VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION FOR INJURED WORKERS
Vocational rehabilitation is one of the four benefits available to an injured worker under New Hampshire law. What exactly is it? In theory, the law says that, if a worker is injured in the course of work, and if that injury permanently prevents the worker from doing the work he or she used to do, the workers’ compensation insurance company is to provide services to help the worker return to some kind of work which will pay as close as possible to what the worker used to earn. In reality, because the goal of vocational rehabilitation is to return the worker to the pre-injury earning capacity, if a previously heavy duty worker can make the same money in a light duty job, despite a diminished physical capacity, voc rehab services will be little to none. If vocational rehabilitation is deemed appropriate to get the injured worker back to work, and if he or she doesn’t cooperate in good faith, the worker’s benefits can be suspended by the New Hampshire Department of Labor. Assume that the injury causes the worker to have a lower earning capacity. The law is that the voc rehab services which the insurance company has to provide in such a case start at the least extensive necessary to bridge the gap between pre and post injury wages. If your former employer won’t take you back at a different job, it is not uncommon for vocational rehabilitation to take the form of meeting regularly with a counselor who works up a new resume with you and meets with you periodically to oversee your efforts to find a job. In the right case, such as with a young worker earning high wages at a job he or she can’t do because of the injury, the level of vocational rehabilitation services required will be of a more intensive level, potentially requiring training or schooling as the only way to restore the pre-injury earning capacity. Again, the goal is the pre-injury earnings.
Vocational rehabilitation can be the injured worker’s most valuable worker’s comp benefit. There are others times when it’s the quickest way for an injured worker to be jettisoned by the workers’ compensation insurance company. Navigating this process is best done with the benefit of experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. Winer and Bennett’s Nashua workers’ compensation lawyers are available to provide that guidance. Call (603) 882-5157 for an initial no cost consultation.