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Disability rating and appeal
Hello forum members, It's been a while since I've been on this forum. Spent the last year & a half dealing with WC, lawyers, evals, & court.

Had my court hearing a month ago and my rating came down as only 30%, which my atty is appealing at this time, based on our independent vocational assessment that the judge dismissed. The assessment and my lawyer contend that it should be in the area of 70%-90% due to my injury (pinched nerve/bad disk from decades of computer use*I'm using speech software to do this posting) and the limited earning potential as most jobs now require some computer use and "no computer use" is a written restriction from the W/C doctor.

I don't know if this is part of the game and the appeal process will rectify it, but I am very concerned. Not just by the low rating but how distant my atty & the judges rating are. 

Should I be deeply concerned with this?
generally appeals are denied far more frequently then they are upheld.
you can still try to negotiate a settlement or rating but the judge's decision doesn't give you much leverage.

specifically to your california issue a decision was released 9/25 that severely limits the Ogilvie decision of 2011 that allowed challenges to the PD rating schedule by VR testimony.

here is a legal analysis:


hopefully in the coming years more tools like your speech recognition program will allow you to compete for more jobs.
Reminder :
........Each state has their own comp system; POST YOUR STATE to get accurate information. Use the search feature to find information from similar questions.
OMG!!! This is not a good thing. I have Dragon speech software now but it would never get me back into my field, as I was a wholesaler doing business on the phone and entering things on the computer at the same time. This software is in it's infancy and even more developed it would never fit this working situation as the phone conversation would interfere with voice commands to the computer. Maybe a long time from now it might but for now all I can do is emails and dictate things like this posting.

Throughout this ordeal I took it upon myself to contact the Dept of Rehabilitation and have been trying to work with them to change careers but with my limitations on computers it has gone almost nowhere.

I have 5 more years of child support and very little network of support & family to rely on so this is a big turn for the worse in my case. Is there anything I can do? Should I look for another atty? Is it too late for that?

I have to admit, I am really scared.
keep focusing on rehabilitation and returning to work. look at
more information here
and here
the VR counselor on your case should be able to offer some guidance.

attys can't change the law and how its applied only the courts, so changing attys won't alter the case precedent.

there are other ways to access computer functions then a standard keyboard.
have you heard of the "foot mouse" ?
you may also have to investigate jobs that don't require you being on the phone at the same time as you use the computer.
Reminder :
........Each state has their own comp system; POST YOUR STATE to get accurate information. Use the search feature to find information from similar questions.
Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

I spent the past couple of years investigating, applying for jobs, going on interviews, and getting with the Dept of rehab, who have not been able to help me come up with an alternate career to pursue. (neither have I) My age is also becoming a factor for some jobs too, so I must admit I'm a bit discouraged at this point.

I am aware of the voucher program but without a good objective or job goal I have not put that into motion, and the task of even going to school might be a challenge due to my restrictions.

I'll list them to give a clearer picture:
-No sitting for prolonged periods. (I stand a lot of the day)
-No lifting over 20lbs (doesn't matter for school)
-No prolonged looking down or static head positions (tough for reading)
-No computer use or typing (Again, I do this posting with speech software and wish I didn't even have to do that)

I don't have a VR counselor and when I looked into it I was told that program is no longer, I read the date limits on the voucher ended in Dec 2012, thankfully my injury happened in Oct 2012 so I can make use of the voucher system if I find a decent path to a job goal, but the VR wasn't made available to me, not sure why.

With "no computer use" as part of the W/C Dr's statement and practically every job out there requiring it I don't see how the judge dismissed the vocational assessments and rated me so low, as I'm not supposed to be even touching this stupid computer.

Still meeting with the Dept of rehab and will be working with a job developer/counselor, not trying to be negative about it but not very optimistic right now.
here's a list of VRCs that have specific experience with work comp and the voucher system.
they will evaluate your restrictions, skills, education, training, labor market etc to develop practical and attainable job goals.
Reminder :
........Each state has their own comp system; POST YOUR STATE to get accurate information. Use the search feature to find information from similar questions.
I'm in no position to spend that kind of $ on private counseling, that's why I've been trying to work with the D.O.R.
again look into the voucher to help with expenses.
Reminder :
........Each state has their own comp system; POST YOUR STATE to get accurate information. Use the search feature to find information from similar questions.
I would not fire your attorney due to your rating. I agree with 1171 that there is a new case in our state that can make getting a higher rating with voc rahab eval difficult, but this does not mean your attorney cannot get a higher rating and the specifics with that case may be different than yours. I would not rely on this for income though.  

You should qualify for voc rehab if your employer will not take you back. I would only pursue it when you are ready to attend college because there are time limits to use the vouchers once you get them. For example for injuries in 2013 and after they must use the voucher within 2 years of receiving it. I do not recall the rules for your voucher.

Things I suggest:

I suggest meeting with a disabled student counselor at a college you are interested in. You can discuss your need for accommodation and how the college can help accommodate them. I know of some ways colleges help such as provide note takers, software, double time on tests etc. I know going to college would be difficult in the beginning, but if you are motivated I believe you can do anything you set your mind to. They also have vocational counseling at colleges for free. I would recommend this rather than paying for it out of your voucher money.

Taking a course at a local community college on career counseling. This is usually a one credit course that shows you different careers, what they pay, how easy it is getting employed and how much college is needed etc. This can be extremely helpful with finding out what is out there. These type of classes give you a bunch of questionnaires and match your interests and personality with your best matching career. I took this course on-line just to see if it could help other injured workers who are in need to find a new career and I recommend it.

I also suggest reading about vocational rehab benefits for your date of injury.

You mentioned you had children. You may qualify for assistance and grants. You can get help with grants etc at your local college. This is an example of Calworks that is for low income with children assistance at one college.

There are organizations that help people who are in need of accommodations. One is called Think Beyond the Label.
Are you on SSDI? If so there is a lot of information about programs to help those who need accommodation.

I assume you have contacted your employer and asked if they could accommodate you or if there is another position on the company you can do?
I am not an attorney.Anything I write should not be considered legal advice.I am writing from my own personal experiences,which is not from any sort of legal background. You should consult with an attorney over legal issues. In California, if you cannot get an attorney you can consult with an I&A officer.
Thank you for your reply.

I'm hoping that the appeal process will help because a 30% disability rating means very little compensation, and does not help if I must pursue SSDI.

Every time I inquired about vocational rehab I was told that that program is no longer in place and the only option I would have would be the voucher system. I have not acted on the voucher for two main reasons: (a)-I have been unable to find a career goal that did not require computer use. (B)-Every career counselor I spoke to about this subject feels that due to my age, lack of college credits, and physical restrictions that going the college route might not be the best option, and that a short term, more specific training plan would be best.

I have talked to the community college counselors and the disabled student counselor. Yes, it can be done once there is a career goal set, but the career counselor was less useful than the ones from the Department of rehabilitation, and they have yet to come up with a good idea at this point.

Over the past couple years I've done extensive research on career change and have yet to come up with a good idea, nor have any of the counselors I spoke to. It has been disheartening to say the least. That is why I had hoped my rating would be better and that I would have the option of going on permanent disability, because I have all but given up hope on finding a career path that didn't involve computers or heavy lifting.

I am a divorced father and not the custodial parent so there are no assistance programs for me. Also something I checked into but accepted early on that there was nothing for me.

Not on SSDI, with a 30% rating that does not seem like a possibility.

My employer would not take appropriate measures to accommodate the given restrictions by the doctor and did not have another position to offer me. That is why I sought out an atty and went this route.

Thanks again for your reply, and I will look into some of your suggestions, still very discouraged though.

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