Vocational Rehabilitation – What Is It?

We Can Help You Understand the Vocational Rehabilitation Process.

Vocational rehabilitation is a category of the basic set of Workers’ Compensation Benefits available to all eligible workers in Louisiana who have been injured on the job or from a work-related accident. Most employees and many types of contractors are covered under the state’s workers’ compensation statutes on their first day of employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation’s Influence on Indemnity Benefits

Indemnity benefits are one category of the basic set of workers’ compensation benefits available to you if you’ve been injured on the job. Indemnity benefits are payments that are made to you with the intended purpose of replacing the lost income you suffered by being injured in a worksite or work-related injury. National data has shown that work-related accidents can result in households losing up to one third of their monthly income.

If you become disabled, temporarily or permanently, by a work or job-site related accident injury you are eligible to receive roughly two-thirds of your wage as indemnity benefits. In 2014, the weekly cap on all indemnity benefits is $630.00 per week in the state of Louisiana.

Unfortunately, even these often inadequate payments will most likely be reduced or terminated when a worker’s vocational rehabilitation counselor locates any relevant and feasible job that the worker is capable of performing and that is within the worker’s geographic area.

The Reality of Vocational Rehabilitation

While the vocational rehabilitation benefit may have been created in the spirit of good intentions to prepare workers for a new profession or job if they are unable to return to their prior occupation or industry, it is important to understand the actual reality of what happens when vocational rehabilitation is implemented on the worker’s behalf.

In terms of practical execution, the goal of rehabilitation services is to return a disabled worker to employment, with any retraining kept to a minimum, as soon as possible after an injury occurs. In this way, the requirements for the disabled employee’s future employment prospects are set at a basic level.

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).
(g) Self-employment.

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.

Job Eligibility Even If Your Doctor Disagrees

Generally in Louisiana, a worker’s assigned vocational rehabilitation case worker will endeavor to identify any and every job a worker would be eligible for in their geographic area, and that could be managed despite any disabilities. Unfortunately, this process often occurs while a worker’s attending physician has yet to certify them eligible to return to work.

Get Help To Know Your Options

If or when you are contacted by a vocational rehabilitation caseworker, it is important to consult with legal counsel in order to be advised of all your rights and options. At the law firm of Mitchell & Associates, we are always available to provide injured workers with an initial consultation.

Eligible To Stuff Envelopes?!: The Reality of Workers’ Compensation Vocational Rehabilitation in Louisiana
In the state of Louisiana, most employees and a variety of contractors are eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if they are injured on the job or in a work-related accident beginning on the first day they report to work. One category of Workers’ Compensation Benefits is known as vocational rehabilitation.

While vocational rehabilitation it is listed as a benefit, it is important for workers to understand that its practical implementation usually does not, in fact, serve to benefit them. In reality, it is usually quite the opposite. The vocational rehabilitation system functions in Louisiana as a mechanism for the insurance company to return the injured worker to the job market as quickly as possible. This is done with the goal of reducing or terminating the amount of weekly indemnity benefits the injured worker is eligible to receive.

The Process Of Vocational Rehabilitation

  • The worker is sent to a functional capacity evaluation. A doctor must determine what functions the worker can and cannot perform due to physical limitations. It’s important to note that the doctor who makes this determination is not required to be the injured worker’s attending physician. In fact, the doctor making this determination is typically on the payroll of the insurance company.
  • A vocational rehabilitation specialist will meet with the injured worker to review their job and education history. The specialist determines what the worker would be capable of with education and training.
  • The vocational rehabilitation specialist will then combine the physical and mental analysis of what the worker has been deemed capable of managing for employment and attempt to locate relevant jobs that fit the worker’s abilities in their geographic area.
  • The vocational rehabilitation specialist will then mail a labor market survey to the worker. This survey identifies available jobs the worker has been deemed eligible for.

Reduction or Termination of Indemnity Benefits

The worker is not required to apply for the jobs listed in the labor market survey. However, once the survey has been mailed, the insurance company will most likely move to reduce or terminate the injured worker’s benefits. This can occur even if the worker’s attending physician has yet to certify them as eligible to return to work.

Workers Should Get Involved To Protect Themselves

Sometimes workers fail to take action in their job search after receiving the labor market survey and this can hurt their case. Frequently, the jobs listed in the survey are not available or require additional physical or educational qualifications that only come to light in the job interview. There can also be discrepancies in terms of full and part-time designations, actual salary, and other issues.

To best protect themselves, workers should document every aspect of their job search. This includes noting every person spoken to about the job, printing out online job applications once submitted, and noting the date and time of any job interviews the worker participated in.

Don’t Lose Your Benefits Before You Have a Legitimate Job

Most injured workers are eager to return to work and a full-time income. However, it is important that workers not allow themselves to be forced into an inappropriate job due to a sudden reduction or termination of indemnity benefits. It’s always a good idea for injured workers who are attempting to navigate the workers’ compensation system to consult with an attorney so that they are fully aware of their rights and options. Please contact Mitchell & Associates today.

Sending us information about your potential case does not mean we will automatically represent you – you are telling us about your situation in order for us to evaluate whether we believe you have a case which we may choose to handle on your behalf. We will review your circumstances and let you know as soon as possible whether we can discuss your potential case with you further. The information you give us is confidential and can’t be shared with anyone outside of our office.