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Vocational rehabilitation is a key part of workers’ compensation

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | Workers' Compensation |

In New Hampshire and Vermont, people who have been injured on the job and left unable to work will need to be aware of the tenets of workers’ compensation. Most will equate this to receiving medical care and payment for lost wages. Of course, workers’ compensation covers those issues once a person is approved for benefits. However, in some cases, the worker is unable to recover sufficiently to get back to doing the same type of work they did before, but their injuries are not severe enough that they cannot do any work at all. This is when it becomes important to understand vocational rehabilitation.

When does a worker get vocational rehabilitation and what does it entail?

Both New Hampshire and Vermont have their own basic rules for vocational rehabilitation. While there are subtle differences, the main objective for both is to help workers who cannot get back to the job they did before and require training for another type of work that will pay them what they earned at the previous job. That will be calculated based on the average weekly wages from before. It needs to be a similar salary, but not exactly the same. The job must be “suitable” based on their abilities. That will include experience, knowledge, whether they can do the job or not, and their physical capabilities. The location of the job is also important as the new job must be where the person worked before or be accessible by a reasonable commute.

New Hampshire has what is known as a “Hierarchy of Services.”  Vermont has a “Return to Work” plan. This involves a list of possibilities for the injured worker. Going down the line, it is generally the same for both states and includes going back to the same job for the same employer; going back to the same employer but in a modified job; going to the same employer for a different job; going to a different employer for the same job; going to a different employer for a modified job; getting a different job with a different employer; receiving on-the-job training for a new job; being retrained to achieve new skills; receiving education for a new job; or other alternatives. Workers are required to seek work if they are deemed able to perform certain tasks even if they cannot do the same job they did previously.

With vocational rehabilitation, disputes may arise

Since the requirement to have vocational rehabilitation hinges on many factors including a physician’s diagnosis, assessments as to maximum improvement and what the injured worker feels he or she can do, this is a topic that can sow discord. If the employer is contending that the person can do the same work as before and the worker disagrees, this is an example of how the situation can become muddled and contentious. For this or any other factor that arises with workers’ compensation, it is important to have guidance throughout the entire process.