Wage Loss Benefits
How much an injured worker is provided in terms of wage loss replacement benefits is a product of the pre-injury average weekly wage. This is the average amount—averaged over the preceding 52 weeks—that a worker earned prior to the injury. From there, the compensation rate is established by calculating 2/3 of the pre-injury average weekly wage. While this may not seem fair, the great news is that taxes are not deducted from the compensation rate. This also applies to workers’ compensation settlements, as they are in part based upon a workers’ compensation rate. Therefore, the compensation rate can be seen as the average of what an injured worker was earning post taxes.
The Compensation rate, however, is subject to mandatory and minimum standards.
Mandatory Minimum Rate: In the year 2018, for example, if an average wage falls at or below $260.75 a week, the injured worker receives the entirety of that average wage as his or her compensation rate, and it is not subject to a 2/3 reduction. It also means that if an average wage is at $260.75 or above, but reducing the average wage by 2/3 would result in less than $260.75 a week, the injured worker would receive the entire $260.75—not the reduced the amount.
The mandatory maximum compensation rate for 2018, however, means that in the case of high earners a compensation rate cannot exceed $1,043 a week.
How Long Do Wage Loss Benefits Continue?
As mentioned above, Virginia allows for a combined maximum of 500 weeks of wage loss for the standard, run of the mill injury. This does not mean that everyone gets 500 weeks, only that someone could potentially receive up to 500 weeks if their injury kept them disabled for a combined number of 500 weeks. After 500 weeks, however, some injuries are so severe—severe brain injury, the complete or near complete loss of two limbs, etc—that a worker could qualify for permanent and total disability benefits, paid out over the course of their life.
Marketing is the fancy work that the Commission uses for “looking for work.” It is short for “marketing one’s residual capacity.” This must be done for those NOT already on an ongoing award for temporary total disability. Once the transition from being totally disabled to light duty occurs, VA places the burden on the injured worker to look for work. The following is extremely important!! No fewer than 5 job contacts must be made every week. For every week 5 job contacts are not made, that is one week wage loss benefits will not be paid!!
These job contacts must be for work:
- an injured worker is qualified to perform;
- that is within an injured worker’s light duty restrictions;
- at places of prospective employment who are actually hiring.
For the above reasons, the Commission frowns upon randomly collecting applications or making cold calls to show an injured worker has made their required 5 job contacts. There are special forms available from Thomas & Thomas, which are used for the purposes of recording job contacts