Given the appropriate medical treatment and time, many occupational injuries heal, and workers may return to their jobs. Sometimes, however, employees’ injuries may continue to cause pain and limitations, despite having reached their maximal level of improvement. This may leave injured workers not only struggling with the emotional and physical pain of their injuries but also dealing with concerns about how they will provide for themselves and their families.
Workers whose conditions are unlikely to improve within the next year and have left them unable to return to work without limitations may receive permanent disability benefits. Based on factors such as the extent of their disabilities, permanent disability benefits are monetary payments made regularly to injured employees over a specified number of weeks or for the rest of their lives.
Permanent disability rating
When injured workers’ conditions plateau without full recovery, their treating physicians may complete a report that describes the permanent limitations resulting from their injuries. Based on these findings, the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission issues a rating for injured employees’ impairment levels. Expressed as a percentage, the rating plugs into a formula, which also accounts for workers’ occupations and ages, to determine the amount of permanent disability benefits they may receive.
Ratings of 1 to 99% fall under the category of permanent partial disability, while a rating of 100% qualifies as a permanent total disability. Workers injured on or after Jan. 1, 2019, may receive between $160 and $290 for permanent partial disability benefits for ratings of between 1 and 99%. Total permanent disability benefits pay two-thirds of employees’ average weekly wages prior to their injuries, adjusting annually for increases in the state average weekly wage.
Supplemental job displacement
Injured workers left with a permanent partial disability may be eligible to receive a supplemental job displacement benefit. This voucher helps pay for skill enhancement, educational retraining or both to aid those left unable to return to their former occupations as a result of work-related injuries to transition to new professions. The supplemental job displacement benefit is only available to injured workers whose employers did not offer them alternative, modified or regular work within 60 days of receiving their Physician’s Return-to-Work & Voucher Reports.