If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, your own treating doctor or a doctor hired by the workers’ compensation carrier may ask you to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCEs) to determine what, if any, category of work that you are capable of performing. The goal of the workers’ compensation carrier is to eventually get you back to work, or at least stop your receipt of workers’ compensation wage loss and/or medical benefits.
According to Wikipedia, “A functional capacity evaluation is a set of tests, practices and observations that are combined to determine the ability of the evaluated person to function in a variety of circumstances, most often employment, in an objective manner. Physicians change diagnoses based on FCEs.”
FCEs can be performed in one or two days, with the total evaluation taking anywhere from 4-6 hours. Typically, physical and/or occupational therapists conduct the evaluations. The evaluation will not only measure what you physically are capable of, but also measures how valid your effort was. The more valid your effort, the more accurate the evaluation will be, and will also go a long way as to your credibility with the workers’ compensation carrier and workers’ compensation judge, if any presiding over your case.
The FCEs work in conjunction with the physical demand titles found in the Federal Resource called the “Dictionary of Occupational Titles” under the Department of Labor. There are five (5) different physical demand levels which are Very Heavy, Heavy, Medium, Light, & Sedentary (Desk Work). Each one of these has weights and percentages of the workday that activities may be performed. These are spelled out in more detail at www.researchgate.net.
So, what does this mean for your particular workers’ compensation case? No matter what work category you are found to be capable of performing, the workers’ compensation carrier will look to your employer to see if there is any work available in that category for you to return to. If the employer does not have any available work in your category, then the carrier will retain a vocational expert to interview you, taking into account your work history, educational background, and transferable skills to find available work in your category.
The whole point of the workers’ compensation carrier wanting to find you work to return to is so they can stop paying you workers’ compensation wage loss benefits and/or end your medical coverage under workers’ compensation. If the doctor hired by the workers’ compensation carrier was the one who recommended the FCE, your own treating doctor can certainly disagree with the findings of the FCE based on their treatment and clinical findings.
If you or a loved one is asked to submit to an FCE, it is wise to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, as most assuredly this is the beginning of a dispute as to your capability to return back to work, especially if you do not feel that you are able.
At Robinson Law LLC, we deal with these issues on a routine basis and can help you retain your benefits.