Occasionally, an injured worker’s injuries are so severe that even after medical treatment has concluded they cannot return to work doing what they used to do. Injured workers in this position may not be out of options for future employment… often they will be eligible for vocational rehabilitation.
What is vocational rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation consists of job training at a vocational/trade school. These schools allow a person to learn a new trade or skill that will be useful in helping them gain future employment. For example, injured workers can go through vocational rehabilitation to learn computer skills like graphic design. Vocational rehabilitation counselors are assigned to an injured worker’s case and assist in the process. The counselors will help design/pick a program and monitor progress.
An injured worker may be a candidate for vocational rehabilitation when their treating physician gives them permanent work restrictions and their previous employer has no work within those restrictions. In this case, the insurance adjuster will assign a vocational rehabilitation counselor. The injured worker will meet with the counselor and discuss interests, the job market, and create a plan for success. The injured worker will then have their schooling and necessities paid for. They will also be entitled to bi-weekly maintenance benefits, similar to TTD.
The length of schooling an injured worker may receive is based upon the percentage of impairment they receive at the PPD rating.
Are there alternatives besides going to school?
An injured worker that is eligible for vocational rehabilitation is not necessarily stuck with having to go to school. An injured worker can request a “buy-out.” A buy-out is the payment of one lump-sum that must meet a minimum percentage of the injured worker’s entitlement to maintenance benefits under the vocational rehabilitation program. An attorney can often be helpful in negotiating a settlement. Although, the settlement is offered by the vocational rehabilitation counselor, it must also be approved by the insurance adjuster handling the injured worker’s claim.