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Will vocational rehabilitation help you get back to work?

One wrong step, one thoughtless act, one unsteady grip and everything changed. This is how a workplace accident occurs, and you are now struggling to get back on your feet. If you endured a hospital stay, surgery, physical therapy or costly prescriptions, you were likely grateful for the workers' compensation system that provides benefits for injured workers.

At some point in your recovery, you may begin to wonder if you will be ready to get back to the job. However, you have concerns about whether you will be physically able to complete the duties of your position. This is where vocational rehabilitation comes in.

The basics

Pennsylvania workers' compensation law allows insurers to offer injured employers vocational rehabilitation if it appears they will not be able to return to their old positions following an accident. This is not the kind of rehabilitation you may go through for your physical injuries, but instead it helps you to identify and strengthen any skills you may have that will help you find meaningful work. Some services available to you may include the following:

  • Resume writing
  • Skills analysis
  • Counseling
  • Help with job search
  • Interview skills
  • Accommodations recommendations
  • Training on the job
  • Tuition for retraining

There may be other benefits available for you, the goals of which are to get you back to work and no longer dependent on workers' compensation benefits. For example, some insurers may offer childcare or travel expenses while you go through your rehabilitation.

Protect your rights and your health

A worker who refuses to accept vocational rehabilitation risks the termination of his or her workers' compensation benefits. The process typically begins with an interview to determine your skills and interests. You may then receive a labor market survey, which summarizes any potential job openings that fit your skill set. Here is where you must be careful. If the survey shows there are possible jobs you can perform, the insurer may file to reduce or discontinue your benefits.

An employer or insurer who places financial concerns above your wellbeing may force you back to work before you are ready. For many workers, this means further injury or the dependence on opioids to get through the workday. You have the right to the medical and rehabilitation benefits you need and deserve after a workplace injury. To assist you in protecting those rights, you may find it advantageous to reach out to an experienced attorney.

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