Retraining and Work Comp in Minnesota
Retraining is a benefit available in the state of Minnesota under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Retraining is a formal education program paid by the work comp insurer which is designed to assist an employee in returning to suitable gainful employment. Retraining may include vocational technical programs or post-secondary education, depending on the employee’s skillset and physical restrictions.
Retraining differs from other types of rehabilitation benefits, wherein an employee may engage in job search with the assistance of a QRC (Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant) to find suitable gainful employment outside of the date of injury employer. Retraining is also different than permanent total disability benefits, wherein an employee is not able to return to suitable gainful employment at all.
The retraining program must be approved by the insurer or court ordered and must be requested before 208 weeks of a combination of temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits are paid. Under Minnesota Statute 176.102, subdivision 11 (d) insurer must provide employees notice of the 208-week limitation for filing a request.
While an employee is in a retraining program, he or she is also entitled to wage loss benefits for up to 156 weeks. These benefits are paid out at the same rate as temporary total disability benefits (TTD) or two-thirds of an employee’s average weekly wage. These benefits are also non-taxable. These benefits are separate and distinct from temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits; therefore, even if an employee reaches the 130-week cap on TTD or 225-week cap on TPD, he or she may still be entitled to retraining wage loss benefits.
First a QRC will perform an evaluation to determine whether retraining is appropriate. This evaluation may include vocational testing and an examination of the employee’s scholastic skills and physical capabilities as well as a labor market study. The QRC will then create a retraining plan proposal that will include: the type of program, costs, appropriateness and feasibility that the employee will complete the program. The QRC’s role in formulating an appropriate retraining plan cannot be understated and it’s an important reason to request your own QRC, not the one assigned by the insurer or employer. You have up to 60 days to elect a change in a QRC, after the QRC has filed his or her rehabilitation plan.
Typically, police officers or firefighters whose public service careers are cut short by a life-changing injury or injuries make excellent retraining candidates. Police officers and firefighters may have worked in his or her field for an extended period of time, have a limited educational background in law enforcement or fire science, and are high wage earners. They also may have another 10 – 15 years before he or she reaches retirement age. These injured workers may need additional education to assist them return to work in a field that pays comparable to their pre-injury careers.
The formulation and approval of a retraining plan is a lengthy and often tedious process with frequent court involvement. Typically, employees must perform extensive job search efforts before retraining is even considered. Some employees prefer to negotiate a settlement and use the monies to pursue their choice of study rather than jump through the work comp insurer’s hoops to be approved for a program in a field he or she may not truly want to study.
If you believe that you are eligible for retraining benefits or have questions regarding a potential workers’ compensation claim, contact the experienced attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. We are one of the few workers’ compensation law firms in the state of Minnesota that also handles PERA and MSRS disability claims. We have represented hundreds of State Patrol, police officers and firefighters throughout the state for both workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Meuser Law Office, P.A. will 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 at 1-877-746-5680 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation and consultation.