Don’t let the price of gas get you down.
Injured workers in Vermont don’t have to go broke paying for gasoline to attend medical appointments for treatment of workers’ compensation injuries or to attend independent medical examinations. Vermont employers are required to pay mileage beyond the distance normally traveled to the workplace. The reimbursement rate is set at the same rate as it is set for employees of the State of Vermont. As of January 1, 2014, it is set at $.56 per mile. Reimbursement for mileage is mandatory and employers must reimburse workers who submit mileage claims. According to the Vermont Commissioner of Labor, the purpose of the rule is to make an injured worker whole by providing payment for expenses the injured worker would not have incurred if not for the work injury. Employers, however, do not have to pay gas mileage for trips to and from a pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. See Fosher v. Fletcher Allen Health Care, Op. No. 11-11WC.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you normally travel 4 miles round trip from your home to your place of work. Let’s also assume that you have to travel from your home in Bennington to a doctor’s appointment in Burlington, a distance of 260 miles round trip. In this case, you would subtract the eight miles that you normally travel to and from work from the 260 miles you traveled to the doctor, which means you would be paid for 252 miles of travel.
260 miles (total round trip) – 8 miles (roundtrip to work) = 252 miles
Then multiply 252 miles by $.56.
252 miles X $.56 per mile = $141.12
Thus, the injured worker in the above illustration would be owed $141.12. It’s not a great deal of money but it means a lot to a hurt employee and little to an insurance company.
When an injured worker has to travel out of town (or out of state) for medical treatment or to attend an independent examination, the employer also has to pay a meal allowance. Don’t worry about gaining weight by eating out! The allowances are miniscule. For in-state meals, a person is allowed $5.00 for breakfast, $6.00 for lunch, and $12.85 for dinner. The allowances for out-of-state meals are slightly higher; $6.25 for breakfast, $7.25 for lunch and $18.50 for dinner. The meal allowances are also set at the same rate as they are for State of Vermont employees.
Unfortunately, some workers’ compensation insurance companies don’t always follow through and pay mileage or meal allowances in a timely manner, if at all.
During our years of representing workers’ compensation claimants, we have found that we spend lots of time helping our clients track down delayed or missing mileage and meal reimbursement checks. The delays are frustrating because there are very few legitimate legal issues that come up about mileage. It is even more frustrating for our clients who are sometimes waiting for the check so they can put more gas in their car. If the true purpose of the rule is to make an injured worker whole, it is extremely unfair for a workers’ compensation insurance company to delay payment of mileage and meal expenses.
We think that it would be extremely beneficial to the Vermont workforce if the rules are amended to include a timeframe for mileage and meal payments to be made. It would provide guidance for the insurance companies and recourse for the claimants.