In a recent case, one state’s supreme court clarified the standard for the termination of rehabilitation benefits, an issue that regularly comes up in Georgia workers’ compensation cases. In that case, the employee injured both her knees and her right elbow at work and was awarded workers’ compensation benefits, including rehabilitation services. She eventually obtained part-time employment with another employer.
The original employer then sought to terminate the employee’s rehabilitation services. At a hearing, the workers’ compensation judge found that the claimant returned to suitable gainful employment and thus could no longer receive rehabilitation services. On the worker’s appeal, the court held that the workers’ compensation judge used the wrong legal standard to grant the employer’s petition to terminate the employee’s rehabilitation services.
The workers’ compensation judge determined that since the employee had obtained “suitable gainful employment,” she could no longer receive rehabilitation benefits. However, the state’s supreme court found that if the individual who is receiving rehabilitation benefits is no longer a “qualified employee,” a judge must apply the good-cause standard before terminating benefits. That is, a rehabilitation plan may be suspended, terminated, or altered upon a showing of “good cause,” such as an employee’s refusal to cooperate with a rehabilitation plan or if the employee is not likely to benefit from further rehabilitation services.