Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation
Information Bulletin

August 26, 1997 Christine Baker
(415) 557-1304

Commission Releases Interim Report on Workers' Compensation Vocational Rehabilitation

SAN FRANCISCO--The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation has released an interim report from its multi-year study of the impact of the 1993 reforms on California's workers' compensation vocational rehabilitation benefit.

The study was conducted by the Survey Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley under contract with the Commission. The study, initiated in July 1995, is ongoing and a final report is expected in 1998.

The primary objective of the study is to help the Commission in evaluating the impact of the reform legislation on the vocational rehabilitation system. Questions to be answered include: Did the reforms reduce the cost of the rehabilitation benefit for employers? How have changes affected outcomes for injured workers?

The study is establishing baseline data for continued monitoring of rehabilitation services and will measure changes in the workloads for DWC rehabilitation consultants, caseloads in the DWC Rehabilitation Unit's dispute resolution process, and caseloads in the WCAB system. The study also includes a review of Vocational Rehabilitation literature.

These interim findings indicate significant changes in vocational rehabilitation costs from the pre-reform period (1992 and 1993) to the post-reform period (1994 and after). Preliminary estimates show that the total direct accident year cost of the vocational rehabilitation benefit will decline by $274 million (49%) between 1993 and 1994. (Accident year costs refer to total expenditures during the life of the claims with injury dates in the target year.)

Current estimates are that the 1993 claim costs will eventually be $563 million, while for 1994 total cost will be $289 million. Total costs for 1992 are estimated to be $663 million (57% higher than 1994).

Also, the decline in average cost per rehabilitation claim due to reform is dramatic. Prior to reform, claims were averaging just over $13,000 in total costs. In 1994, the mean total cost per claim had dropped to about $7,200 - representing an average savings of 45% over pre-reform years.

A copy of this report can be obtained by writing to Christine Baker, Executive Officer, Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, 30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 2122, San Francisco, CA 94102, by calling (415) 557-1304, or by faxing a request to (415) 557-1385. This report is also available through the Department of Industrial Relations' Internet servers' Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation home page. The address is

The Commission, created by the workers' compensation reform legislation of 1993, is charged with overseeing the health and safety and workers' compensation systems in California and recommending administrative or legislative modifications to improve their operation. The Commission was established to conduct a continuing examination of the workers' compensation system and of the state's activities to prevent industrial injuries and occupational diseases and to examine those programs in other states.