One of the more coveted benefits provided by Maryland Workers Comp laws is that of Vocational Rehabilitation. Work injuries often lead to employees losing their job and this can be a devastating event to say the least. For those who have found themselves in this most unfortunate position there is some help available under Maryland law.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
If an injured worker who has a valid workers comp claim in the state of Maryland, is unable to perform work duties, and the employer does not offer a job position within the physical limitations than Vocational Rehabilitation may be available. A vocational counselor is assigned by the insurance adjuster and agreed upon by the injured workers’ attorney. The counselor will assist the injured worker in finding a position that is considered suitable and gainful employment. In short the employee will be required to take a job that is within their physical limitations and pays as close as practical to the previous occupation wage.
Most importantly the injured worker will receive payments from the workers comp insurer while they undergo vocational rehabilitation. Essentially the injured worker is paid to look for a job. With voc rehab their job is to find a job.
If you have lost your job due to a work accident but are reluctant to consider vocational rehab you may want to see why the job search is necessary by clicking here or by clicking “continue reading” in the excerpt below:
During the first “leg” of the vocational rehabilitation (voc rehab) process the injured worker will look for a new job. As previously stated this new job should be relatively close in pay, within their physical limitations, and within a reasonable proximity of their home. The employee will be required to submit applications and resumes to a number of employers every week. They may also be required to attend job seminars, certification classes or seminars, take the General Education Degree (GED) test or other tests.
Depending on the voc rehab counselor and the injured employee, the job search could go on for a few months or over a year. At a certain point and sometimes before the job search begins, it may be decided that some form of job training is necessary.
Applicable job training through vocational rehabilitation in Maryland can vary in length, degree, and difficulty. Ultimately the counselor will suggest what they believe to be a reasonable path for the injured worker to take. Associates degrees, trade certifications, computer certifications, licensing application and tests, or other educational training should all be considered if the employee is not able to obtain employment otherwise.
Do I qualify for job training or vocational rehabilitation through Maryland Workers Comp?
There are some requirements for an injured worker to qualify for vocational rehabilitation under Maryland workers compensation. First, the employee must have a compensable workers compensation claim. If that is established then the worker must have lost their job because of the work injury. In most cases the injured worker must have a disability that resulted from the work accident, and that has prevented the employee from returning to that employer. In some cases the employee may qualify for voc rehab if they are able to return to the occupation in the same capacity but the employer has since terminated their employment.
The injured worker must have lost their job due to the injury they sustained on the job. In a number of instances the employer and workers comp insurer are able to terminate the employee for “unrelated” issues and avoid liability of vocational rehabilitation. This is one more reason all injured workers should consult a workers compensation attorney. In some cases this termination can be avoided.
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The vocational rehabilitation process is not easy and the injured worker should be motivated to return to the work force. It is difficult enough to search for employment, but when the search involves employment in a completely different type of occupation injured workers often become reluctant and anxious.
What is the process for obtaining job training or vocational rehabilitation benefits under Maryland law?
The vocational rehabilitation process can start at anytime during the workers compensation case if it is clear the injury is going to lead to loss of employment and a disability of some sort. The disability only has to be of a nature that keeps the employee from returning to the same line of work.
In most cases the voc rehab process will start at or around the time the employee is discharged from their treating doctors care and has been found to be at Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). Upon discharge, is the injured worker able to return back to their previous employment? If not then voc rehab may be explored.
Ordinarily a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) will be performed to determine the employees capacity to work. The FCE will help all parties understand what kind of job the injured worker can perform. Sometimes the FCE will come back with treatment recommendations such as work hardening. If that is the case than a second FCE will be necessitated after work hardening.
Work Hardening is a course of physical therapy designed to strengthen the injured. It is often done for a number of weeks (4-12) for a number of hours (4-8) each day. Work hardening is an aggressive attempt to increase the injured workers capacity to work. For some this will be prescribed and necessary to attend before vocational rehabilitation benefits will be provided.
If the workers comp adjuster agrees to vocational rehab then payments will be started up and a mutually agreeable counselor will be selected. If the adjuster does not agree to voc rehab a hearing may be necessary.
Once a Counselor is chosen an initial meeting will be conducted to ensure the injured worker and counselor are able to work together. There after the counselor will have the injured worker take a number of tests to help determine jobs for which the injured is qualified to apply.
An initial vocational rehabilitation plan will be drafted by the voc counselor and submitted to both the injured workers attorney as well as the insurance adjuster and/or their attorney. The plan will describe what types of jobs the injured worker qualifies for and what wages can be expected.
If after a period of time the injured worker has been unsuccessful in obtaining employment the voc program may be closed. However, if the injured worker has been compliant with the resume requirements and has attended all interviews, seminars, training, and appointments the vocational counselor may suggest that some form of job training take place.
In the event that the injured worker is not successful in obtaining employment or job training there are a number of actions that can be taken by the representing attorney. This should be discussed in detail at the time job search efforts fail.
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