As we discussed in last week’s blog post, a claimant must satisfy five elements before becoming eligible to receive rehabilitation benefits. The first element is that a claimant is required to show they are unable to return to their usual and customary line of employment. In other words, the claimant must prove that they are unable to return to the type of work they were doing at the time of, or before, the work injury. For example, if the claimant previously worked as a truck driver, they must show that, because of the work injury and its accompanying restrictions, they will be unable to return to work as a truck driver. Often times, this element is satisfied when there is a claimant that has spent their entire life working in manual labor with job duties that require lifting and repetitive motion, and now they have permanent restrictions limiting them from doing ever again.
Often, this first element does not receive much attention or discussion because it is so closely tied to the premise underlying a claimant’s need for rehabilitation or retraining benefits. In fact, by the time retraining benefits are being disputed, the parties have likely already agreed whether or not the claimant can perform his usual and customary line of employment. Nonetheless, if there is some dispute regarding whether a claimant can return to their previous line of work, the claimant will need to show that the restrictions limit them from performing the previous work, often times through the testimony of a vocational expert. Please note that although this element is often undisputed and therefore not thoroughly discussed, insurers and self-insurers should remain vigilant to ensure that claimant’s satisfy this element before becoming eligible for retraining benefits. It is important to remember that simply because a claimant states that they cannot return to their usual and customary line of employment, those statements alone are not sufficient to satisfy the first element of a claim for retraining benefits.
Look out for our upcoming blog posts over the following weeks for more detailed explanations of the remaining elements for proving entitlement to rehabilitation benefits. Of course, if you have any questions about a claimant’s eligibility for retraining benefits, we’re only a phone call away.