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Claimants May Lose Maintenance Benefits If They Fail to Look for Jobs

by | Feb 3, 2022 | Firm News |

While an employee-claimant filed a worker’s compensation claim for injuries sustained in a workplace accident, she was awarded both temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits in the process, but her corresponding claim for maintenance benefits was drastically limited by her failure to actively look for jobs. See Absence of evidence of active job search dooms maintenance benefits. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, page 5.[1] The case discussed in the article, Mackowiak v. Chicago, City of, 29 ILWCLB 117 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved a city truck driver that suffered injuries to her back and right hip when she fell at work, with said accident also exacerbating a pre-existing condition. The driver filed a claim for worker’s compensation benefits shortly thereafter, and as mentioned above, was awarded both temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits.[2] The last time that the driver was treated by her physician was 3 ½ years after the accident, and while surgery was recommended to her at that time, the driver held off on undergoing any surgical operations for the time being. The driver’s doctor released her from additional treatment, until such time as the driver’s pain became so unbearable that she would then undergo surgery.[3] Her treating physician then placed restrictions on the driver’s work activities, limiting her to light and medium levels of work, but no driving or operating of trucks. It was on this basis that the arbitrator awarded the driver nearly four years’ worth of temporary total disability benefits, and the driver also potentially became eligible for maintenance benefits as well, as long as she actively looked for work or participated in vocational rehabilitation.[4] Yet, during most of the time period for which the driver claimed maintenance benefits, she did not actively look for work and only took part in a vocational rehabilitation assessment that lasted for approximately five (5) days, which meant, according to the arbitrator, that the driver was thus entitled to only 5 days of maintenance benefits. The driver retired shortly after participating in the aforesaid assessment, and on review, the Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s decision largely denying maintenance benefits.[5] This case illustrates the point that claimants must still adhere to any procedural and/or substantive requirements that are placed upon them, in order to remain eligible to receive things like maintenance benefits, including engaging in the sometimes tedious (but often mandatory) search for suitable jobs, or the necessary participation in vocational rehabilitation, which may not always be stimulating or interesting, but is still needed by claimants, to demonstrate their desire to obtain acceptable employment, after the conclusion of treatment for their work accidents.

[1]See Absence of evidence of active job search dooms maintenance benefits, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, at page 5.
[2]See Id.
[3]See Id.
[4]See Id.
[5]See Id.