Qualified Injured Worker Definition

Generally speaking, if an injured worker is disabled and cannot return to his or her usual occupation, the worker qualifies for vocational rehabilitation services. ( 4635, subd. (a).) If the employer offers modified or alternative work and the employee accepts or rejects such, the employee is not entitled to vocational rehabilitation services. ( 4638; 4644, subd. (a)(5).) If the employer does not offer modified or alternative work, the worker is entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, including job placement assistance and job training. ( 4635, subd. (d).) Vocational rehabilitation services are available only to qualified injured workers. the statute defines a "qualified injured worker" as an employee who meets both of the following requirements: "(1) the employee's expected permanent disability as a result of the injury, . . . permanently precludes, or is likely to preclude, the employee from engaging in his or her usual occupation or the position in which he or she was engaged at the time of injury, hereafter referred to as 'medical eligibility.' (2) the employee can reasonably be expected to return to suitable gainful employment through the provision of vocational rehabilitation services . . . ." ( 4635, subd. (a), italics added.) If we "liberally" read the statute from the standpoint of the "illegal worker," in theory such a person could meet the two-prong statutory criteria of a "qualified injured worker." (Avalon Bay Foods v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., supra, 18 Cal. 4th at pp. 1173-1174; Johnson v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., supra, 37 Cal. 3d at p. 241.) the statute does not inexorably require a return to work in California. "The California Workers' Compensation Act provides for a compulsory scheme of employer liability without fault for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. The purpose of the act is to furnish ' "a complete system of workers' compensation, including full provision for such medical, surgical, hospital and other remedial treatment as is requisite to cure and relieve from the effects of such injury." ( Sea-Land Service, Inc. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1996) 14 Cal. 4th 76, 85 [58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 190, 925 P.2d 1309].) The injured worker is entitled to a liberal construction of the statutory scheme and we are required to view the act "from the standpoint of the injured worker" with the objective of securing for him or her the maximum benefits which can lawfully be given. (Avalon Bay Foods v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1998) 18 Cal. 4th 1165, 1173-1174 [77 Cal. Rptr. 2d 552, 959 P.2d 1228]; see also Johnson v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1984) 37 Cal. 3d 235, 241 [207 Cal. Rptr. 857, 689 P.2d 1127].)