Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits (SJDB) in California
If you can’t return to work, an attorney can help
Some work injuries are temporary, and the injured worker can go back to work once they have healed. Some workers, however, are not so lucky. If you have a permanent injury that makes it impossible to stay with your current employer, you’re looking at an uncertain future.
That’s why the workers’ compensation system in California provides supplemental job displacement benefits (SJDB) to help injured workers land on their fleet. The process to get an SJDB voucher is complex, however, and you need the right legal representation to find your path forward. Reach out to a workers’ compensation lawyer at Robert A. McLaughlin, APC for help.
What are supplemental job displacement benefits, and how do you qualify?
In the California workers’ compensation system, the Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit is a $6,000 voucher that covers job retraining expenses for injured workers who cannot return to their jobs because of a permanent work injury.
You have to meet two criteria to be eligible for SJDB benefits. First, you must have a permanent partial disability due to a work injury. Second, because of the permanent disability and your resulting medical restrictions, your employer does not have regular, modified, or alternate work for you. For the purposes of this benefit, “modified or alternative work” must be at least 85% of your prior salary, and the work offered must be at your pre-injury work location or another location within a reasonable commuting distance.
For instance, if you previously worked in construction or manual labor and a work injury makes it impossible for you to do that job, your employer may not have any other available positions for which you qualify and that pay at least 85% of your pre-injury salary. In this situation, you’d be eligible for an SJDB voucher.
Note that if you have multiple work injuries resulting in restrictions, you may be eligible for multiple SJDB vouchers.
What can an SJDB voucher pay for?
The goal of the SJDB is to help you find new employment with your medical restrictions. The $6,000 voucher can be used to pay for education and vocational training, tools you need for this training, and up to $1,000 in computer equipment. If you want to move into a field that requires professional licensure or certification, the voucher can be used for occupational licensing, certification fees, exam prep, and similar costs. The voucher can also pay for resume help, vocational counseling, and job search services to help you find a new career. Finally, the voucher will cover up to $500 in “miscellaneous expenses” for your retraining and job search, such as travel or supplies.
The voucher is good until either two years from the date the voucher is received or five years from the date of the original work injury, whichever is later.
Understanding the SJDB voucher process
The SJDB voucher process begins with a medical report. Your doctor may fill out a Physician’s Return-to-Work & Voucher Report which verifies that you have a permanent injury resulting in a disability. This report will explain whether you can return to regular work and if not, lists the medical restrictions on your ability to work, such as limitations on your ability to stand for long periods of time or lift above a certain number of pounds. Your doctor can also write a narrative report that includes the same information. Either way, the report must be sent to the workers’ compensation insurance company.
The insurance company then contacts the employer to find out if they can offer regular, modified or alternative work within the medical restrictions. The employer then has 60 days to decide whether they can offer permanent work. If 60 days pass without an offer, then the injured worker should be offered an SJDB voucher within 20 days.
If the employer does offer regular, alternative or modified work, then the employee has 30 days to decide whether to accept the offer. If the employer doesn’t offer regular work or alternative or modified work that pays at least 85% of the pre-injury salary, then the employee qualifies for an SJDB voucher.
You generally can’t settle for cash in lieu of a voucher. However, if there is a broader dispute regarding the workers’ compensation claim – for example, a dispute as to whether the injury was work-related in the first place – then the value of the voucher can be included in a Compromise and Release that settles the entire claim.
As the injured worker, you have a voice in this process
While the SJDB process seems fairly formulaic when it’s laid out this way, the truth is that you have a say in the process. If you tell your doctor what kinds of work activities you are comfortable with or what restrictions you need, then a good doctor will take your opinion into account. In other words, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all benefit; it’s intended to provide a path forward for injured workers in their individual careers.
This is one of the many reasons why you need strong, experienced legal representation in the workers’ compensation process. Whether you qualify for an SJDB voucher can be unclear, and a dispute with the insurance company can have significant implications for your future. A lawyer who knows your rights and knows the system can advocate for the full amount of benefits you deserve to help you take the next step in your career and your future.
If you’ve been hurt on the job in San Diego or anywhere in California, don’t face this complex process on your own. Schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney at Robert A. McLaughlin, APC today.