What is Vocational Rehabilitation and how can it affect my workers’ compensation benefits?

Vocational Rehabilitation in DC Workers Compensation

When you can't return to your regular job after a serious injury, but you can work some type of light duty within your doctor's restrictions, the workers comp insurance company can start vocational rehabilitation.   Generally, the insurance company will assign a vocational counselor to work with you - and who do you think the vocational counselor works for? 

The overall goal of vocational rehabilitation is supposed to be to return you to a job that pays as much as you were making at the time you got hurt.

This usually doesn't happen, for lots of reasons.  First of all, if you were working in construction or another field with a physically demanding job - any building trade, security, nursing, delivery driver, rigger for concerts, school teacher for at risk kids - you name it, you may not have the transferrable skills to be employed at a high wage in some other field.  You probably don't have the experience, training, education and background to compete for high level jobs in another field.  And if you were at the top of your field when you got hurt, will your past salary scare away potential employers? 

Are you now competing against people half your age for entry level jobs in a totally new field?

You see, in theory, vocational rehabilitation sounds great. It sounds like re-training for something you want to do. A true career change.

But it's not.

The reality (like many things with the workers comp system and all workers comp insurance companies) is a lot different than what you would expect.

Workers Comp Insurance Companies Use Vocational Rehabilitation to Stop Your Benefits

Keep in mind, all of the vocational counselors work for the workers comp insurance companies - that is where they get all of their business.  They don't work for you.  And the insurance company's job is to deny or limit the amount of money and medical treatment they have to pay for.

Things may start off just fine, but there will probably come a time when the insurance company is tired of paying for these services. They have been paying her for a long time to meet with you and she hasn't found you a job yet.  And this can pressure a vocational counselor to say you are not cooperating with their services because by doing so, the insurance company can cut off your benefits (this is technically a suspension of benefits, but really they just stop them cold). 

We've seen benefits stopped for trivial issues - not calling the counselor back on time, or missing just one meeting.

If you are on vocational rehabilitation and are working with a vocational counselor, you never want to get to this point - so make sure you document all of your job search efforts and keep notes of your meetings and conversations with the counselor.

Save and print all of your text messages, phone records and emails so you have these if you need them at a Formal Hearing.

By keeping record of all your job search efforts (telephone calls you have made, computer searches, jobs applications, interviews/meetings, etc.), you can use them at the hearing some day if the insurance company claims you did not cooperate with the vocational counselor.  The more evidence you have of your good faith cooperation with vocational rehabilitation, the better your chances.

The vocational counselor will probably testify against you at the hearing, so you need to be prepared to not only prove you were cooperating with her, but cross examine her as well.

Call us today at (202) 393-3320 to make sure this doesn't happen to you.  Don’t let the insurance company and their vocational counselor set you up to stop your hard earned workers comp benefits.