Vocational Rehabilitation

Once you have received workers’ compensation benefits, you have certain obligations. A doctor will monitor your medical condition. At the Injured Workers’ Law Firm, we represent clients receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Your interests should be protected.

When Does Vocational Rehabilitation Mean Retraining and Not A Job Search?

If you are unable to return to your job because of a permanent condition, does the employer have to provide you with an education so you can find a new job? Most of the time, no and here’s why:

An injured worker sustains a serious injury that results in a permanent work restriction. The employer for whom he or she has worked for many years announces that the company will no longer be able to accommodate the worker on account of the injury and terminates their employment. The repercussions are felt at home, in the checkbook, and in a variety of other aspects of a worker’s life, leaving the injured worker to wonder how the bills will be paid, and what he or she is expected to do for the rest of his/her life to earn a living.

In Virginia, if a worker suffers a work-related injury that results in a doctor imposing a permanent work restriction which prevents him from doing his pre-injury job, the employer/workers’ compensation insurance carrier can provide vocation rehabilitation services to the employee. When it comes to defining those services things may become very confusing.

There are two goals of vocational rehabilitation services. Returning the worker to gainful employment and to relieve the employer’s from the burden of future wage loss compensation. Does vocational rehabilitation mean that the worker is allowed to decide that he/she wants to go to college, or a trade school instead of looking for another job? Hardly. Instead, the vocational consultant, who is typically hired by the employer, will prepare a plan that considers a number of criteria in order to determine whether heading back to school and getting an education in order to improve a workers’ job skills is a better option than preparing a resume and sending the worker out into the job market to look for work.

It is very unusual for the vocational counselor to conclude that the educational option makes more sense than the job search. The counselor will usually conclude that because of the worker’s age, educational abilities and so on that he/she is not a good candidate for formal retraining (i.e. schooling in some form or another), or that the worker has transferable skills allowing the worker to find another job without retraining, or that the worker lacks motivation to attend school. As is apparent, rehabilitation does not usually equal retraining/education. This is very unfortunate because it escalates conflict. If the goal of vocational rehabilitation was to provide meaningful employment as opposed to the fastest available position that will be a benefit. However now it is a forced activity required of the worker to keep his weekly check. Vocational Rehabilitation has been threatened to force workers to take smaller settlements. Their choice: be humble with a counselor attending your job interviews or take a small amount of money that will never fully compensate the worker. The jobs that they find an injured worker is usually not in a field or that the worker would want. There is no consideration of benefits or career development. It does not matter if you had health insurance with you previous job.

These are a few examples I have come across: Male truck driver as a daycare provider. Elderly female librarian as a taxi cab driver. Male or female as a midnight security guard of a commercial building or a Wal-Mart greeter or quality control for a manufacturer to make sure there were 4 screws with each packaged product or “working” a volunteer job at Goodwill with the former employer paying the worker. If the doctor says the worker is able to do the job physically, he must take the job. Vocational rehabilitation should mean taking the workers’ interests and desires into account.

By helping a worker to reenter the workforce in a positive joint effort the individuals self-worth will be restored, the worker’s positive energy and enthusiasm will help secure employment much quicker, the economy will benefit from having low unemployment and solid consumer spending, he/she will generate income, and the greater community will benefit from the tangible and intangible benefits from having people working and being productive.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Light Duty Work

Once a doctor has given you permission to go back to light duty work, you have an obligation to seek a job. If you fail to look for work, your benefits can be terminated.

Your employer’s insurance adjustor wants to save money. They may try to offer you any light duty job, even one that is demeaning. They might try to get you to say you will not take that job. If you fail to take a light duty job, however, your benefits can be terminated.

Looking for Light Duty Work

It is best to look for about 5 jobs per week, a minimum of 2 jobs per week. You must keep good written records. Keep records of what job you applied for, when you applied, and get a copy of the job description.

You may be assigned a vocational rehabilitative worker. They will meet with you weekly and give you numerous job leads (even up to 20) based on your residual work capacity. They will also go on job interviews with you, and try to get you jobs by talking to the employer directly.

It is best to meet them away from your home. Refrain from discussing personal things with them. They are under time constraints, and may not care whether you are offered a job in your career path or not. You need a lawyer who can stand up for your interests.

Once you are offered a light duty job, you must accept it. First get it approved by your doctor. Get the detailed job descriptions and have your doctor approve it first. If your doctor does so, you have to try the job out. If the job turns out to be different from the job description, tell your doctor so he can take you out of the work. You cannot quit on your own without losing your benefits.

We can stand up for your rights. A light duty job should be in your career path. You do not want to take a menial job. Call or e-mail us to meet with an attorney who can assist you.