What is Vocational Rehabilitation in a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Vocational rehabilitation is a benefit available in some Maryland Workers’ Compensation claims. It applies only when you cannot return to your former line of work as a direct result of your injury.

For more info, read on. 

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational Rehabilitation is a workers’ compensation benefit in Maryland that provides assistance in re-entering the workforce, if you cannot return to your former job as a result of work-related injury. You will be assigned a voc rehab counselor – a specialist in vocational rehabilitation. He or she will provide services that may include testing, job placement, vocational counseling, on the job training and maybe even retraining.

Am I a candidate for vocational rehabilitation?

You may be a candidate for vocational rehabilitation if your injury prevents you from returning to the occupation you held at the time of the injury. Your doctor will usually be the one who makes this decision. If your doctor says you have permanent restrictions as a result of your work related injury, then you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. Let me know immediately if this happens.

If the insurer agrees you need rehabilitation, or if it is ordered by the Workers’ Compensation Commission over their objections, you will be assigned to a vocational rehabilitation counselor. If the insurer has refused to provide vocational rehabilitation services, you or your attorney may request a hearing before a Commissioner who will decide if the services are appropriate.

What is the vocational rehabilitation process?

There are several steps in this process. First, you will usually meet with the assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor. That will usually occur in my office. The counselor will interview you about your past work history, skills, hobbies, and personal interests. They may do some testing.

Second, the voc counselor will develop a plan that includes several jobs they are targeting for you. You have the chance to participate in the development of this plan, and I strongly encourage you to do so. It is your future we are talking about, after all.

This plan will require both sides to do certain things. You will have certain responsibilities, like making job search contacts with a certain number of employers every week.The insurer will have to pay for Voc services, and keep paying you your same check for the time you are on voc rehab. 

I tell all my clients that when you are on vocational rehabilitation, you are no longer “disabled.” You do have a job, Your job is to find a job. And that job has requirements like any other. If you fail to meet those requirements (which will be spelled out in the voc plan) you will essentially be fired and cut off from your voc benefits. 

Third, the plan must be approved by all parties, including the insurer and myself. Then it is filed with the Commission and approved by them, which makes it binding on everyone. 

The last step is to implement the plan. You will be out there looking for jobs and putting your best foot forward to find one. The insurer will pay you temporary total disability during the plan, and provide you will necessary  services. If you fail to live up to your end of the bargain, they will terminate the plan. Essentially, you will get fired from your Voc Rehab job. You want to avoid this, obviously.

The plan should end when you get a job. But it won’t go on forever. The circumstances that may cause a plan to end are varied and up for discussion. But we will always be able to have a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission. They get the last word! 

When am I entitled to training?

If it appears that there are no suitable jobs available in the local job market in which you may become gainfully employed you may be a candidate for retraining. You generally have to try (and fail) to find a job through regular vocational rehabilitation before the Workers’ Compensation Commission will order training. If retraining is recommended and approved there is a maximum of two years. This does not mean you will always receive two years of training, your approved course may require a shorter time period to complete.

What alternatives will be explored before it is decided that I am a candidate for retraining?

Typically, the counselor will begin the rehabilitation process by determining whether you can return to your former employer with modified duties or in a different job. If this is not feasible, other forms of job placement may be attempted in positions for which you have transferable skills. If the job search proves to be unsuccessful your counselor may then begin to develop a training plan.

Beware, the Commission will only order a longer voc rehab plan IF you have faithfully lived up to your duties under the vocational rehabilitation plan. If you fail to obey all those requirements, the Commission may deny any extensions of the plan, including training. The Commissioner’s hate seeing people not comply with voc rehab plans. They may have little sympathy if that happens to you. So the obvious lesson is – do your best at voc rehab! Try to “wow” your counselor with your efforts to find a job. 

Is the counselor required to find a job making the same amount of money that I made at the time of my injury?

The goal is to try to match you with a salary as close as possible to your current wage, but this may be difficult to achieve in some cases. For example, you may have been employed on your former job for several years and may have received pay based on seniority and other benefits. It may be difficult to achieve this benefit level in a position in which you have just recently become trained.

What documentation do I need to show that I am a candidate for vocational rehabilitation?

A current medical report indicating that you are unable to return to your former job duties is necessary before you may request vocational rehabilitation.

Will I get paid during rehabilitation services?


If you are referred for rehabilitation services you are entitled to receive Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits at your Temporary Total Disability rate as long as you actively cooperate in the rehabilitation process. 

You should look at your weekly check a lot differently though. This is NOT money for being disabiled. This is pay you get for the “job” of doing your best at voc rehab. Your job is to find a job – and you are getting paid to do it. 

Lots of information here. Voc rehab can get very complicated. Any questions? Call me to discuss.

About Southern Maryland Law

 

Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Southern Maryland. We have been serving clients here for over 50 years. We have more attorneys and a larger staff than most other local law firms, so we can handle a wider variety of legal matters. Each attorney concentrates his or her practice in a few key areas, so you can be assured of the expertise you need.

 

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