The Role of Vocational Rehabilitation in Workers’ Compensation Claims
Massachusetts provides vocation rehabilitation services to injured workers through the Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation (OEVR) which is part of the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA). If an injured worker needs help in getting back into the work force once they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), OEVR services may be available to them. The injured worker can ask for help or an evaluation of whether the worker is eligible for services may be scheduled by OEVR. The first step is to determine if the injured worker is suitable for services. Usually this means a determination that the worker is at MMI. Being at MMI is important to determining what permanent restriction the worker may have.
Once a worker is deemed suitable, OEVR will ask the insurer to assign a Vocational Counselor. If the insurer refuses to pay for a Vocational Counselor, the DIA can pay to have one assigned. The counselor will then meet with the worker and try to determine what needs to be done.
The goal is to get the worker into a job that will pay the same average weekly wage (AWW) that they were earning prior to the injury. This may mean helping the worker get back to their old job. If that is not feasible, then placement in a similar job with a different employer is the next step. If the worker could not return to the same type of work, the counselor would determine if the worker has some transferable skills that they could use to obtain a job in a different field of work. If all of those steps would not work to get the worker back to the same AWW, then re-training for a new type of work is the last level.
The counselor and the worker will figure out what new jobs the worker could be capable of doing and what the worker is interested in. Once the counselor and worker have agreed on a type of job, a written plan is done. This would spell out the steps needed to prepare the worker for the job, how long it would take and what would need to be done. And lastly, what the cost of each step is. Once the written plan is established, it has to be approved by OEVR and all parties sign it. The plan is then put into action and funded.
How Long Is Vocational Rehabilitation Available After a Workplace Injury?
OEVR services are open to the injured worker while the claim is open and up to two years after a Lump Sum Settlement of the claim, if that is done.