Let us face it. You already have a lot on your plate and receiving a letter from your workers’ insurance compensation company asking you to attend an FCE just adds to the pile. You are already burdened with an injury, family stress, delayed credit payments, and job insecurities. The last thing you want on your table is an FCE report stating that you “didn’t try hard enough.” Yes, the compensating company is in a hurry to halt the compensation and return you to work. However, you know you are not yet fit enough to carry out the regular work duties. 

So, in such a situation, what is the best course of action? To put it more simply, in order to take a firm stance, you must first grasp all of the whats, whys, and hows of an FCE. Continue reading to get answers to all of your queries on the subject.

What is FCE?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation is a combination of tests and examinations used to measure an individual’s capacity to perform job responsibilities efficiently on a full-time basis, with limits, or permanent inability following an injury. In layman’s terms, it’s a thorough examination aimed at determining cognitive tolerance levels and physical limitations in respect to the duties you were capable of executing prior to an injury.

Basically, the test can either be generic or job-specific. If it is clear that you are permanently restricted from returning to your pre-injury job, then you may be requested to undergo a General Purpose FCE. The test determines the type of jobs you are capable of undertaking based on your physical capabilities. The Job Specific FCE, on the other hand, assesses whether you are capable of performing your pre-injury work tasks. If not, what kind of accommodation will you require to join back, and whether your employer can accommodate you in that position.

Commonly, FCE comes into the equation when one becomes a claimant of Workers’ Compensation Benefits as a result of a work-related injury. Depending on the type of injury, the relevant insurance company then becomes obliged to pay an injured worker:

  • weekly compensation
  • permanent impairment benefits
  • payment of medical bills
  • vocational rehabilitation

In which situations is an FCE requested?

Remember, the fundamental idea is to check where you are in your recovery process. There are five primary reasons why you might need an FCE:

  • After an injury at your workplace, your employer’s insurance carrier requests you to attend an FCE.
  • There appears to be some dispute about your ability to fulfil your job tasks properly.
  • Your treating doctor believes you have attained maximum medical improvement and want to ascertain your precise disability status in order to assist in the settlement of your claim.
  • To determine the restrictions that apply in case you return to your job and any necessary modifications required.
  • To determine whether you have been faking the injury symptoms.

Why would an insurer request an FCE?

Your employer’s insurance carrier is a business, after all. And no business wants to be paying for anything unnecessary. Hence, the insurance company will want to prove that you are completely fit for your job to avoid paying the compensation benefits explained above. 

To begin, the insurer will attempt to persuade your treating physician to allow you to return to work with or without limitations. If it is unable to do so, it will request you to attend an FCE.  

Who conducts the FCE?

Many people have the misconception that a medical practitioner conducts this test. But that is not the case as the aim is not to diagnose any disease but to determine an individual’s working capabilities. Therefore, a certified and well-trained physical or occupational therapist conducts the Functional capacity Evaluation. 

However, you feel that the therapist’s opinion may be biased because they receive referrals from the insurer, you may have it reviewed or involve a lawyer. 

Do I have to pay for an FCE?

No, you do not have to pay anything. Besides, the ordering party has to pay or reimburse even the transport costs you incurred while travelling to the test location. The payment is usually done by your employer or the insurer.

However, you will have to pay for it if you attended the test for your own reasons, which is rarely the case.

How is the FCE conducted?

The test usually encompasses four major components. These are:

  • The interview – This is usually the first step in the procedure. During this step, the therapist usually asks different questions on their recovery process and whether they have any concerns regarding the injury.
  • Medical history review – The therapist then assesses the worker’s medical record and the stage of treatment they are currently in.
  • Physical examination – The third step then involves a thorough physical checkup to determine the status of the injury.
  • Functional testing – Lastly, your capability to carry out your normal work duties will be determined by requesting you to carry out various activities depending upon your job description. The descriptions are usually outlined in the US Department of Labor’s “Selected Characteristics of Occupations.”

How should I approach an FCE?

Simply remain neutral and do not fake anything. Remember, the person testing you is a professional, and faking anything will only ruin your case. Just do as they ask but voice out your concern if you feel discomfort or pain during any activity. Here are a few tips to help you may follow:

  • Do not take any painkillers prior to the test, as these will conceal your pain during the test.
  • Make prior transport arrangements to avoid any anxiety on the morning of the test.
  • Bring a bottle of water along as the test will approximately take 3 to 8 hours. 
  • Do not fake anything or overtire yourself. The idea is to see whether you can perform your duties in 8 hours daily shift.

Summing up, the acronym FCE usually scares workers, but once you know what it is and how to approach it, life becomes easy. If you are genuinely unfit to carry out your pre-injury duties temporarily or even permanently, you will receive the compensation you deserve. Hence, the fact that the employer’s insurer requests an FCE should not bother you.