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 employment as a 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 . A specialist in vocational rehabilitation provides services that may include testing, job placement, vocational counseling, on the job training and retraining to the injured worker to enable them to return to work.

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.

If the insurer agrees you need rehabilitation, or if it is ordered over their objections, you will be assigned to a vocational rehabilitation counselor.  It is important that you first have approval from the insurer or Commission to receive rehabilitation services.  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, they 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. I tell all my clients that when you are on vocational rehabilitation, you do have a job, and that job has requirements like any other. Your job is to find a job. 

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 TTD 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. 

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.

Any questions? Call me to discuss.

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About Tucker Clagett

Tucker has one of the largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation practices in Southern Maryland. He is an experienced litigator, winning jury trials in courts around the state, and successfully litigating appeals in Maryland’s Appellate Courts. Tucker is very active in the community and loves to serve through various community groups and non-profit agencies, some of which he created. He is on the Board of Directors of Living Water of Charles County, which puts water and septic into homes of families with out. Tucker is also a member of the Mason Springs Conservancy, which purchased an environmentally sensitive piece of land along the Mattawoman Creek to protect it from pollution while leaving it open to local fisherman who have been fishing there for decades. Tucker is a member of the Maryland Association for Justice. He served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Richard H. Sothoron on the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.