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Rockford & Moline, Illinois

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Nick Avgerinos
Nick Avgerinos
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When Does Vocational Rehabilitation Mean Retraining and Not A Job Search?

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If you are unable to return to your job because of a permanent condition, does the employer have to provide you with an education so you can find a new job. ? Not necessarily and here’s why:

An injured worker sustains a serious injury that results in a permanent work restriction. The employer for whom he or she has worked for many years announces that the company will no longer be able to accommodate the worker on account of the injury and terminates their employment. The repercussions are felt at home, in the checkbook, and in a variety of other aspects of a worker’s life, leaving the injured worker to wonder how the bills will be paid, and what he or she is expected to do for the rest of his/her life to earn a living.

In Illinois, if a worker suffers a work-related injury to the back, neck, arm, leg, or any other part of the body that results in a doctor imposing a permanent work restrction, the employer/workers’ compensation insurance carrier is obligated to provide vocation rehabilitation services to the employee. When it comes to defining those services things may become very confusing.

In the situation I have presented Illinois, unlike Iowa, obligates the employer to provide vocational rehabilitation services to the worker who has permanent restrictions with the goal of returning the worker to the workplace. Does vocational rehabiliation mean that the worker is allowed to decide that he/she wants to go to college, or a trade school instead of looking for another job? Hardly. Instead, the vocational consultant, who is typically hired by the employer, will prepare a plan that considers a number of criteria in order to determine whether heading back to school and getting an education in order to improve a workers’ job skills is a better option than preparing a resume and sending the worker out into the job market to look for work.

It is very unusual for the vocational counselor to conclude that the educational option makes more sense than the job search. The counselor will usually conclude that because of the worker’s age, educational abilities and so on that he/she is not a good candidate for formal retraining (i.e. schooling in some form or another), or that the worker has transferable skills allowing the worker to find another job without retraining, or that the worker lacks motivation to attend school. As is apparent, rehabiliation does not usually equal retraining/education.

In Iowa, it is not required of an employer that vocational rehabilitation be provided, a position that seems short-sided. By helping a worker to reenter the workforce the individual’s self-worth will be restored, the economy will benefit from having low unemployment and solid consumer spending, he/she will generate income, and the greater community will benefit from the tangible and intangible benefits from having people working and being productive.

What constitutes cooperation by a worker with a vocational rehabilitation or job search program, and the workers’s compensaton benefits to which one is entitled while engaged in the program are issues for another day.