In a recent “Noteworthy” Workers’ Compensation Case, Beltran vs. Structure Steel Fabricators, 2018 Cal. Wrk.Comp P.D. Lexis, the WCAB changed the nature of Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers. This article is meant to explain the change to Injured Workers and what they are to expect when their cases are settled. Further, it will explain what may further transpire in the litigation process.
What Are Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers?
In 2013, the Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher changed.
Per the DIR, “ Employees injured on or after Jan. 1, 2013, with injuries that result in permanent partial disability, and whose employer does not offer other regular, modified or alternative work, may also qualify for the SJDB voucher. The offer must be made within 60 days after receipt by the claims administrator of the Physician’s Return-to-Work & Voucher Report (Form DWC-AD 10133.36) The voucher amount is $6000 for all levels of permanent disability and can be used for training at a California public school or any other provider listed on the state’s eligible training provider list. It can also be used to pay licensing or certification and testing fees, to purchase tools required by a training course, to purchase computer equipment of up to $1,000 and to reimburse up to $500 in miscellaneous expenses. Up to 10 percent, or $600, may be used to pay for the services of a licensed placement agency or vocational counselor. No more than 10 percent of the value of the voucher can be used for vocational & return to work counseling.”
The Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers are valuable in that an Employee is entitled some additional funds from the State of California. Per the DIR, Employees injured on or after January 1, 2013, who have received a supplemental job displacement benefit voucher (SJDB), may also qualify for an additional one-time $5,000 payment. The Return-to-Work Supplement Program (RTWSP) will mail approved applicants a $5,000 check that can be used to supplement the earnings lost from being injured. Date of injury must be on or after January 1, 2013. The DIR indicates that the Employee must have received an SJDB voucher for that injury, and RTWSP must receive the application within one year from the date they were mailed the SJDB voucher.
It was the intention of the legislators that Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers were not allowed to be settled. In fact, there was a period of time in which Judges were placed on alert to make sure that the voucher was not settled as part of agreements. The Beltran case, however, will change Judges approaches towards their willingness to approve settlements which include the resolution of the voucher.
What has changed with respect to Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers?
Per Beltran, the Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Voucher can now be resolved in certain circumstances. In Beltran, the WCAB allowed for the settlement of the voucher. The WCAB found that the Judge was to “consider the evidence and determine whether the case involves “serious and good faith issues” that could lead to the entire defeat of the worker’s entitlement to benefits.” See Lexis Nexis.
How will this change my settlement documents?
Your settlement documents, which include the resolution of the voucher, will now include within it language expressing the fact that there are serious and good faith issues that could lead to the entire defeat of your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.
In addition to stating this, it is likely a Defendant will provide further explanation. Sometimes, such language can be upsetting to the injured worker. While the statement is merely the Defendant’s position, it is listed in the settlement documents which are public records. Further, the injured worker may disagree with some of the representations.
There are a variety of reasons that can be used to express” serious and good faith issues” concerning entitlement to benefits. Essentially, there are three bases to deny a claim: legal, factual or medical.
Legal Defenses can be things such as a lack of coverage, the statute of limitation, or that the facts do not give rise to a finding of arising out of and in the course and scope of employment. Further, there are legal defenses such as the Post-Termination Defense and the Good Faith Personnel Action defense.
Factual Defenses mean that there are witnesses or documents which dispute the accounting of your injury. For example, your employer denied that he said harmful things to you.
Medical Defenses mean that there is a medical opinion that exists that finds that the injury was not industrial.
What does this mean to me?
There will be more attempts to have the supplemental job displacement benefit vouchers resolved in settlements. There may be some Defense Attorneys or Carriers trying to demand the settlement of the voucher be included with Compromise and Release settlements. If so, they may be more aggressive to get information or documentation to defeat the voucher. Further, Insurance Companies may be more aggressive to pursue defenses that would lead to the defeat of your workers’ compensation claim for benefits in entirety.
Also, there may be some delay in the approval of your case. If this language is within your settlement and the Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Voucher is resolved, the Judge will scrutinize the settlement and hold it up if there is not enough explanation as to what evidence would create a total bar to settlement. If a settlement is submitted for approval, a Judge may set the matter for adequacy to address the issue.
Where Can I Get Legal Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.