If you have been receiving workers’ compensation as a result of injury or illness and would like to return to your career or explore new opportunities, vocational rehabilitation programs can assist with that process.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that grants states funding to help individuals with disabilities and injured workers who cannot return to their previous job duties. The funding can be used for training and services to regain employment and maintain independent living in the community. The Department of Labor Bureau is involved in the oversight of the program.
Under the federal/state program, vocational rehabilitation assists individuals with disabilities in determining their rights and protections related to opportunities for education, employment, and benefits. Workers’ compensation cases for individuals who have been hurt or fallen ill on the job are included under the program.
The goal of the program is to help employees with disabilities regain their pre-injury salaries. It also protects people from employment discrimination.
Vocational rehabilitation programs, such as the one in New Hampshire, offer a range of services and aid, including tuition reimbursements, skill assessments and training, aptitude testing, and career counseling. Other services offered include medical and mental health services, transportation in some cases, and job placement opportunities.
Services are also available for visually impaired or hard of hearing individuals who need accommodation aids, devices or interpreter services. Services can be accessed directly through one of the regional bureau offices.
New Hampshire’s vocational rehabilitation bureau includes services for the blind and visually impaired, and a program for the deaf and hard of hearing. It also includes a program to help individuals with disabilities transition to independent living and services for individuals transitioning from school to work.
Vocational rehabilitation: Entitlements and Limitations
If you are totally disabled and have been receiving workers’ compensation you will likely be receiving a check from the insurance carrier in the amount of 60% of your gross average weekly wage. You are still entitled to wage loss benefits and other medical claims benefits while pursuing vocational rehabilitation.
Workers’ compensation attorneys can help ensure that you receive entitlements. They can also help navigate enrollment as well as oversee the creation of a plan of action to achieve your career goals. Furthermore, workers’ compensation lawyers will make certain that you are protected from unreasonable employer demands while you are completing vocational skills training or education.
How do you pursue Vocational Rehabilitation?
Injured workers or disabled individuals must qualify for rehabilitation programs. To be eligible, employees must have a medical report stating the restrictions prohibiting them from returning to their job before the injury. Selection for the program is based on resource availability. There is no charge to injured employees.
Injured workers will then meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor to complete diagnostic evaluations to determine which services can help meet employment goals. Individuals should bring all disability-related documentation. The counselor assists with making an individualized employment plan (IEP). Workers’ compensation lawyers can help with oversight of the employment plan and ensure that employers continue to pay injured workers medical insurance claims and lost weekly wage entitlement.
The plan may include new skills training, tuition reimbursement for higher education expenses, and job placement. Individuals in the program will then be required to keep up with training and keep in contact with their counselors to address any issues that arise in the process. All information about the case remains confidential unless there is written consent.
Once the employment plan is in place, vocational rehabilitation counselors will continue to meet with injured employees until they have achieved their goals and obtained a job that pays their salary prior to the work-related disability. Attorneys can then guide the injured employees through the next steps of closing their workers’ compensation cases.