If you have been injured on your job, you should be eligible to file a workers' compensation claim. Once your claim is filed, your employers should have procedures in place that will not only ensure you receive the medical care you need to improve your health, but also the services you need return to work as quickly as possible. One of these services may be vocational rehabilitation. While there are many benefits to this service, the service can also be rife with pitfalls that could possibly cost you your workers' compensation benefits. Knowing how to identify these potential landmines is the first step to avoiding them.
What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation, (VR) is a wide variety of services that are designed to help people with disabilities prepare, find, and engage in meaningful employment. In a workers' compensation case, it is designed to reduce or remove any barriers that are keeping you from returning to work.
The services offered by VR vary from state to state, but a few of the most common services offered include:
- Employment counseling
- Skill analysis and testing
- Education evaluation
- Ergonomic assessments
- Resume building and job application training
- Interview skills assistance
- Job search assistance
- Education and tuition payments for retraining
Who Is Eligible For VR Services?
You are normally eligible for some type of VR services through workers' compensation if you meet the following criteria:
- You have a work related injury and you are, or will be, receiving workers' compensation.
- You are unable to return to your job duties due to the restrictions of your disability and there are appropriate work opportunities within a reasonable commuting area.
You can access VR services one of two ways. You can request them yourself through your attorney, or case manager, or you may be referred to services by your workers' compensation case manager or coordinator. No matter which way you access services, you should always discuss VR with your workers' compensation attorney prior to agreeing to accept any type of assistance.
Once you are enrolled in VR, an Individualized Plan for Employment (I.P.E.) will be prepared by your counselor with your input. This document will drive the services that you will be receiving.
Since every employee is different, the actual benefits that you may be entitled to will be determined by your specific evaluation, as well as the available agency resources. No matter what state you live in, or which agency you go through, always remember there are certain rights you have under this program.
How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Vocational Rehabilitation
The primary responsibility of the vocational rehabilitation counselor is to get you back working as quickly as possible. While there are those who may have your best interest in mind, there are others who will attempt to do this by any means possible.
The first meeting with your vocational rehabilitation counselor should always include your attorney.
You can request that this meeting takes place in your attorney's office. This will allow everyone to get on the same page as far as the expectations and the projected outcome of the services you are being offered.
Since your workers' compensation attorney is experienced in dealing with VR, they will be able to uncover any errors or discrepancies in the information that you may be given. Your attorney will know the rules that are applicable to vocational rehabilitation, and they will ensure that your counselor abides by these rules.
Watch what you say.
Your vocational rehabilitation counselor is there to get you back to work. They are not always your friend. Many times the statements you make to your vocational rehabilitation counselor will determine the services you are offered, as well as set the tone of how successful you will be.
For example: If you make statements indicating that you are not willing to look for work that pays below a certain wage, your counselor may write it up that you are not willing to participate in looking for a job. Failure to participate could result in you losing the monetary benefits you are currently receiving.
The flip side of this is making optimistic statements which could be taken by your counselor that you are capable of doing things that you cannot or should not be doing. This could also be used against you in an effort to terminate your benefits. When dealing with your vocational counselor, you always want to tell the truth while safeguarding what you are saying.
Insist on suitable and meaningful employment.
While you may be anxious to return to work, you cannot afford to accept a job that is outside of any medical restrictions that your physician have placed you under. Any employment should also be meaningful and should be a job that your employer would pay someone else to do. You should not accept anything that is obvious "busy work," or something that was just designed to get you off of the workers' compensation rolls.
Vocational rehabilitation can be a very valuable resource in your efforts to return to work. Through the guidance of your workers' compensation attorney, you can avoid the pitfalls of this service and hopefully use it to get back into the work force. So contact a law firm, such as Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn LLP, today.