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The Functional Capacity Evaluation: What it Means in Your PA Workers’ Comp Case

Posted Dennis Kergick on Dec 22, 2014 in Workers' Compensation

If you've been on workers' compensation in Pennsylvania for any extended period of time you've seen plenty of abbreviations.  TTD (Total Temporary Disability), TPD (Total Partial Disability), IME (Independent Medical Examination), IRE (Impairment Rating Evaluation) are a few of the litany of terms that you may have now gotten used to.  One that might come along later in the course of your case is the FCE or Functional Capacity Evaluation.  

The Functional Capacity Evaluation has two key purposes in your Pennsylvania WC case.  The first, as the name suggests, is to determine your ability to function.  The FCE requires you to perform a series of tasks that simulate what you would be doing in a labor intensive job.  You may have to lift increasing amounts of weight.  You may have to stack boxes that would simulate the type of work necessary for a worker at a distribution center, a truck driver, or a delivery person.  You have to perform these duties until you are unable to do so, or the physical therapist stops the exercise.  After you have completed the FCE, which may take several hours, the idea is that a doctor is able to determine what types of restrictions should be placed on you and if you'd be able to perform sedentary, light-duty, medium-duty, or even heavy-duty work.  

The second reason for the FCE is something called validity testing.  As you are performing the tests, the therapist is taking notes.  The notes may reflect that you are not giving full effort.  The notes may reflect that you are reporting increased pain but are still able to perform the duties required of the test.  The notes may even say that you are significantly inflating your symptoms.  I've recently reviewed an FCE which reports that a patient was reporting pain but wasn't grimacing.  Safe to say, if the FCE shows that you are not giving valid effort throughout the test, the insurance company will take that to mean that you are exaggerating all of your symptoms.  It's important for the injured worker to know that poor effort on an FCE is not a basis for the insurance company to stop paying you, but it may encourage them to attempt to find another way to suspend, modify, or terminate your benefits.  

If you have been contacted about an FCE, you should:

1. Dress comfortably and prepare for a workout.

2. Give a valid effort throughout but don't strain so much that you injure yourself further.

3.  Consult with an attorney, if you haven't already, to know what you should expect and why the insurance company has decided to send you for an FCE at this point.

If this article has been helpful, you may find more information on your work injury here:  http://www.Schmidt Kramer.com/practice_areas/pa-work-injury-attorney.html