Travel costs awarded to allow worker to attend vocational retraining
Case name: Bertrand v. Laura Dester Center, No. 110394 (Okla. 04/02/13).
Ruling: The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a worker was entitled to mileage reimbursement for travel costs to and from a vocational retraining facility.
What it means: In Oklahoma, the workers' compensation court rules in effect at the time of the injury should apply to claims involving mileage reimbursement for vocational retraining.
Summary: A child care worker injured her right foot when she slipped on a wet floor. She was found permanently partially disabled, and the parties agreed that she would pursue vocational retraining. The worker was paid mileage for the 14-mile round-trip distance to and from the retraining facility until a rule was amended that eliminated mileage reimbursement for travel expenses for vocational retraining or rehabilitation. The new rule only allowed travel expenses for evaluations for vocational rehabilitation or retraining for a distance of a minimum of 20 miles round-trip. The worker asserted that she was entitled to mileage reimbursement. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that she was entitled to mileage reimbursement for her travel costs to and from the retraining facility.
The worker explained that she did not have a valid driver's license, and she had to pay someone to take her to the retraining sessions. The court explained that the workers' compensation laws provided for vocational retraining for the worker. The court said that without the mileage reimbursement, she would be unable to continue the sessions, and the vocational retraining awarded to her would have no beneficial value. The only rule that allows travel costs was the rule in effect at the time of her injury. The court said that the rules in effect at the time of the injury should apply.
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July 8, 2013
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