Quetion: What Are My Rehabilitation Rights?
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Answer: The word “rehabilitation” has two different meanings. Rehabilitation can mean physical therapy to help overcome an injury and regain functionality. In addition, rehabilitation can mean vocational rehabilitation or job training. Employees who can no longer do the same type of work as they did before their injury are entitled to vocational rehabilitation as part of their workers’ compensation benefits.
The amount and type of vocational rehabilitation that is available to injured employees varies from state to state. Some of the services an injured employee may be eligible to receive include:
- On-the-job training
- Education and tuition payments for retraining
- Skills analysis and training
- Resume and job application services
- Labor market surveys
- Assistance with searching for a new job
- Vocational rehabilitation counseling
- Ergonomics assessments
- Medical case management
- Assistance with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Job analyses
- Wage assessment evaluations
The vocational rehabilitation benefits that an employee will be eligible for vary depending on the employee’s situation and the laws of their state. In many states, employees have the responsibility to accept vocation rehabilitation. Acceptance means that the employee will cooperate and make an effort at vocational rehabilitation and will try to return to suitable employment. In other states, however, employees are not required to participate in either physical or vocational rehabilitation. In the states that require compliance with vocational rehabilitation, workers’ compensation benefits may be suspended or reduced during the time when the employee isn’t cooperating.
Employers must also comply with guidelines and timelines for offering vocational rehabilitation. In some states, an employer must offer vocational rehabilitation counseling to any employee who has an injury that resulted in 60 days of time away from work. This offer must be made within five days of the 60 day threshold. However, if the employee’s injury is a back injury, he or she must only miss 30 days of work before the employer must offer counseling. In other states, however, an employer is only required to offer vocational rehabilitation within 120 days if the injury resulted in “a loss of suitable gainful employment.” In some states, employers may be required to pay for expenses associated with vocational rehabilitation, such as tuition, living expenses, room & board, child care, and travel expenses. Employers may only be required to pay for vocational rehabilitation expenses if they are provided by special certified individuals. For example, only Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs), Certified Disability Management Specialists (CDMSs), or Certified Case Managers (CCMs) may provide vocational rehabilitation to employees in some states.