Vocational Rehabilitation Available for Injured Workers under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act
Vocational rehabilitation and labor market surveys are intended to help injured workers return to the workforce. When the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was amended in 1996, and Act 57 was passed, according to the Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, it reflected an effort to preserve the rights of injured employees while addressing the rising costs of workers’ compensation in the Commonwealth.
The Department issued a statement of policy that made clear one of the amendments included a requirement that an expert opinion, in the form of a vocational counselor, would determine an employee’s earning power. The amendment also set forth qualifications for vocational experts who interview employees to assess this earning power.
Vocational rehabilitation provides disabled individuals with skills that help them overcome barriers to maintaining their job or returning to work. As a benefit provided by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, vocational rehabilitation may include job training and counseling that will help to prepare an injured worker for another job. The Act itself states that vocational rehabilitation services are provided in order to promote employability.
Typically, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for the employer asks an injured worker to participate in vocational rehabilitation. Despite work restrictions, many injured workers are capable of performing some form of work. In certain cases, insurance companies may seek to prove that an injured worker is capable of work. A vocational rehabilitation company may locate and refer an injured worker to job opportunities within their restrictions. These jobs may be with the original employer (at the time of the injury) or another employer.
During a vocational interview, the expert will evaluate an injured worker’s education and employment. The purpose of the interview is to determine the type of work that can be performed and then complete a job placement. Since information sought by the vocational expert may be used to help the insurance company defend a claim for benefits, the presence of an attorney is important during these interviews.
After conducting their interview, a vocational consultant may prepare a “labor market survey” in order to show that jobs exist in the general labor market that are within the capabilities of the injured worker. Based on potential but not actual job opportunities, the insurance company may then file a petition to stop or reduce weekly benefits. The general labor market may in fact include jobs that the injured worker can perform, but that does not mean that the employer would hire that disabled worker over other qualified candidates.
As an injured worker receiving benefits, it is important not to give the insurance company any reason to terminate your benefits. While you are pursuing vocational rehabilitation, you are entitled to your wage loss benefits. Maintaining proper composure and going to your job interviews, for example, is important. Workers are expected to cooperate with their vocational counselor in order to maintain their wage loss benefits.
At Needle Law Firm, our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys provide representation for claimants undergoing vocational rehabilitation. We help disabled workers understand their legal rights regarding continuing wage loss benefits, and we can assist you in asserting your right to ongoing compensation or a lump sum settlement on your terms. Contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266 or filling out our online form.