What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Many injured workers will be asked to participate in vocational rehabilitation by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Insurance companies typically start vocational rehabilitation when they cannot prove that an injured worker has fully recovered from their work injury but they can prove that the worker has recovered enough to be able to do some kind of work. An injured worker is legally obligated to cooperate with the insurance company’s vocational efforts or run the risk of having their compensation stopped or reduced regardless of the success of the insurance company’s vocational efforts.
Vocational rehabilitation typically involves the insurance carrier hiring a vocational rehabilitation company (or expert) to find or identify work that an injured worker can do despite their work restrictions. The goal of the carrier in doing vocational rehabilitation is to try to reduce or suspended the worker’s compensation based on an earning capacity that is established by locating other jobs that the worker might be able to do.
The process works one of two ways. The vocational rehabilitation company can locate and then refer the injured worker to actual jobs openings within their restrictions either with the time-of-injury employer or with another employer. Actual job openings are sent to the injured worker using this approach and the injured worker is then required to submit a resume, a job application or schedule a job interview. If the injured worker fails to follow up on the job openings that are referred to him by the vocational company, the worker is giving the insurance carrier a basis for filing a petition asking a judge to reduce or suspend their wage-loss benefits based on what they would have earned if they applied and were hired for the job. If the injured worker follows up on a particular job opening and is hired, the earnings from the new job will offset, reduce or suspend their wage-loss benefits based on the wages earned in the new job.
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