Petition to Reopen Workers Compensation California
In Youngblood v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1989), an employee injured in 1978 obtained a permanent disability award, but the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) in 1982 determined the employee was not eligible for rehabilitation benefits.
The employee filed a petition to reopen for the purpose of finding new and further permanent disability.
The employee did not allege the need for vocational rehabilitation as a ground for reopening. (Id. at pp. 767-768.)
In 1986, eight years after the date of injury, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board granted the employee's request to reopen and awarded him further disability. (Youngblood, supra, 216 Cal. App. 3d at p. 768.) Approximately two months later, the employee requested vocational rehabilitation benefits.
The employer did not provide benefits, and the rehabilitation bureau found the employer was not obliged to provide rehabilitation because the issue of whether the employee was a qualified injured worker was addressed in 1982 and more than five years had elapsed since the injury. (Id. at p. 769.)
The WCAB upheld the bureau's decision. (Ibid.)
The appellate court affirmed the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board's decision denying reconsideration. the court found the request for vocational rehabilitation untimely because it was not made within five years of the injury as required by Labor Code section 5410. (Youngblood, supra, 216 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 775-776.)
The court explained Labor Code section 5405.5 applies solely to the "initial or original requests for rehabilitation benefits where entitlement to such has not been previously adjudicated.
With the enactment of section 5405.5, the Legislature clearly intended to extend the time within which an injured employee may file an initial request for rehabilitation benefits. . . . Section 5405.5 operates to provide that an initial or original request for rehabilitation may be made after five years from the date of injury, as long as the request for rehabilitation is filed within one year from the last finding of permanent disability or the approval of a compromise and release of other issues." (216 Cal. App. 3d at p. 772.)
The court then considered Labor Code section 5410: "Under section 5410, an initial request for rehabilitation is timely if made within five years after the date of injury, even though in certain situations it may be that more than one year will have expired since the last finding of permanent disability or the approval of a compromise and release of other issues.
Thus, at the very minimum, an injured employee has five years from the date of injury in which to file an initial or original request for rehabilitation.
However, where rehabilitation entitlement has been previously adjudicated, neither the Bureau nor the Board has jurisdiction to entertain a further request for rehabilitation, unless it is made within five years from the date of injury. ( 5410, 5804.)" (Youngblood, supra, 216 Cal. App. 3d at p. 773.)
The court then considered the factual situation before it and determined the employee's second request for vocational rehabilitation, made eight years after his injury but within one year of his last permanent disability award, was untimely.
"Once the Bureau adjudicated the issue of applicant's entitlement to rehabilitation in 1982, all further proceedings regarding rehabilitation were subject to the five-year limitation under sections 5410 and 5804." (Youngblood, supra, 216 Cal. App. 3d at p. 773.)
Moreover, "once the findings and award became final as to the petition to reopen, neither the Board nor the Bureau had jurisdiction to consider a request for rehabilitation made after five years from the date of injury." (Id. at p. 774, fn. omitted.)