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More Expensive and Difficult: G.E.D. Changes in 2014


An injured worker with permanent limits who cannot return to their injury employer generally is entitled to vocatational retraining benefits. The worker's compensation carrier covers the whole package: weekly benefits (at 2/3 of wages), plus meals, mileage expenses, and fee expenses during every week in school. Full cost of tuition and books is also covered!

In many instances, however, workers have not been in a school setting since they began their work career-often many years in the past. As such, a traditional full-time academic retraining program may be a daunting challenge. Many of these workers do not have a high school degree, and therefore, they need a G.E.D/H.S.E.D. before they can even contemplate an official associate degree (or even bachelor's degree) program. Under Wisconsin law, retraining benefits are possible while attempting a G.E.D. program-especially if the the program requires regular attendance and has formal instructors in a classroom setting. (See example Schneidewend v. Randstad Staffing Services USA Inc., WC Claim No. 2004-001650 (LIRC Dec. 17, 2009).

As both an advocate and (somewhat) a social worker, we strongly encourage a GED program for an injured worker who was knocked out of their former field or profession due to an injury. If the worker was formerly in a physical field (e.g., construction or concrete), a GED is an absolute requirement to the necessary academic degree that would restore the previous earning capacity.

I read with some concern that the GED testing standards are changing in 2014. (See "Raising the G.E.D. Bar Stirs Concern for Students, New York Times, 10/11/13). Apparently, the test will be harder and, unfortunately, more expensive. Regardless of the academic basis for these changes, there is concern about a worker's ability to restore a lost earning capacity with a higher GED standard. A worker-long absent from an academic setting-faces a number of hurdles to successful completion of a program, including functional abilities, pain levels, family or child care constraints, and monetary issues. If there are further barriers before a worker can even have the opportunity to complete a school or degree program, the worker may never successfully get back to their level of income before an injury.

On a final note, a harder GED program may obligate a worker's compensation insurance carrier to pay vocational retraining benefits for a much longer period of time-during the entire time the worker/student tries to pass the new test!

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Domer Law, S.C.
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