NEWS / Legal News - November 2017

Supreme Court issues decision on the termination of rehabilitation benefits

Halvorson v. B&F Fastner Supply

Rehabilitation Termination Requirements

The employee suffered a work injury and vocational rehabilitation services were initiated.  Eventually, the employee was given permanent work restrictions, and she found a new job within those restrictions.  The employee loved her new job and had no desire to look for a different job.  
The employer and insurer filed a Rehabilitation Request to terminate the rehabilitation plan based on the argument that the employee was not a qualified employee because she has returned to suitable gainful employment.  Compensation Judge Bradley Behr agreed and terminated the Rehabilitation Plan. 
The WCCA reversed the Compensation Judge's decision and found that the issues of whether an employee is a qualified employee to receive rehabilitation services and whether an employee is working in a suitable job are only relevant when seeking to initiate rehabilitation services or when seeking additional rehabilitation services.  Instead, the only relevant considerations when determining whether a Rehabilitation Plan should be terminated are found in Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5 and Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8.

The Supreme Court affirmed the WCCA and held that the criteria used to determine whether someone is a qualified employee for rehabilitation services cannot be used as a basis to terminate rehabilitation benefits.

This decision could present particular challenges to terminating the Rehabilitation Plan.  For example, if, following a work injury, an employee is terminated for reasons unrelated to the work injury and does not find another job, there would seem to be no basis under the rule and statute cited by the court to terminate the Rehabilitation Plan.  The employer and insurer might be unable to terminate the Plan even if the employee were to be released to return to work without restrictions by his or her treating doctors.  Providing workers' compensation benefits to employees when they no longer suffer the effects of a work injury cannot be what the legislature intended.   

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