What are Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Ohio?
Returning to or maintaining work after an injury in Toledo, Ohio often comes with many obstacles, both physical and practical in nature. The stated purpose of vocational rehabilitation (voc rehab) programs are to help injured workers successfully return to work and sustain employment. Multiple vendors competing for services often complicate this process.
In state-funded workers’ compensation cases, the injured worker must be found eligible and feasible for vocational rehabilitation by both the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the involved Managed Care Organizations (MCO). Navigating this process is often difficult, which can make hiring a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney quite helpful.
The vocational rehabilitation process is arranged in a hierarchical or tiered system. The first goal of a typical vocational rehabilitation program is to try and help an injured worker go back to or maintain their job with the employer where they were injured. If this is not possible, vocational rehabilitation will aim for the claimant to return to their employer doing a different job. The next tier is a return to work with a different employer doing the same job. Lastly, a return to work in a different job with a different employer. Above all, vocational rehabilitation programs are supposed to be individually designed with the unique injured worker in mind.
Remain at Work Programs
As the name indicates, this type of vocational rehabilitation program is for those who can and wish to remain working at their job while healing from their injury. To be eligible, an injured worker must not have missed more than 7 days of work due to their injury. This means they have a medical-only claim, but are still experiencing problems in the workplace and are at risk of ending employment.
The goal of a remain at work program is to keep the injured worker working and prevent a lost time claim from occurring. When possible, this type of program can be beneficial in reducing the injury’s financial and personal impact on the injured worker.
Job Retention Programs
Job retention programs, another type of vocational rehabilitation, are designed for injured workers experiencing issues on the job after returning to work after 8 or more days off. They typically will have received salary continuation or temporary total compensation during their time off.
The injured worker, their doctor, and their employer work together to pinpoint work difficulties. It’s the job of the vocational rehabilitation case manager, MCO, and/or the BWC to create and communicate interventions to foster success for the injured worker. Some of these services may include employer incentive contracts, work conditioning, physical or occupational therapy, etc.
Return to Work Programs
Injured workers eligible for a return to work program often have not worked for a long period of time because of their injuries. Oftentimes a physician finds them to have reached maximum medical improvement, yet able to return to some type of restricted work. Return to work vocational rehabilitation programs attempt to help injured workers secure the level of work and earnings they were used to before their injury.
Ideally, this means going back to their original job with the same employer where their injury occurred. However, that is often not possible. In these cases, a voc rehab case manager is assigned to coordinate services to try to provide career counseling, job modification, physical restoration and re-employment services, and more.
Do I Need Vocational Rehabilitation Services?
It’s a great idea to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to decide whether or not vocational rehabilitation is right for you. Vocational rehabilitation is most effective when referrals are made at the right time in the injured worker’s case. Whether your employer’s workers’ compensation program is self-insured or state-funded also makes a big difference.
If the place of employment where your injury occurred is self-insured, your experience with vocational rehabilitation will likely look much different and can often be fraught with challenges. For example, unlike state-funded cases, the injured workers are not allowed to pick their own vocational rehabilitation providers in self-insured cases.
How Schaffer & Associates in Toledo Can Help
Our Toledo, Ohio workers compensation attorneys are knowledgeable about the vocational rehabilitation services process as well as the related types of special compensation, such as Living Maintenance Benefits and Living Maintenance Wage Loss (LMWL). Living Maintenance Benefits can be paid to an injured worker actively engaged in a vocational rehabilitation plan or assessment plan. Injured workers may be eligible for LMWL benefits when they finish a vocational rehabilitation or job retention plan, but suffer a wage loss after work issues continue occuring.
The stress of how and when to return to work after an injury can be insurmountable. You don’t have to do this alone. Call (419) 350-8277 or send us a message to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced, dedicated, and compassionate attorneys.