What Are the Vocational Rehabilitation Rights of Injured Workers?
Vocational rehabilitation is the process of rebuilding work skills as part of recovering from an injury or illness. Sometimes an injured individual can eventually return to his or her previous job. If an injury places long-term or permanent limitations upon the person, retraining for a new type of job may be necessary. Depending upon the law of your state, if you require vocational rehabilitation after a job injury or industrial illness, your employer or its workers' compensation insurer, or the state, or some combination of these three resources may be required to pay for your vocational rehabilitation services as part of your workers' compensation benefits.
If you or a loved one was injured or sickened on the job, consult an attorney as soon as possible to learn what types of workers' compensation benefits are available, including vocational rehabilitation.
Examples of vocational rehabilitation
The amount and types of vocational rehabilitation provided to injured employees vary from state to state. Some of the vocational-rehabilitation services to which an injured worker may be entitled include:
The actual vocational-rehabilitation benefits to which an injured employee will be entitled are determined not only by the employee's specific situation, but also by state statutory and regulatory limitations.
In many states, employees have a responsibility to accept appropriate vocational rehabilitation services. Inherent in this responsibility is the requirement that the employee cooperate with vocational-rehabilitation efforts and make a valid attempt to return to suitable employment. Other states have different types of requirements. In certain states, for example, an injured employee is not required to participate in either physical rehabilitation or vocational rehabilitation, but a refusal to participate may affect eligibility for other workers' compensation benefits.
Warning to employees: Depending on the state, if an employee does not cooperate with rehabilitation service providers, the workers' compensation carrier may reduce, if not suspend, wage-loss benefits during the time the employee refuses services. There may also be other negative consequences.
Employers or their workers' compensation carriers may have statutory and regulatory responsibilities related to vocational rehabilitation. For example, a state may require an employer to offer rehabilitation counseling services to any employee who has injuries that result in a particular amount of lost time from work and the offer must be made within a certain number of days after the threshold has been reached. The details of such requirements may vary depending on the type of injury.
In some states, an employer may be required to pay for items such as tuition, living expenses, room and board, child-care expenses and travel expenses in addition to regular wage-loss benefits while an employee is participating in certain vocational-rehabilitation programs. Sometimes only specifically qualified individuals are allowed to provide vocational rehabilitation assistance to injured workers. For example, only individuals who are Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs), Certified Disability Management Specialists (CDMSs) or Certified Case Managers (CCMs) may provide vocational-rehabilitation assistance to injured employees in some jurisdictions.
Speak to a workers' compensation lawyer
The laws regarding the vocational-rehabilitation responsibilities of employers, insurers and claimants vary by state. If you or a loved one has a work-related injury or disease, a lawyer can answer your questions about the right to vocational rehabilitation.
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