When serious injuries prevent a worker’s ability to return to the same job, vocational rehabilitation benefits can help to place the worker in a different job.
Collecting Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
Under state workers’ compensation programs, vocational rehabilitation benefits can help injured workers find new jobs if injuries prevent them from doing their pre-injury jobs after recovery. Some workers may be qualified for rehabilitation benefits, as well as regular worker’s compensation benefits. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help workers return to work as quickly as possible to a job with similar pre-injury wages and compatible with work restrictions imposed by a physician.
Recovery, serious injuries that cause chronic pain, physical or mental impairments, or disabilities may make it impossible for some injured workers to return to their pre-injury positions. In some cases, an employer may refuse permanent placement for the injured worker or hire a new employee for the position during an extensive recovery period. Typically, vocational rehabilitation benefits are not offered until a worker has reached maximum medical recovery and medical evidence shows permanent medical restrictions caused by the worker’s injury.
Injured workers are eligible for vocational rehabilitation benefits under workers’ compensation under certain conditions:
- The injured worker is receiving or will be receiving workers’ compensation benefits as a result of his/her work-related disability
- The injured worker is not able to return to his/her regular job due to severe injuries or a permanent disability
- There are available new job opportunities in the worker’s area that fit his/her injury restrictions. Vocational rehabilitation based on part-time work restrictions is considered on a case by case basis.
Before returning to work, a vocational rehabilitation counselor will explore career opportunities and goals within the worker’s local community. The search is based on vocational testing results, previous work history, and medical restrictions. If a worker requires re-training for new job skills, the rehabilitation counselor will develop a job plan. Since the goal of vocational rehabilitation is to get workers back to work quickly, re-training programs are usually short-term.
During vocational rehabilitation, workers are required to: cooperate with all necessary evaluations and testing; work with the rehabilitation counselor on a return-to-work plan; accept new work that meets work experience, education, and physical restrictions; and be flexible with job placement from the previous employer for a different position. If a worker fails to comply with legal requirements of vocational rehabilitation or misses appointments with the counselor, vocational rehabilitation benefits may be canceled.