California Labor Code Section 139.5 - Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

Labor Code section 139.5, which provided for vocational rehabilitation benefits, was repealed in 2004 and reenacted with the proviso that it would be in effect only until January 1, 2009, "and as of that date is repealed," unless that date would be extended by a statute enacted prior to January 1, 2004. (Beverly Hilton Hotel v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (2009) 176 Cal. App. 4th 1597 at p. 1602, fn. 2.) The court summarized the operations of these enactments: "In reenacting section 139.5, the Legislature added subdivision (k), which stated, 'This section shall apply only to injuries occurring before January 1, 2004.' It also added in subdivision (l), 'This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2009, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2009, deletes or extends that date.' There was no newly enacted statute, nor was the effective sunset date extended before January 1, 2009, or thereafter. The Legislature, in effect, preserved or saved vocational rehabilitation claims for nearly five years, but did not save nonfinal vocational rehabilitation rights as of or past January 1, 2009. As noted, although the Legislature provided for the possibility of a later statute that 'deletes or extends' that January 1, 2009 date, no such statute was ever enacted." (Beverly Hilton, at p. 1608.) The court in Beverly Hilton concluded that vocational rehabilitation awards that were final by January 1, 2009, could be enforced but those that had not vested by that date, i.e., were not final, could not be awarded, in that neither the WCAB nor a court had the jurisdiction to award such rights. (176 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 1610-1611.)