Attempt to Lower Impairment Threshold to Access Voc Rehab Fails

Posted by Dean Blackaby | Jan 27, 2015 | 2 Comments

Tom 20facey
Tom Facey - D (Missoula)

An attempt to increase access to vocational rehabilitation by lowering the impairment threshold has failed and is likely dead in the Montana Legislature.

SB 3 proposed lowering the impairment threshold to access vocational rehabilitation benefits from 15% to 10%.  Currently, section 39-71-1006(1)(a)(ii), MCA provides an avenue of accessing vocational rehabilitation benefits as a "disabled worker" without regard to wage loss by virtue of an injured worker having a 10% wage loss.  During a January 12th hearing, SB 3 was supported by the Labor and Management Advisory Committee (LMAC) and the  Montana Trial Lawyers Association.  Providing opposing testimony was the Montana Contractors Compensation Fund and the American Insurance Association.

The bill was tabled by the Senate Business and Labor committee on January 15th and is thought dead.

About the Author

Dean Blackaby

Attorney representing individuals hurt at work; mediation of workers' compensation disputes; settlement consultant focusing on Medicare Secondary Payer compliance and Medicare set-asides.


Al Smith Reply

Posted Jan 27, 2015 at 17:51:47

yep, 2011 legislation mandated latest version of impairment ratings guide; that guide decreases impairment percentages by about 28% from guides in use at time 15% was adopted, 30% reduction of threshhold to 10% at a possible cost of $600,000 was rejected for “going the wrong way” – helping injured workers just a little is “going the wrong way.”

Don Agan Reply

Posted Mar 08, 2016 at 08:34:27

Al, I totally understand and agree with your rationalization as stated above. What I don’t understand is your reluctance to promote changes in the system to allow for, and in some cases mandate Insurers to provide pre-MMI vocational rehabilitation plans. As I have said in the past (I believe that you were in attendance at the 2 presentations that I made during the last legislative session) this would allow Injured Employees the opportunity to move forward toward return to work instead of waiting around until they reach MMI. I agree with the 10% impairment threshold and I continue to promote the concept of pre-MMI vocational rehabilitation services to include implementation of reasonable vocational rehabilitation plans. As you have said in the past pre-MMI vocational rehabilitation plan development is already an option on the table for Claims Examiners. Problem is without clarity and well understood stipulations it doesn’t happen. I’ve been a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the Worker’s Compensation arena for around 30 years in Montana. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen pre- MMI vocational rehabilitation plans.If the goal is to allow injured workers the opportunity to participate in meaningful vocational rehabilitation plans changes need to occur. It’s hard for me to understand how you can promote one mechanism to achieve this goal while disregarding another reasonable mechanism for the same. With all due respect I am curious to know your thoughts regarding these issues. As I did during the last legislative session I will continue to promote discussion about this issue looking forward to the next legislative session.

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