Am I a Candidate for Retraining?

A firefighter signals to another person whilst water sprays a roaring flame during an exercise.

Clients frequently contact us and wonder if he or she is a candidate for retraining. Under Minnesota Statute §176.011, subdivision 17a, retraining is a workers’ compensation benefit that provides formal training in a school setting to injured workers in an effort to return injured workers back to suitable gainful employment. While available under the statute, retraining is rarely awarded in Minnesota and not every injured worker is eligible for retraining benefits.

A workers’ compensation judge evaluates each injured worker’s case under the “Poole factors” detailed below:

(1) the reasonableness of a retraining program in comparison to the employee finding another job through placement services with the assistance of a qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC)

(2) the likelihood of the injured worker will succeed in a formal school setting, given his or her abilities and interests

(3) the likelihood that the injured worker will reasonably procure employment after the retraining program

(4) the likelihood that the retraining program will return the injured worker back to an economic status to which the injured worker had before the injury.

Poole v. Farmstead Food, 42 W.C.D. 970, 978 (1989).

A Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) will first assist an injured worker in conducting a diligent job search and determine if a position can be found near the injured worker’s pre-injury wage in a field that the injury worker has the mental skills and physical ability to perform. If it is determined that it is unlikely without additional formal training that the employee will be able to find suitable employment the QRC may prepare a formal retraining proposal. This is another instance in which it’s important for the employee to choose the QRC and not the employer and insurer.

Retraining programs can include programs ranging from vocational technical certifications to a four-year bachelor’s degree. The cost of a proposed training program is weighed against the costs of the traditional approach to rehabilitation under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. During the retraining program the employee is also entitled to monetary compensation, which is the equivalent to temporary total disability benefits or 2/3 of the injured worker’s average weekly wage, nontaxable, or wages 26 weeks before the date of injury. Because this is a costly process the employer and insurer will not volunteer to start paying for a retraining program and the fight for a retraining program which can drag on for years.

Frequently our clients who are police officers or firefighters and are unable to return to work after a disabling injury inquire as to whether or not he or she would be able to receive retraining benefits. While the length of time the employee will be able to work in the future career is not a measurement to retraining, and PERA disability benefits are not considered in determining an employee’s eligibility for retraining assistance under Erickson v. City of St. Paul, it still may not be to the employee’s benefit to complete a retraining program. Slip. op. No. WC06-258 (W.C.C.A. Apr. 16, 2007). The offsets between PERA Duty Disability benefits and workers’ compensation are complicated and differ based on the employee’s work status. Sometimes it makes more sense financially for an injured worker to take a lump sum settlement and pursue school on his or her own and not under the Minnesota workers’ compensation system.

Meuser Law Office, P.A. is one of the few workers’ compensation law firms in the state of Minnesota that also handles PERA and MSRS disability claims. We’ve successfully represented hundreds of State Patrolpolice officers and firefighters throughout the state for both workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Sitting down with us for a consultation to learn more about your potential claims is a lot like financial planning. We can explain what rights you have and make recommendations to you in terms of how to best protect your rights to those benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. can help make the process easier to navigate. Contact us today for a free no-obligation case evaluation and consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.