Employers in Illinois carry workers’ compensation to protect them from liability and their workers from the practical consequences of work-related medical issues. When you have an injury or medical condition that will never fully go away, that changes the process of claiming workers’ compensation benefits.
Both the disability benefits that you receive and the health care that workers’ compensation will cover can change or end as your condition improves. For some workers, like those with a broken bone, full recovery is possible. Their body will completely heal the injury, at which point they will be able to return to work.
Others, like those with repetitive stress injuries or amputations, will not return to the same level of function that they had prior to their injury or diagnosis. Instead, the doctor overseeing their care will track their recovery and determine when they will likely cease improving. At that point, the benefits the worker receives will change because they have achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). What does reaching MMI mean for your benefits?
Temporary disability benefits will end
When you have reached MMI according to the physician managing your care, you will no longer qualify for temporary disability benefits. Instead, you may need to apply for permanent partial disability benefits when an injury limits your function but doesn’t force you to stop working.
Permanent total disability benefits are available for those who can never return to gainful employment. Some workers may qualify for vocational rehabilitation services that could help them pursue a higher-paying career in a less physically-demanding field that will not exacerbate their existing injury.
Medical benefits will change
Once you achieve MMI, you will no longer qualify for certain medical coverage. Workers’ compensation won’t pay for treatment that is unlikely to have a significant impact on your health and function.
However, it may still pay for ongoing support that you need to control remaining symptoms. Workers’ compensation may continue to pay for physical therapy services and medications. Workers’ compensation may also cover future treatments required if symptoms flare up or worsen in the future.
Understanding that an improved medical condition does not necessarily end your workers’ compensation benefits but rather changes them can help you receive the support you need because of a work-related medical condition.