If you receive workers’ compensation benefits and your employer offers vocational rehabilitation services, you must cooperate and utilize the services or risk catastrophic injury benefits. One of the first objectives of vocational rehabilitation is to assess the worker for aptitudes and abilities and attempt to identify suitable employment options. Vocational evaluations can provide helpful insight for both the vocational rehabilitation counselor and the worker.
If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities in regard to employer-sponsored vocational services or if you suspect the employer is trying to push you into returning to work prematurely, you’ll want to contact a local work injury attorney immediately.
The Purpose of Vocational Assessments
Workers usually will be assigned a vocational counselor who will be charged with the task of administering the assessment. Evaluations may contain numerous methods and modalities, including discussion-based assessments, written tests, and work samples.
Vocational evaluations differ, depending on the employer and provider, but below are some of the basic goals of assessment.
- To identify the workers’ physical and intellectual abilities
- To determine the worker’s skill sets, achievements and interests
- To identify and skills that might be transferable to a job
- To create appropriate vocational goals
- To create a personalized plan that includes the vocational rehabilitation services from which the worker might benefit
- To determine the rationale, requirements and anticipated costs of the aforementioned personalized plan
Tips when Working with Vocational Counselors
While vocational services can be beneficial and you’re required to use them anyway, it’s important to be mindful of what you do and say around your counselor so as not to hurt your eligibility for workers’ comp benefits inadvertently.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t make any statements that might be misconstrued as failure to comply. For example, if your counselor reports to the insurer that you said, “I won’t work at a boring desk job,” they may take that as defiance.
- Don’t overstate your abilities. If you’re asked, for example, if you can lift 30 pounds and you know that doing so will exacerbate your back injury, say no.
- Know your rights and responsibilities in regard to vocational rehabilitation services and ask your counselor for a copy of the rules.
- If you haven’t done so already, consult a lawyer and have your lawyer present at the vocational assessment.
- Inform your lawyer if you suspect you are being offered a “make work” job. These are fabricated positions employers sometimes offer injured workers that have no value and that they normally wouldn’t pay anybody to do, such a reading over old contracts or organizing obsolete materials. Some employers might offer this type of fake job to make it appear on paper as if a worker is capable of holding a job to reduce or discontinue benefits.