If you’re injured on the job and your employer cannot accommodate your permanent restrictions, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation.
Vocational Rehabilitation, or VR, is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that serves all disability groups.
Here’s what employees need to know about VR.
VR Helps Workers Return to Work
The ultimate goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help injured workers return to work as soon as possible and to find a position that is compatible with his or her work restrictions.
Through the program, workers may receive a wide range of services, including counseling, job placement, training, job modification and job exploration.
VR Provides Individualized Services
Vocational rehabilitation is considered an individualized employment program. Participants typically receive a diagnosis that will assist in finding the right type of employment to accommodate their disabilities.
Along with a rehabilitation program, participants may receive guidance, job placement and services to help support job retention.
Workers are free to apply directly for service, but hospitals, schools and other organizations may also apply on behalf of workers.
The VR Program has Special Eligibility Requirements
To qualify for VR services, workers must:
- Have a mental or physical impairment that makes it substantially difficult to find employment.
- Be able to benefit from VR services to achieve employment.
- Require VR services to prepare for, obtain, retain or regain employment.
Those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are generally considered eligible for VR.
For injured workers, VR is considered when a worker’s injuries will have a major impact on his or her future earning power. There are no particular standards to determine whether VR should be provided.
Employees are generally required to first attempt to find employment that accommodates their limitations. If they are unable to find employment, they may be eligible for VR.
Injured employees will need to get a medical opinion from the treating doctor or healthcare provider stating there are permanent work restrictions.
First, an assessment must be made to determine the worker’s expectations. The VR examiner will review the worker’s need for vocational services as well as medical treatment and limitations. A specialized plan will then be created that may include educational services or retraining.
Those who participate in the VR program must be cooperative and motivated to return to the workforce. Those who refuse to cooperate may have their benefits reduced or terminated.
Vocational rehabilitation is typically covered by insurance, and will include costs like living expenses, travel expenses for training, tuition and other services that are provided through the VR program.
Workers’ compensation will typically pay for up to two years of vocational rehabilitation. This ensures that workers are able to train for and obtain gainful employment even after an injury.
Workers are still entitled to wage loss benefits through workers’ compensation even while pursuing vocational rehabilitation. These benefits help ensure that bills are paid and stress is minimized while training for a new job.
Ultimately, VR programs are there to help injured and disabled persons obtain gainful employment and regain their financial independence.
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