Workers' Comp Law

The Defense View

BEWARE . . . the VR-8???

The VR-8 (Notice of Intent to Change Vocational Rehabilitation Provider) is primarily used by injured workers to do exactly what its title suggests:  notify the Department and the carrier of their intent to switch to a new VR counselor.    The Form can also be used in cases where the carrier has not yet filed a VR Referral despite that the screener’s recommendation is for an Entitlement Assessment.  This is just the DOL’s way of appropriately allowing the injured worker to say, “well, if you’re not going to do it for me, then I’ll do it myself”.   But can it also allow the injured worker to skip a screening altogether, and hold the carrier responsible for VR services that were provided without its knowledge?  The Department recently said yes, and yes at an informal conference. 
The setting was this:  No Form 25M was filed by the carrier because the injured worker was not out of work for 90 days.   Under Rule 52.2000, the injured worker could ask for VR services anyway, by filing a written request.  Upon receipt, the Department will send the file for screening.  The injured worker didn’t do that.   He – through his counsel – filed a VR-8, and checked off the box indicating that the carrier had failed to file the Referral that a screener had recommended.  But, that wasn’t true.  
The Department did not acknowledge the VR-8, and the adjuster took no action in response to the VR-8.   Unbeknownst to the adjuster, the VR counselor got to work on the file, and one month later filed an Entitlement Assessment, and a $900.00 bill.   The Department’s take on this?  The carrier should have “denied” the VR-8 when it was filed, and because it failed to do so, it had to pay for the VR services that had been initiated.   
This result seems neither reasoned nor fair, and appears to be contrary to the Rule.   And, the learning lesson so long as the Department continues with this policy?   Beware the VR-8 indeed.  It is not as innocuous as previously believed. 

Oliver Abbott