Illinois Workers’ Compensation Explained
Chapter 7 – Temporary Benefits
This chapter discusses what temporary benefits an injured worker may be entitled to under the workers’ compensation act. Temporary benefits are just that, temporary. Such benefits are payable for an indefinite period of time after a worker has been injured but before the final character or disability from the injury can be determined. Temporary benefits are payable when the worker is recovering from their injuries and not able to earn as much income as they were earning before they got hurt.
Temporary benefits can take the form of Temporary Total Disability benefits (TTD) or Temporary Partial Disability benefits (TPD), and well as Maintenance benefits and vocational rehabilitation benefits.
Temporary benefits that are payable to an employee, as opposed to medical providers and others, are paid based upon the employee’s average weekly wage.
1. Average Weekly Wage
In general terms, the average weekly wage (AWW) is the average earnings of the employee over the 52-week period before their injury. It may or may not consider overtime hours in its computation. We provided a full discussion about how to compute the of average weekly wage some time ago. You can read about how it should be calculated in our post Average Weekly Wage (AWW) – The Basis for Workers’ Compensation Benefits.
2. Temporary Disability Benefits
Temporary disability benefits are payable to an employee who is:
- currently off work and receiving medical treatment;
- working limited duties with reduced earnings; while in the process of recovery
- unable to return to their job and is looking for a new job;
- unable to return to their job and is engaged in vocational retraining.
Each of these benefits will be discussed below.
A word of caution to employees. You must take great care in discussing your ability to return to work with your doctor when the time comes. Getting a full release to return to unrestricted work when you are not or may not be physically capable of doing so can have serious negative consequences.
A. Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Temporary disability benefits are designed to partially compensate an injured employee for lost earnings they may have due to their injury. An employee who is totally disabled and losing time from work because of a compensable injury is entitled to payment temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while recovering from their injuries. These benefits are payable at the rate of 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage, subject to certain statutory minimum and maximum rates. The minimum TTD rates depend upon the employee’s marital status and number of dependent children they had at the time of their injury. The maximum rate changes from year to year. Find the current minimum and maximum rates.
The employee’s right to receive TTD benefits stops when their condition is either no longer temporary (that is they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI)) or it no longer totally disables them from returning to work, meaning the employer has some light duty or full duty work for them.
If an employee has been released to return to work with restrictions, but the employee is not willing or able to allow the employee to return to any work, even part-time, the employee is still entitled to payment of TTD benefits.
B. Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
When an employee has been released to return to work with restrictions, and they have reduced earnings because their employer is not willing or able to allow the employee to return to their regular duties and regular hours, the employee becomes entitled to payment of TPD benefits.
TPD benefits are almost universally calculate as being paid at the rate of 66 2/3% of the difference between the average weekly wage and the employee’s current weekly earnings.
3. Vocational Rehabilitation
Section 8(a) of the Act states that, in addition to medical expenses:
“The employer shall also pay for treatment, instruction, and training necessary for the physical, mental, and vocational rehabilitation of the employee, including all maintenance costs and expenses incidental thereto.” 820 ILCS 305/8(a)
There are times when an employee is not able to return to their job because of the disability from their injury but is not so disabled as to be considered totally unemployable in the labor market. For injured workers in this predicament, the workers’ compensation act provides two temporary benefits to aid in the vocational rehabilitation of the worker. These two benefits typically depend on an analysis of whether the employee has sufficient transferable skills to return to some other work that pays a comparable wage to what they were earning when they were injured. It is a complex analysis and very fact dependent. If you are in this position you need to contact us to discuss it.
As we alluded to in the previous chapter on Medical Benefits, an employee may be entitled to payment of maintenance benefits when it is apparent that they will never be able to return to the work with their employer and are in the process of searching for another job or engaged in vocational retraining to regain their previous earning capacity. Maintenance benefits are payable at 66 2/3rds of the average weekly wage.
In the event the jobs they are able to perform pay significantly lower earnings, it potentially changes which permanent disability benefit may be payable or leads to further benefits for vocational retraining.
B. Vocational Retraining
When an injured employee is not capable of returning to his pre-injury job, and the employee has no transferable skills with which to earn a comparable living in some other job or no work is available within the employee’s skills, the employee may be entitled to retraining at the employer’s expense if it can be demonstrated that retraining will allow the employee to regain their previous earning capacity. (Here is a translated example for you. You were earning $1,200 dollars a week when you got hurt. The most you are able to earn now is $400 a week because your injury limits the type of job you can get. But, with some education or retraining you could get back to some job that pays about the same you were earning when you got hurt.)
The employee has the burden of proving each of these things before the employer will even remotely consider paying for vocational retraining. There are also a number of considerations that must be analyzed in order to prove entitlement to vocational retraining, including.
- Whether similar treatment in the past had failed;
- Whether they are not trainable due to their age, education, and occupation;
- Where they have sufficient skills to obtain employment without further training or education
- The relative costs and benefits to be derived from the program;
- The employee’s work-life expectancy;
- The employee’s ability and motivation to undertake the program
- The prospects for recovering work capacity through medical rehabilitation or other means.
Proper expenses in connection with vocational rehabilitation have been held to include: the cost of obtaining a GED, college tuition, books and resource materials. The employee is also entitled to weekly maintenance payments, as mentioned above, until completion of the rehabilitation. Upon conclusion of the retraining, even if the employee is returned to her pre-injury level of earnings, they are still entitled to compensation for any permanent partial disability.
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