Last month we discuss briefly the concepts that injured workers have about vocational rehab as well as the processes that lead up to beginning vocational rehab and even the initial assessments that are usually involved. Today, I will discuss a bit about the process of working with a vocational counselor.
Most commonly, the vocational counselor will be one that is hired by the Work Comp Carrier for the purpose of trying to find you a job in order to lessen the Respondent’s cost of the settlement. This vocational counselor may tell you that they are on your side, but nothing could be further from the truth. The vocational counselor gets paid only so long as he/she can convince the Respondent that there is a chance he/she can find you a job. This means that the vocational counselor is incentivized to try to keep finding a job for you, even after common sense says that no job will be found.
This does not mean however that you can refuse to participate in the process. Remember, that the primary purpose of the Worker’s Compensation Act is to replace your lost income. Thus, an injured worker who won’t look for replacement work is circumventing the objective of the Act and will be viewed poorly by the Arbitrators. You must demonstrate your willingness and intent to find work. The best way to do that is to follow up on all job leads that the vocational counselor gives to you. The key, however, is to work with your attorney to make sure that you are doing it appropriately. For example, you should not deceive potential employers about the extent of your restrictions, despite the fact that vocational counselors often urge you to do so.
Despite all of this, vocational rehab can be of great benefit to the injured worker. This is because nothing serves to prove the inability of an injured worker to return to his prior employment as well as a failed attempt at vocational rehabilitation. It will serve either to prove that you are unable to find work at all or that the work you can find is at a significantly reduced income from before you were hurt. Further, in the rare instances where vocational rehab does find you a meaningful job, that alone can go a long way to returning you to your pre-injury state of life.
The most important consideration in Vocational Rehabilitation is to remember to be an active participant and to seek the necessary legal counsel to ensure it proceeds correctly.