So far I have discussed two types of compensation that apply to work restrictions – temporary total disability and wage loss. Vocational rehabilitation is one more common benefit that injured workers’ seek in Ohio workers’ compensation.
Vocational rehabilitation – sometimes called voc rehab – is a program that assists injured worker in returning to some form of employment. The primary requirements for vocational rehabilitation are that you are actually able and willing to return to some form of work. For instance, if you are about to have surgery you would not be able to get in voc rehab because you will not physically be able to return to work yet. Also, you must be willing to participate fully in the program. (See my warnings in the wage loss section as many of those apply here too.)
What It Looks Like:
To get started in voc rehab, you have to meet with someone who will customize your voc rehab plan. This plan can take a few different forms.
For some people, they have a job to return to but just aren’t quite physically ready to do that job. If this is the case, the voc rehab plan may include some therapy and “work hardening” in order to help the person tolerate the daily stresses of standing, walking, or whatever else the job may entail.
For others, there is no job to return to. In this case the voc rehab plan may still include the work hardening program if needed, but then may also include a job search program – similar to what I detailed for non-working wage loss. One difference between this type of voc rehab program and wage loss is that the program’s case worker will help with the job search. This means there could be assistance writing a resume, work on the interview process, etc.
Voc rehab may also contain some type of training or education if the person is not able to return to the type of job they did previously. This could be computer skills training to get into a lighter duty job, or some classes/training in a completely different field.
I recently had a client who worked in healthcare. She could not return to the physical job she had before so we were able to get her approved for an education program through voc rehab. She just received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice through voc rehab and now she has transitioned into a job search program as well.
Benefits of Vocational Rehabilitation:
The obvious benefit to voc rehab is to get assistance returning to some form of work. If you get training you are also getting the benefit of education at no cost. However, the other benefit is that while you are in the program you are entitled to what is called living maintenance payments. These payments are normally comparable to the temporary total disability payments.
Normally after a work injury people start out on temporary total disability as they are unable to work or have significant restrictions. Once the condition begins to plateau, it may be time to apply for voc rehab. Remember, you must be physically capable to return to some form of employment – which is why injured workers normally start on temporary total disability while their condition stabilizes.
If you think you are entitled to vocational rehabilitation through your Ohio workers’ compensation claim, you should contact our firm to discuss your options.
Next I will discuss some benefits that do not relate to loss of work or income. Some of these benefits are often available but not saught by injured workers because they think the claim is “over” once they return to work.