After a workers compensation injury, you will need some medical treatment to recover. Once your workers compensation doctor determines that you have recovered about as much as your are going to recover, they may start talking about performing a test to determine what you can do.
At this point, your doctor may give you an order for a functional capacity evaluation or FCE. It is also possible that you may receive notification of the functional capacity evaluation in a letter or email from the insurance company or your nurse case manager.
Basically, a functional capacity evaluation (or FCE) is a test. This test is normally performed by a physical therapist or occupational therapist. The test attempts to determine what your functional capacities are.
What does that mean? It means what you can physically do:
- How much weight can you lift?
- How long can you sit, stand or walk?
- How much weight can you carry and for how far?
- Can you climb stairs or ladders?
- Can you squat, kneel, bend?
- Can you use your hands for repetitive activity?
To sum all that up, the test basically looks at any type of activity that you might do in a work environment. To make these determinations, the therapist will run you through a bunch of shorter physical activities. After the test, the therapist who performs your test should prepare a report that states the results of the testing.
How long does a functional capacity evaluation last?
Most functional capacity evaluations last two to four hours. Some will be shorter and some will be longer. On occasion, a functional capacity evaluation might be performed on more than one day, but this does not happen very often.
Why would my doctor order a functional capacity evaluation?
In a workers compensation case, one of the main questions is whether you can work and what sort of work you can do. When your doctor orders an FCE, they are generally looking at what your limitations or restrictions should be when you return to a work environment.
There is some debate on how accurate FCEs are. There are many different types of FCEs, and it is my experience that some are more accurate than others.
Regardless of how accurate FCEs are, many doctors like to use them in order to determine what your work restrictions should be. Otherwise, doctors have to basically try to lay out those restrictions themselves. That can be difficult to do.
Many doctors would rather rely on functional capacity evaluation tests to make that determination and then review and sign off on the test results. By doing this, doctors still have an opportunity to review the FCE and determine whether they think the results are in line with their evaluation.
Could my workers compensation check stop because of the functional capacity evaluation results?
In a Georgia workers compensation case, the FCE results should not stop your check. However, it is possible that the insurance company could us the FCE results to try to stop your check.
One way this could happen is by the us of validity testing from the FCE. Most FCEs have validity testing which tries to determine whether you are giving your full effort during the FCE test. If the validity testing determines that you did not give your full effort, the test results will likely come back invalid.
I have seen situations where an authorized treating physician releases someone to full duty work when an FCE is invalid. A release to full duty work without restrictions by your authorized treating physician will probably allow the insurance company to file a Form WC-2 suspending your temporary total disability benefits.
The insurance company many not be able to force you to go to a functional capacity evaluation. But, they may be able to suspend your benefits if you do not attend.
There are a couple of different ways that the insurance company might try to suspend your benefits. First, they might argue that you have refused to cooperate with medical treatment and try to suspend your benefits based on a failure to cooperate.
Even if they do not make this argument, the insurance company could try to get the doctor to release you to full duty or to approve an unsuitable job after you refuse to go to the FCE. There is certainly a risk that your doctor could release you if they are frustrated because you did not attend the FCE.
What if I have concerns about the FCE?
Many people have concerns about FCEs. Some people worry about them being accurate. Other people worry about getting hurt during the FCE test.
If you have concerns, it may be best to try to address these concerns instead of simply refusing the test. There are at least a couple of different ways to address concerns:
- Make sure that the therapist performing the FCE is well qualified
- Be sure that the FCE protocol being used by the therapist is an accurate protocol
- Discuss your concerns about additional injury during the FCE with your doctor and the therapist who will perform the FCE