is responsible for preparing your retraining plan. The plan must be approved by the insurer and by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry.

In addition to receiving training or education to assist you in returning to suitable gainful employment, if you are approved for a retraining plan, you may also be eligible for payment of retraining benefits for up to 156 weeks. Retraining benefits are monetary benefits that are essentially the same as temporary total disability benefits.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that retraining is necessary if it will materially assist the employee in restoring an impaired earning capacity. Nordby v. Arctic Enter., Inc., 232 N.W.2d 773 (1975). Factors that are considered in determining eligibility for retraining include:
  • The reasonableness of retraining compared to the employee’s return to work with the employer or through job placement activities;
  • The likelihood of the employee succeeding in a formal course of study given the employee’s abilities and interests;
  • The likelihood that retraining will result in a reasonably attainable employment; and
  • The likelihood that retraining will produce an economic status as close as possible to that which the employee would have enjoyed without the disability.
If you and your QRC decide to explore retraining as an option to help you get back to work, you will typically undergo vocationally testing, including aptitude testing and interest testing to determine whether you have the requisite intellectual ability to complete a proposed course of study, and to determine appropriate fields of study. A labor market study is also done to determine the current and future availability of jobs in the proposed area of retraining. This is particularly important given the poor job market right now. A determination will also be made as to whether you are physically capable of performing work in the proposed area of retraining. After these things have been completed, a proposed retraining plan must be developed and filed with the Department of Labor and Industry, which contains the following information:
  • Identifying information on the employee, employer, insurer, and QRC;
  • The rehabilitation goals;
  • Information about the formal course of study required by the retraining plan, including the name of the school, titles of classes, the courses length in weeks, an itemized cost of tuition, books, and other necessary school charges, mileage costs and other required costs;
  • Starting and completion dates;
  • Pre-injury job title and economic status, including, but not limited to, pre-injury wage;
  • A narrative rationale describing the reasons why retraining is proposed, including a summary comparative analysis of other rehabilitation alternatives and information documenting the likelihood that the proposed retraining plan will result in the employee’s return to suitable, gainful employment;
  • Dated signatures by the parties signifying an agreement to the retraining plan; and
  • An attached copy of the published course syllabus, physical requirements of the work for which retraining will prepare the employee, medical documentation that the proposed training and field of work is within the employee’s physical restrictions, reports of all vocational testing or evaluations, and a recent labor market study of the field for which training is proposed.
The Commissioner reviews the proposed training plan within 30 days of its submission and notifies the parties of plan approval or denial. A party who disagrees with a decision of the Commissioner about rehabilitation may request a formal hearing.

As you may have ascertained, retraining programs are expensive. If you are approved for retraining, not only does the insurer have to pay for the cost of the educational program itself and all incidental expenses, such as text books, but you may also be entitled to monetary “retraining benefits” for the duration of the plan, up to a maximum of 156 weeks. This is in addition to any wage loss benefits the insurer had to pay prior to the initiation of the retraining plan, and in addition to any additional wage loss benefits you may be entitled to after completion of the plan. Given the extensive costs associated with retraining benefits, it is rare indeed for a workers’ compensation insurer to voluntarily agree to a proposed retraining program for an injured worker.

If you are interested in retraining benefits, ask your QRC about your eligibility. If you’re off work due to a Minnesota workers’ compensation injury, and you don’t have a QRC assisting you, contact us and we can help you get in contact with a QRC for an initial consultation.

For a free, no-obligation consultation contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to speak with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Visit MeuserLaw.com for more information about Minnesota Workers' Compensation.
Related Posts with Thumbnails