An employee who suffers from a serious work-related injury or occupational disease that makes it difficult or impossible to do his or her previous job may be eligible for on-the-job training and retraining under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation laws. An attorney can explain how this works and help you understand the facts about these services.

These programs can be highly successful in placing an injured employee in a position that he or she is both qualified for and capable of handling. However, not all injured employees are offered this career-changing opportunity.

FACT 1. Retraining Is Not an Automatic Benefit

Relearning the skills you had at your job prior to being injured is one of several options available to employees approved for vocational rehabilitation. The primary objective of vocational rehabilitation services is to restore an employee to profitable employment and to relieve the employer’s burden of potential compensation. Vocational services include evaluation, analysis, occupation coaching, development and placement, on-the-job training, and education/reeducation.

Before retraining is made available to an employee, an employer must be given a reasonable amount of time to provide other vocational rehabilitation services that will enable the employee to find a job within the employee’s existing capabilities. According to the workers’ comp commission guidelines, relearning of skills becomes a reasonable option if employment placement efforts fail, or the employee’s transferable skills are not readily viable.

FACT 2: The Employee Must Be Medically Ready.

Until an employee is medically approved for a return to light duty, the employee does not have to seek employment or undertake retraining. However, the employee may still meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor to provide background information, to take part in an evaluation of functional capacities in expectancy of a work release and to execute other suitable preparations for the vocational rehabilitation.

FACT 3: Retraining Must Be Specifically Tailored to the Employee’s Abilities.

A retrain program must take into account the employee’s pre-injury job and wage classification; age, ability and level of education; the likelihood of success in the new vocation; and the relative costs and benefits of such services.

FACT 4: Acceptance into a Retraining Program Does Not Require the Worker to Provide Personal or Financial Information.

Workers are not obligated to give rehabilitation service providers personal or financial information — such as how many children he or she has, spouse’s employment or credit history — unless this type of information relates to a bona fideoccupational qualification for employment. However, an employee is mandated to disclose information that is relevant to the job, including whether he/she is legally suitable for employment, has a valid driver’s license or has been convicted of a felony. He/she must also provide his/her prior work history.

FACT 5.  The Employee is Entitled to Reimbursement of Incidental Expenses.

The employee is entitled to compensation for costs incurred during vocational rehabilitation efforts. This includes mileage costs for trips made to a retraining program. Because transportation is seen as an essential service, it is the duty of the vocational rehabilitation provider to make sure that employee has viable transportation opportunities. This may include providing mileage money in advance or arranging another form of transportation, if requested. 

FACT 6.  The Employee Has the Right to An Attorney.

An employee has the right to have his or her attorney present at the initial vocational rehabilitation meeting. An employee may also consult with his/her attorney at any time.

Contact a Richmond, Virginia Workers’ Compensation Attorney

When you have difficulty with your work-related injury claim, a Virginia Workers’ Comp attorney can bear some of your burden. Whether you plan on returning to work or collecting the benefits you may be entitled to, it is important to know your options for getting back on your feet. Order a copy of our free book to learn more about workplace injury statistics. Call today to get the Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia and speak to a Workers’ Comp lawyer at the Injured Workers’ Law Firm for a no-cost consultation – 1-877-755-7744 or 1-804-755-7755.