In most cases, people who are injured at work fully recover and are able to return to their original positions within a relatively short time frame. However, in cases involving severe or disabling injuries, vocational rehabilitation services are part of your workers' compensation benefits.
Meeting With a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert
The services of a vocational rehabilitation expert can be requested by your employer if it appears you might not be able to return to your current position due to your injury. You may also initiate the process, if you choose to do so. The vocational rehabilitation expert is selected, hired, and paid for by the workers' compensation insurance company.
The expert will meet with you to discuss the extent of your work experience, your education, and what types of tasks you are able to perform. She will be asked to provide testimony as an expert witness for the insurance company with the goal of showing the Louisiana Office of Workers' Compensation Court that you are capable of returning to work.
If you refuse a meeting with the vocational rehabilitation expert when it is requested by your employer, the penalty is quite severe. There will be a 50% reduction in your weekly compensation, including supplemental earnings benefits, for each week of the period of refusal.
Goal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Vocational rehabilitation services vary depending on your skills, past employment, and the nature of your injury. However, the goal is always to get you back to work as quickly as possible with a minimum amount of retraining.
Getting back to work may mean:
- Returning to a modified position
- Returning to a related occupation suitable for your skills and education
- On-the-job training
- Short-term retraining of less than 26 weeks
- Long-term retraining of more than 26 weeks but less than one year
Louisiana's vocational rehabilitation program requires that the first appropriate option be selected for each worker. This means, you will not be allowed to pursue retraining programs unless a modified position, related occupation, and on-the-job training have been determined to be unsuitable.
Due to the cost and time involved, it is very rare for workers' compensation to pay for even short-term retraining programs. If it appears that training is the best option, however, a program offered close to your home will be the first choice. If there is no program close to your home, your employer or the workers' compensation insurer must pay for reasonable cost of board, lodging, and necessary travel.
Determining the Existence of a Suitable Job
One commonly misunderstood aspect of vocational rehabilitation services in Louisiana is that the insurer does not need to actually find you a job to fulfill its obligations. All that is required is proof of the existence of a job that fits your physical capabilities and is located within a reasonable geographic distance. If you receive notification of the position opening and its wages, your cooperation or participation in the process is irrelevant.
However, the law does not require that a suitable job means it suits your interests and personal preferences. You may be told to seek employment with a schedule that doesn't fit your needs or that involves a type of work you have no desire to do.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Your meeting with a vocational rehabilitation expert is a vital part of your workers' compensation claim. If this contact is handled poorly, you may have your benefits terminated or reduced even though you are unable to return to your pre-injury job and have no new job offers.
Working with an experienced workers' compensation attorney ensures that your rights are protected throughout the process of resolving your claim. Your attorney can explain how to prepare for the meeting with the vocational rehabilitation expert to improve the chances of continuing your disability benefits and receiving genuine assistance finding a suitable new job that accommodates your disability.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is committed to protecting the rights of injured Louisiana workers. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.