by Brenna E. Hampton
Remember that scary, undefined $120 million RTW fund that was provided by SB 863? Well, just in time for Halloween, the DIR has released proposed regulations; though, it seems as if these regulations are more treat than trick because there is a clear intent to create a simple, streamlined process. The RTW fund itself will provide supplemental payments to injured workers whose permanent-disability benefits are disproportionately low in comparison to their earning loss. An employee who was provided with an SJDB/voucher may file an online application within one year from the date that the voucher was served or within one year from the effective date of these regulations, whichever is later. If the proposed text is approved, workers who apply can get a one-time $5,000 payment for each qualifying injury on or after 1/1/13. Appeals would fall within the jurisdiction of the WCAB.
While most of this process does not involve defendants, one key requirement in the proposed regulation for employers and their representatives is the requirement that any voucher that is issued more than 30 days after the effective date of these regulations shall contain the following notice:
“Because you have received this Voucher and are unable to return to your usual employment you may be eligible for a Return-to-Work Supplement. You must apply within one year from the date this Voucher was served on you. You should make a copy of the Voucher which you will need to apply for the Return-to-Work Supplement. Details about the Return-to-Work supplement program are available from the Department of Industrial Relations on its web site, www.dir.ca.gov, or by calling 510-286-0787.”
The notice language can be added to page 6 of the SJDB/voucher form (DWC-AD form 10133.32, which should be served with a proof of service) or as an attachment to that form. Additional information will be posted on the DIR’s website following final approval of the new regulations.
As with any proposed regulations, there are questions as to how this might fit into the current scheme of benefits in California. The money for the RTW Fund is assessed via employer premiums. Will an injured worker be entitled to two supplemental payments from the RTW Fund if they have simultaneous specific and cumulative trauma injuries? Will applicants’ attorneys agree to represent injured workers for this supplemental benefit as part of the fees received up to the time of settlement?
The proposed regulations are up for public comment on 12/08/14 in Oakland and on 12/09/14 in Los Angeles.
If you feel strongly about this and want to voice your opinion, or if you have any questions about how the proposed regulations could impact your business, contact your local Hanna Brophy attorney for further discussion. Don’t yet know your local HB attorney? Find us at http://www.hannabrophy.com/offices/.