The $120 million “Return-to-Work Fund” has been troubled since its inception.
Designed to compensate workers who have disproportionate earnings losses, the RTW Fund has been underutilized since its inception after the 2012 reforms.
One of the problems was that many workers who might qualify had no knowledge of the RTW Fund.
The California Applicants Attorneys Association lobbied for an extension of the filing deadline for the RTW Fund for workers who received SJDB vouchers ($6,000 Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits available to those who injured workers were not able to return to their work).
As currently constituted, the RTW Fund provides $5,000 and the SJDB $6,000.
CAAA’s position was set forth in a petition to the DWC dated February 12, 2016 signed by then-CAAA President Bert Arnold (who incidentally is my partner at Boxer & Gerson LLP).
Arnold noted that the 2016 version of the regulations provided that a RTW Fund application must be filed within one year the SJDB voucher was served on the worker or one year from the date the RTW Fund regulations became effective i.e. April 12, 2015.
Many eligible workers were not provided notice of their eligibility for the Return-to-Work Fund. As Arnold noted, “The Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher form was not updated with a notice of eligibility for the Return-to-Work Supplement Program until December 1, 2015.”
In a victory for fair play, the DWC has now issued amended regs which extend the time to apply for the RTW Fund benefits. Those regs, approved by the California OAL, are effective as of March 20, 2017.
According to a DWC Newsline:
“The regulation amendment extends the deadline to file for RTWSP benefits for certain individuals who received the Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit (SJDB) voucher between April 13, 2015 and December 1, 2015, and who may not have received notice of their eligibility to apply for the RTWSP benefit.”
Now, 8 CCR 17304 (b) provides that if a SJDB voucher was issued prior to December 1, 2015 for an injury on or after 1/1/2013, the time limit for filing for the RTW Fund supplement will be one year “from the effective date of this subdivision”.
The bottom line? The time limit for those claimants would be extended to March 20, 2018, one year from the March 20, 2017 effective date of the new regs.
You can’t be expected to apply for something you don’t know exists. That’s basic fairness, Kudos to the DWC for adopting this change.
Here is the link to the petition filed with the DWC by CAAA:
Here is the DWC page with the actual new regs: