In 1911, the State legislature enacted RCW 51.04.010 which provides for “sure and certain relief” to workers injured in this state. The relief includes regular payment of time loss compensation. So what can you do to get your checks on a regular, 14-day schedule?
The Department of Labor & Industries uses the Work Status Form as a way for you to communicate your current work status to your claims manager. The form includes information about your last day of work, whether you have returned to work, and if you have applied for other benefits such as social security benefits or unemployment benefits. You sign the form certifying your statements are true. The Department often will not pay time loss compensation unless or until they receive this completed and signed document. If you receive this in the mail from us, fill it out completely, and return it to us as soon as possible to make sure your time loss is paid in a timely fashion.
WAC 296-20-01002 provides “All time loss compensation must be certified by the attending doctor based on objective findings.” Objective findings are measurable evidence of your disability. These could include such things as loss of range of motion, MRI or x-ray findings, or muscle atrophy. It is important to see your attending provider (AP) on a regular basis. The Department’s claims managers look for “60-day reports” from your AP and use those reports to confirm your inability to work. Without those reports, the Department may stop time loss compensation until an updated report is received.
The Department also uses “Activity Prescription Forms” as a way for your AP to advise of your ability to work. The form lets your AP list your work restrictions and whether or not you can return to light duty work or your job at the time of the injury. The Department’s view of this form is:
L&I considers the effective use of the Activity Prescription Form (APF) as a best practice in occupational medicine. The form communicates an injured worker’s physical restrictions and ability to work as well as the provider’s treatment plans. In addition, workers’ time-loss benefits depend on the APF and your [AP] chart notes.
Workers time loss compensation can also be affected during the vocational process. If your claims manager assigns a vocational counselor to work with you, you should always cooperate with that vocational counselor. During the initial phase of your vocational evaluation, attend meetings with your counselor and provide information to him or her as soon as requested. The vocational counselor can recommend to the Department’s claims manager that your claim be suspended if you fail to cooperate. If you go into vocational “Plan Development” or are in a work retraining program, you are expected to participate the same as you would if you worked a full-time job. One of the quickest ways to have time loss stopped is failing to cooperate in the vocational process.
Finally, we are all at the mercy of the post office. It used to be that checks mailed from the Department of Labor & Industries one day would be delivered in Western Washington the next day. Those days are gone. It is usual now for a time loss check to take two to three days to reach someone. Sometimes it takes longer. As I am writing this article (February 3rd), we have yet to receive checks mailed from the Department on January 28th. The problem is the mail service at the Department of Labor & Industries as well as the Post Office.
In summary, you can help make sure you receive your time loss checks on a regular basis by seeing your AP at least once a month, making sure your AP sends regular reports to the Department, completing your Work Status Form as soon as you receive it, and cooperating with your vocational counselor if one is assigned on your case. There is not much we can do about the post office and the Department’s mail room, however!
Marilyn McAdoo is the Administrator at The Walthew Law Firm and is a workers’ comp paralegal with more than 30 years experience.