How a Voucher works

What is a Retraining Voucher?

Summary – A retraining voucher, or “Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit,” is a workers’ compensation benefit that helps injured workers cover the cost of training for a new career.

History – Prior to January 1, 2004, an injured worker deemed unable to return to work was given a vocational rehabilitation benefit of $16,000.  This money was used to cover the cost of a special counselor who assisted with the retraining process, the cost of a retraining program at an approved school, and a weekly allowance (VRMA) to help with living expenses while the injured worker trained to become re-employed. 

For workers injured on or after January 1, 2004, these benefits are no longer in effect.  Instead, the injured worker is supplied with a voucher (or “Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit”) that can be used to cover the cost of training at an approved school.  The voucher entitles the holder to as little as $4,000 worth of education or as much as $10,000.  A small portion of this amount (up to 10%) can also be used to obtain the services of a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

Difficulties– Unlike traditional vocational rehabilitation, the voucher program often requires injured persons to seek out careers, schools and jobs on their own.  This lack of formal guidance has made the retraining process difficult for many injured workers.  To ease this difficulty, injured workers may consult vocational rehabilitation counselors or seek career guidance and job assistance through the education providers they have chosen.

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Am I Eligible for a Retraining Voucher?

To find out whether you are eligible for a retraining voucher, determine if the following statements apply to you:

  1. My injury occurred on the job or during a job-related activity.
  2. My injury occurred on or after January 1, 2004.
  3. I am permanently unable to do my former job, but am able to do other jobs not offered by my previous employer (this is called “permanent partial disability”).
  4. I am not able to return to my former occupation within 60 days of receiving my last temporary disability payment.
  5. I have not received a “Notice of Offer of Modified or Alternative Work” (Form DWC-AD 10133.53) from my claims administrator.

If all of these statements are applicable to you, you are probably eligible for the retraining voucher. However, if one or more do not apply, you may not be eligible. 

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When Will I Receive My Voucher?

If you are eligible for the voucher and you haven't settled your eligibility, you will receive the voucher from the claims administrator within 25 calendar days from the date your disability award is issued by the workers' compensation judge at the local Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.

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I Have My Voucher, What Now?

Your voucher may be used to pay for the training program of your choice from any state approved or accredited school.  It covers tuition, fees, books, and any other expenses required for the program.  In most cases, the funding goes directly to the school and you pay nothing.  However, if you prefer, you may pay on your own and receive reimbursement at a later time.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1) Choose an occupation with physical demands that will be appropriate for you (for help with this step, you may call the Voucher Information Hotline).

Step 2) Contact an approved school that offers training for the occupation you have selected

Step 3) Fill out and sign the voucher form and fax/mail it to the school to begin your enrollment.

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How Do I Fill Out the Voucher?

When you receive the voucher, you will need to ensure that all necessary blanks have been completed.  Specifically:

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The claims administrator should have completed lines 1 - 8. You are then responsible for completing lines 9 - 19.

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Lines 9 - 12 must be completed when using a vocational return-to -work counselor (or VRTWC.  See “Do I Need a Rehabilitation Counselor?”).  If you are not consulting a counselor, you do not need to complete lines 9 - 12.

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The school you select for training will assist you in completing lines 13 - 19 on the voucher.

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When you have completed the voucher, you must sign and date it before sending it back to the school or, if you are seeking reimbursement, to the claims administrator. If you have already paid and are seeking reimbursement through the voucher, you must also attach any receipts or invoices when submitting the voucher to your insurer (payment should arrive within 45 days).

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How Much Is My Voucher Worth?

The amount of your voucher is determined by a Workers' Compensation Administrative Law Judge or by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. They will review your case and give you an award rating. Based on the final rating they give, your voucher can be as high as the amounts indicated in the table below:

Disability Rating Voucher Amount
Less than 15%
$ 4,000
16% - 25%
$ 6,000
26% - 49%
$ 8,000
50% and 99%
$ 10,000

Note:  The voucher itself is not a cash benefit and has no monetary value.  It can only be used to receive education and career counseling.

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What is Covered By My Voucher?

The voucher is designed to cover all costs required for your retraining (up to your maximum amount).  This includes:

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Tuition for courses and/or skill enhancement

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Fees and Taxes

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Books and Materials

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Computers (if necessary for the program you have chosen)

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Vocational Counseling Services (up to 10% of the voucher amount)

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Shipping Fees (for distance learning courses)

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What if the Voucher Amount is Not Enough?

If your voucher amount is not high enough to cover the program you have selected, you may consider the following options:

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You may qualify for additional assistance through the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR).  Some schools will allow you to combine these benefits with your voucher in order to cover excess costs.  You may call the Voucher Information Hotline for more information about DOR eligibility.

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Student Loans.  Ask your chosen school about student loan and payment plan options.

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How Long is My Voucher Valid?  Does it Expire?

Once it is received, the voucher is a permanent entitlement and has no expiration date.  It remains open for use until all funds have been spent.

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How Do I “Settle” My Voucher?

The voucher, unlike some other workers’ compensation benefits, is not a cash benefit.  However, under some circumstances an attorney can help you settle your rights to the voucher for a lump-sum cash payment.  This payment may not be equal to the full voucher amount and must be reviewed and approved by a Workers' Compensation Administrative Law Judge.

Keep in mind that, in the long run, a cash settlement is often less beneficial than using your voucher for career retraining. By helping you obtain the skills and education necessary to re-enter the workforce, the voucher provides a genuine long-term solution.  In contrast, a cash settlement by itself offers only a small, short-term financial boost.

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Will I Receive Help With Living Expenses During My Retraining?

Living expenses—including the Vocational Rehabilitation Maintenance Allowance (VRMA)—are not covered by the training voucher and are therefore unavailable to those injured on or after January 1, 2004.

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