A workplace injury can range from a simple papercut to a life-threatening injury such as a lost limb or severe brain injury. While smaller injuries may not even need to be reported or may be handled with a Workers’ Compensation claim and minor medical treatment, more severe injuries can be catastrophic for not just a career, but an entire life. If you are unable to return to your previous position due to a significant workplace injury, there are programs in place to help you find new employment without a significant reduction in wages and benefits. If you are in Riverside, San Diego, Los Angeles, Irvine, or Dana Point and have been injured in the workplace and believe that you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, but it is not being offered to you as an option, you may want to speak with one of the knowledgeable attorneys at Diefer Law Group at (888) 301-7795.
What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
When someone is injured in the workplace, after they are sent for medical treatment, the employer opens a Workers’ Compensation claim. The Workers’ Compensation claim pays for the injured employee’s medical bills and lost wages if they are out of work for a certain amount of time. This compensation ensures that injured employees do not have to pay for their own medical care or lose pay for an injury that may not have been their fault.
Vocational rehabilitation is an additional benefit of Workers’ Compensation. In the state of California, vocational rehabilitation is also known as supplemental job displacement benefits. Similar to the Workers’ Compensation benefit that pays the employee’s medical bills, this benefit pays for educational retraining or skill enhancement at state-approved or state-accredited schools. Vocational rehabilitation is only available in specific cases. This benefit offers retraining to an injured employee after a workplace illness or injury prevents them from returning to their previous position and/or employer, according to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations.
What Does Vocational Rehabilitation Do?
Vocational rehabilitation, or supplemental job displacement benefits, retrains an injured employee and helps them find new employment at a payrate as close as possible to their previous payrate. Injured employees may also work with a vocational rehabilitation or return to work counselor to determine a plan for career options and how the employee wants to proceed.
In California, vocational rehabilitation consists of a voucher system. This voucher can be used to cover school tuition, fees, books, and expenses required by the school for training. For Workers’ Compensation claims and vocational rehabilitation for injuries that occurred after January 1, 2013, this voucher can also be used to cover additional equipment, such as laptops. A portion of the voucher may be used to work with a vocational rehabilitation counselor.
Are You Eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation After a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
While paying associated medical bills is an automatic benefit of Workers’ Compensation, Workers’ Compensation claims and vocational rehabilitation do not go together automatically. An injured employee must have a physical or mental impairment that will substantially impede their ability to secure employment. They must be unable to return to their previous employer and be able to benefit from Department of Rehabilitation services in terms of the employment outcome.
According to the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), if the injured employee is receiving Social Security Administration benefits or has a valid “Ticket to Work,” they are considered eligible for vocational rehabilitation. They will need to request services by reading the DOR’s Consumer Information Handbook and then visiting the Department of Rehabilitation’s page to apply for services. It is important to note that there may be a waiting list for receiving vocational rehabilitation services.
Additional Vocational Rehabilitation Considerations
There are several additional vocational rehabilitation considerations to know.
Employees May Not Reject a Qualifying Work Position for Vocational Rehabilitation
If an injured employee is offered a qualifying, alternative, regular work position by their original employer, they cannot reject that offer in favor of vocational rehabilitation. A qualifying alternative offer must be a position that the injured employee can actually perform, a regular position lasting a minimum of 12 months, offering a minimum of 85% of their previous wages and compensation, and located within a reasonable driving distance of their home at the time the injury occurred.
The Employer Must Pay Some Wages During Vocational Rehabilitation
Additionally, the employer is responsible for paying a portion of the injured employees wages for missed work even while the employee is engaged in vocational rehabilitation. If your employer has stopped or threatened to stop paying those wages, Diefer Law Group may be able to help you get the money to which you are entitled to under California law.
Vocational Rehabilitation Requires Medical Proof
A medical professional must indicate that the injured employee cannot return to their previous position due to permanent impairment before the employee is considered eligible for vocational rehabilitation. The employer, employee, and vocational rehabilitation counselor are not able to make the determination about permanent impairment. However, if an injured employee believes their doctor may be wrong, they can seek out a second or even third opinion.
Consider Visiting with an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
When a workplace injury is severe enough, it can change your entire life. While this change can be scary, it should not limit you or your financial situation. Workers’ Compensation claims and vocational rehabilitation exist so that you can recover as fully as possible from your injury and find employment that does not require you to take a significant cut in compensation. If you believe that you may be entitled to supplemental job displacement benefits in the state of California but are not receiving them, contact the experienced workers compensation attorneys with Diefer Law Group at (888) 301-7795 to discuss your case and find out what legal options you may have.