When a worker is injured on the job and the employer cannot accommodate the employee’s permanent restrictions, that person may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. The Illinois Workers Compensation Act specifies provisions for vocational rehabilitation for eligible workers. A work injury attorney can assist injured workers in obtaining services when needed.
The Goal of Vocational Rehabilitation
The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help a worker who has been injured return to work as quickly as possible to a job that is compatible with work restrictions set by his or her physician. VR services may include:
- Job exploration to find new opportunities previously not considered
- Job modification
- Training to find new employment
- Job placement services
Who is Eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation?
After a disabling injury, a worker might not be able to return to the same type of work he or she was doing prior to getting hurt. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is often indicated when a worker’s injuries will have a significant impact on his or her future earning power. There is no standard to determine whether vocational rehabilitation should be provided to an injured employee. An employee may first be expected to attempt to find employment that fits within physical limitations. If he or she is unable to find such employment, he or she may be eligible for VR.
The injured employee will need to have a medical opinion from the treating physician or other health care provider that states there are permanent work restrictions. The VR process begins with an assessment that evaluates the worker’s expectations. The VR examiner will evaluate the worker’s medical treatment, limitations, and need for vocational services. A specialized plan will be created for the worker that may include retraining or educational services upon his or her request.
A worker who is accepted for vocational rehabilitation must fully cooperate with the program and make an attempt to return to the workforce. If the worker does not comply with the program, he or she may have their benefits terminated or reduced.
Who Pays for Vocational Rehabilitation?
Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, insurers are required to pay for the vocational rehabilitation programs that injured employees need. This often includes maintenance costs like room and board, living expenses, tuition for training, and travel expenses for attending classes, counseling, or other services provided through vocational rehabilitation.