The regulatory changes involved input from the regulated community prior and subsequent to public hearings held in November 1997 and reflect a tremendous amount of effort to clarify issues in the rehabilitation process, according to DWC Administrative Director Casey L. Young.
The new rules are contained in Sections 10122 through 10133. of Title 8, California Code of Regulations. Some of the highlights include:
A standard definition has been adopted to assist in clarifying modified and alternative work issues. When disputes arise regarding these issues the parties can refer to the regulation for clarification and know what the Rehabilitation Unit consultant will reference in these instances.
A new fee schedule, which was mandated by legislation (AB 237, Figueroa) signed into law last year, will apply to employees injured on or after Jan. 1, 1994 who initiate rehabilitation benefits or services on or after Jan. 1, 1998. The new schedule permits up to $3,000 for Phase A activities - vocational evaluation, evaluation of vocational feasibility, initial interview, vocational testing, counseling and research for plan development, and preparation of various forms. It allows a maximum of $3,500 for Phase B - plan monitoring, job seeking skills and job placement research and counseling, but in no event can the aggregate of these two categories exceed $4,500.
The new rules also allow employees, injured on or after Jan. 1, 1994 who initiate rehabilitation benefits or services on or after Jan. 1, 1998 and who utilize their transferable skills and experience for direct placement, to receive up to 90 days of placement assistance.
Two new regulations involve the cost effectiveness of providing vocational rehabilitation services outside of California. One addresses the unavoidable fact that there may be times when the Rehabilitation Unit will be unable to make a determination based on the record or submitted positions of the parties. This rule explains the options the Unit has in resolving such disputes. The other allows for English language training for injured employees who may require such training to return to the work force.
Several Rehabilitation Unit forms had to be revised to reflect statutory changes. Those forms include the RB-102 (Vocational Rehabilitation Plan), RU-105 (Notice of Termination of Vocational Rehabilitation Services), RU-102 (Initial Evaluation Summary), and RU-121 (Vocational Rehabilitation Progress Report). There will be a grace period until Jan. 1, 1999, after which use of the revised forms will be mandatory, Young said.
Other revisions were made to conform the regulations with to statutory requirements.
In addition to the regulatory changes, five Rehabilitation Unit Administrative Guidelines which had been suspended since June 5, 1997 have been revised. These include: Section 8-10-02, Injured Worker Living Out of State/Country; Section 8-10-03, Non-English Speaking Qualified Injured Worker; 8-10-04, Modified Work or Alternative Work with Same Employer via the RU-94; Section 8-50-02, Vocational Rehabilitation Temporary Disability/Vocational Rehabilitation Maintenance Allowance; and Section 8-50-04, Additional Living Expenses. The guidelines provide policy guidance to Rehabilitation Unit consultants.
Several minor changes were also made to the California Standards, which provides guidance to vocational rehabilitation providers regarding the quality and timeliness of services to injured workers.
The on-line version of Title 8, CCR, are available at the Department
of Industrial Relations website at http://www.dir.ca.gov has been revised
to include the regulatory changes.