Workers’ Comp Job Training Could Work Against You
It sounds like a great thing on the surface.
You were hurt at work. You can no longer do the job you had before.
But you’re a hard worker. There’s nothing you’d love more than to get back to work earning a full-time income.
Then the workers’ compensation system says it will help you find training and a different job.
It’s called vocational rehabilitation, and it’s one of the major forms of workers’ comp benefits.
It may have been created with good intentions, but it has a problem: Your caseworker could use vocational rehabilitation as a tool to get you off workers’ comp benefits, regardless of whether you can get another job.
So be careful how you approach vocational rehabilitation. Get an experienced attorney to look at your situation.
You Get Minimal Training
The fact is, vocational rehabilitation serves as a way to rush workers with disabilities from on-the-job injuries back to work, so their other workers’ comp benefits can stop.
Vocational rehabilitation could threaten another major part of your workers’ comp benefits, indemnity benefits, which pay for lost wages when you cannot work because you’re too hurt.
Indemnity benefits come in the form of checks every week that cover two-thirds of your pay, up to a $650 a week maximum.
The vocational program is more interested in stopping those checks than finding you the best possible job opportunities.
It functions in Louisiana as a mechanism for insurance companies to return injured workers to the job market as quickly as possible, reducing or terminating their indemnity benefits.
The Louisiana state law that created the program even says the goal is to provide as little training as possible.
Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1226(B) states:
B. (1) The goal of rehabilitation services is to return a disabled worker to work, with a minimum of retraining, as soon as possible after an injury occurs. The first appropriate option among the following must be chosen for the worker:
(a) Return to the same position.
(b) Return to a modified position.
(c) Return to a related occupation suited to the claimant’s education and marketable skills.
(d) On-the-job training.
(e) Short-term retraining program (less than twenty-six weeks).
(f) Long-term retraining program (more than twenty-six weeks but not more than one year).
There is a geographic consideration as well:
(2) Whenever possible, employment in a worker’s local job pool must be considered and selected prior to consideration of employment in a worker’s statewide job pool.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Process
Here’s what vocational rehabilitation typically involves:
- You’re sent to a functional capacity evaluation. This is where a doctor determines what functions you can and cannot perform due to physical limitations. The doctor who makes this determination is not required to be your regular physician. In fact, this doctor is typically on the payroll of the insurance company.
- A vocational rehabilitation specialist will meet you to review your job and education history.The specialist determines what you could be capable of with education and training.
- The vocational rehabilitation specialist attempts to locate relevant jobs that fit your abilities in your geographic area.
- The vocational rehabilitation specialist mails a labor market survey to you. This survey identifies available jobs you’ve been deemed qualified to hold.
- You’re not required to apply for any of these jobs. But the workers’ comp insurance company will use this list of jobs as a reason to reduce or terminate your benefits. This can happen even if your regular doctor hasn’t approved you to return to work.
If a vocational rehabilitation caseworker contacts you, it’s important to get legal counsel to advise you of your rights and options.
Mitchell & Associations will conduct an initial assessment for free.
What You Should Do In Vocational Rehabilitation
If you’re already in vocational rehabilitation, you should take steps to protect yourself:
- Maintain an active job search. Failing to take action after you receive the labor market survey can hurt your case.
- Sometimes you discover at job interviews that jobs descriptions or salaries don’t match the survey, so you should document every part of your search.
- Make a note of every person you spoke to about a job. Print out copies of online job applications. Note the dates of all job interviews.
- Call an experienced workers’ comp lawyer to be sure you don’t get shortchanged by the system. Mitchell & Associates will provide an initial assessment of your case for free.
Don’t Lose Your Benefits Before You Have a Legitimate Job
Most injured workers are eager to return to work.
But don’t let yourself be forced into an inappropriate job because of a sudden reduction or termination of your indemnity benefits.
When you’re trying to navigate the workers’ comp system, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney so you are fully aware of you rights and options.