Sometimes, a work-related injury becomes more than just a temporary problem and a few months off from work. When an injury turns into a disability, the state of New Jersey and the employer’s insurance company can offer additional help and benefits. Supplemental payments, vocational rehabilitation services, and disability benefits are available to disabled workers in New Jersey.
If an individual has suffered a total disability and is unable to be employed because of a work-related injury, he or she may qualify for supplemental benefits. Supplemental benefits are available to totally and permanently disabled workers only and are paid in addition to the weekly workers’ compensation payment.
The purpose of supplemental benefits is to account for changes in the cost of living. The rate is calculated annually and based on the current maximum weekly workers’ compensation rate and the maximum rate at the time of the injury. The amount of supplemental benefits is reduced by any Social Security, Blank Lung, current employment wages, or employer disability pension benefits received.
If a disabled worker seeks to get back into the workplace, but is unable to find employment, the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services can help (DVRS). The DVRS offers a range of services that help disabled individuals find employment or keep existing employment. To qualify, the individual must have a physical or mental disability and trouble finding or retaining employment. Individuals must apply for services, and spots are limited.
The mission of the DVRS is to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and achieve employment consistent with their strengths, abilities, and priorities. A vocational rehabilitation counselor develops an individualized plan for employment and determines additional services needed.
Services offered free of charge:
- Diagnostic evaluation
- Vocational counseling and guidance
- Job placement
- Supported employment services
- On-the-job training
- Job coaching
- Work adjustment training.
Services offered at a rate based on income:
- Medical services
- Books and supplies
- Tools and equipment.
If the worker had a partial disability prior to the injury, he or she may qualify for benefits from the Second Injury Fund (SIF). The SIF is a state program overseen by the Division of Workers’ Compensation and was created in 1923. The SIF makes payments to workers who have become totally and permanently disabled as a result of their work-related injury. A worker must have had a pre-existing disability in order to qualify for SIF benefits.
The main purpose of the Second Injury Fund is to encourage employers to hire disabled workers by reducing the potential costs of workers’ compensation. In the case of workers’ compensation, an employer and their insurance company would only be responsible for payments directly resulting from the work-related injury. Further benefits related to the pre-existing partial disability or current total disability will be provided by the SIF.
Second Injury Fund benefits will begin immediately after workers’ compensation payments end. The SIF will provide permanent disability benefits to the injured worker for life, as long as they remain totally and permanently disabled and unemployable. The amount paid by the SIF weekly will be the same amount as the previous workers’ compensation payment. The SIF does not cover funeral costs or dependents’ benefits.
It may be possible to work and earn wages while receiving Second Injury Fund benefits. However, this is in very limited cases and earnings will reduce the total benefit by the same amount. If an individual is granted permission to work and receive SIF benefits, his or her disability status will be reevaluated after 450 weeks. In order to continue to work and remain qualified for the SIF, the worker must:
- Undergo all physical and educational rehabilitation as required by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
- Show that they are unable to earn wages equal to those earned prior to the work-related injury because of the continuing disability
The individual must notify the Office of Special Compensation Funds as soon as they start earning wages and collecting from the Second Injury Fund. Failing to do so may result in the loss of benefits. Please note that disability status may be reevaluated at any time if type of employment causes an doubt of total disability status.
There are a range of disability benefits an injured worker may qualify for: temporary total, permanent partial, and permanent total. All of these benefits are paid by the employer or their insurance company.
An injured worker qualifies for temporary total disability benefits if they are unable to work for more than seven non-consecutive days as a result of the work-related injury and remain under active medical care. The amount of payment is based on the rate of pay earned before the injury. In New Jersey, benefits are calculated at 70% the average weekly wage prior to the injury with a maximum weekly payment of $855 and minimum $228 during 2015.
These benefits will continue until the individual is approved to return to work by a doctor or reaches maximum medical improvement. If maximum medical improvement is reached, but he or she is not medically approved for employment, they become eligible for permanent partial benefits or permanent total benefits.
Permanent partial disability benefits are awarded to individuals who are unable to work because of a permanent partial disability obtained from work-related injuries. These benefits are paid weekly and start immediately after temporary disability benefits end. The rate is based on the type and severity of the partial disability, with a state maximum weekly rate of $855 and minimum of $35 during 2015.
If the disability is more than partial, the individual becomes eligible for permanent total disability benefits. To quality, he or she must have lost function in at least two major parts of the body as a result of the injury and remain unemployable. The amount of payment is based on the rate of pay earned before the injury. In New Jersey, benefits are calculated at 70% the average weekly wage prior to the injury with a maximum weekly payment of $855 and minimum $228 during 2015. These benefits are provided weekly for a period of 450 weeks when the disability will be reevaluated.