An employee often has restrictions upon returning to work after an injury. Sometimes employers will not modify a work setting to accommodate the restrictions. When an injured employee is not able to return to their previous position, the injured worker has a right to request a rehabilitation consultation to determine whether they qualify for vocational rehabilitation services. A qualified rehabilitation consultation is performed by a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant ("QRC"). This rehabilitation consultation is an in person meeting between the injured employee and the QRC. An injured employee can request a rehabilitation consultation if a QRC has not been provided. The rehabilitation consultation is paid for by the workers' compensation insurance carrier.
Most importantly, the employee has a right to choose the QRC. This right to choose the QRC continues until 60 days after the filing of a Rehabilitation Plan. It is extremely important that the proper QRC be selected to work on your file.
An employee is eligible for vocational rehabilitation services if the employer is unable to return the employee to their pre-injury job or occupation; or if it is not expected that the employer will return to suitable gainful employment with the date-of-injury ("DOI") employer without rehabilitation services.
The QRC will make an eligibility decision following the rehabilitation consultation. Once vocational rehabilitation has been provided it is the QRC's responsibility to develop, record, and file a Rehabilitation Plan. Rehabilitation services provided by a QRC include vocational evaluation, counseling, medical management, job analysis, job modification, job development, job placement, labor market surveying, vocational testing, transferable skills analysis, work adjustment, job seeking skills training, on the job training, and determination if retraining should become part of the Rehabilitation Plan.
It is very important that the QRC explore retraining to determine if retraining is needed to return the injured worker to suitable gainful activity. Employment is suitable if it is both physically and monetarily suitable. In other words, it is important that the employee's return to work be at a job that not only is within the permanent restrictions, but also brings the employee as close as possible to the economic status they had prior to the injury.
During an approved Retraining Plan the employer (Workers' Compensation insurer) is liable:
- To pay the costs of tuition, books, travel, custodial day care, and board and lodging;
- To pay the QRC during the plan;
- To pay Temporary Total Disability Benefits during the retraining and for up to 90 days after it ends. These Temporary Total Disability Benefits do not reduce the Temporary Total Disability Benefits that have the 104 week durational cap;
- If the employee is working during the Retraining Plan, then Temporary Partial Disability Benefits are payable and those benefits do not reduce the 225 week cap on Temporary Partial Disability Benefits.