Today's post comes from guest author Laurel Anderson, from Causey Law Firm.
Injured workers who are are dependent on time loss compensation payments of only 60-75% of their wages unfortunately are well used to the enormous financial losses and constraints this wage loss puts on their family budgets. With budget cuts being made by the Department of Labor & Industries which place additional burdens on workers by reducing reimbursements for the additional costs incurred as a result of an injury, it is important to be aware of what you can be reimbursed for, and what some relatively new regulations do not cover. The current mileage reimbursement rate is now 56.5 cents per mile.
When money is tight, making sure you receive everything you are entitled to under your claim is important!
Injured workers are always entitled to receive travel and/or wage reimbursement if they are asked to attend an IME (Independent Medical Exam). However, we have noted that more recently both the Department and self-insured employers are failing to provide workers with the form necessary to be reimbursed gas mileage for what are often not insignificant distances. Many workers are unaware they can have their wages reimbursed as well if they miss time from work. The form can be found online here. When self-insured employers do not provide our clients with a reimbursement form when sending out IME notices, we will send out the Department’s standard form.
More difficult to decipher are the rules allowing for travel reimbursement for medical treatment or vocational services. A different form must be filed to obtain reimbursement for these expenses. At Causey Law Firm, we insure that our clients are reimbursed for travel for vocational meetings which take place in our office. Parking is expensive in Seattle, and that cost can be reimbursed to you directly. Some law firms charge a fee on travel reimbursement expenses, but we do not.
While injured workers have the right to treat with their own preferred provider, travel reimbursement is only paid for regular treatment visits if there is no adequate treatment provider within 15 miles of their home AND if the claims manager has pre-authorized the travel. Travel reimbursement is now limited for regular medical treatment visits by the so-called “15 mile rule”. Thus, if your pre-authorized provider is 30 miles from your home, reimbursement will only be provided for the last 15 miles each way of that trip. As with medical appointments, regular visits to meet with a vocational counselor are only covered after that 15 mile threshold has been reached. If you are approved for a formal vocational retraining plan, however, mileage may be fully reimbursable through your plan with necessary signatures and paperwork submitted through a vocational rehabilitation counselor.
Many workers are unaware of their right to apply for reimbursements, which can be submitted to the Department for a period up to one year of the date of travel. The Department’s general guidelines can be seen here. When money is tight, making sure you receive everything you are entitled to under your claim is important!