If an injured worker is entitled to vocational rehabilitation services and benefits, then instead of a formal retraining program developed with an assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor, the injured worker can elect to take a lump sum buy-out (LSBO). A LSBO is a sum of money given to the injured worker when he or she does not want to participate in retraining for various reasons. Perhaps the injured worker is fed up with dealing with the adjuster and never wants to have to interact with the workers’ compensation system in Nevada again. Or, perhaps the injured worker is older and simply does not want to go to school to learn some new occupation that usually involves computer work. Sometimes testing done by the voc rehab counselor shows that the injured worker is not likely to be successful in a school-type setting. Other injured workers know that they can probably obtain employment on their own using different skills they learned in the past.
How much an injured worker can receive for a LSBO depends on the following:
1. The PPD rating percentage determines how much retraining the injured worker would be entitled to, and it also determines the minimum amount the insurer can offer for a LSBO. The LSBO offered cannot be less than 40% of the amount the injured worker would have received as bi-weekly benefits if the injured worker had instead chosen a retraining program.
For example, if the worker were entitled to 9 months of retraining because she had a 5% permanent partial disability award, then we would calculate the amount of money in benefits that would have been paid for 9 months. Then we multiply that amount by 40%.
2. Sometimes an insurer can be persuaded to offer more than the minimum LSBO. If the insurer thinks that the worker will want an expensive retraining program, then the amount offered may be increased to entice the worker to accept a LSBO instead. There are also some employers and insurers that will simply be more generous for a good employee who has suffered a serious injury. It does not hurt to ask for a LSBO greater than the minimum amount.
The important thing to remember about a LSBO is that once the injured worker accepts a LSBO, he can never receive any vocational rehabilitation benefits on the claim again. So, if the injury worsens and the claim is reopened for another surgery, for example, and the claimant has even more work limitations, it does not matter, and benefits will not be paid past the date the claimant is released by his doctor with permanent work restrictions. This is a harsh law for many injured workers who cannot find work without some retraining help after their claims are reopened for more medical care. In addition to thinking about never being able to get vocational rehab services or benefits ever again, the injured worker needs to realize that the amount of a LSBO is only a fraction of what a retraining program would cost. Clearly, participation in a formal retraining program is the better deal for someone who really needs some retraining. A retraining program includes the cost of school, books and supplies, some mileage reimbursement, bi-weekly checks for as long as the retraining program lasts, and an additional check for 28 days to allow the retrained worker to look for a job.