Rehabilitation After Suffering An Injury On The Job
The term rehabilitation in a workers’ compensation context has two separate meanings. Most people when they think of rehabilitation they are thinking of physical or rehabilitative therapy aimed at overcoming an injury and regaining functionality. There is also the concept of vocational rehabilitation. Injured workers who are unable to resume the course of their previous employment are entitled to vocational rehabilitation at the expense of their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The main purpose of workers compensation is to aid the worker in returning to a productive lifestyle. Early workers compensation laws did not provide for employee rehabilitation.
In some states such as California, a certain number of weeks of rehabilitation and a limited amount of costs and training are provided to the injured worker. After the completion of this training the worker is considered to be rehabilitated. This limits the liability of the employer to find another job for the claimant and does not necessarily return the worker to productive employment. In other states like New Jersey rehabilitation is a minor part of the law. Such states are considered as defined-benefit states. A worker is paid for temporary total disability. As soon as that temporary disability resolves itself into a percentage of body loss, the employer makes a lump-sum payment and closes the case whether the worker can return to work or not. In these examples, the employer is largely absolved from making sure that the worker is able to return to a productive job.
This results in a further burden on the unemployment or welfare systems of these states. If a worker does not have workers compensation benefits nor a job they will in become a ward of the state or federal government. The particular employee’s situation in accordance with statutory and regulatory limitations set forth by law determine the vocational rehabilitation benefits that the injured party is entitled to. The amount and type of vocational rehabilitation provided to injured employees varies from state to state. Some of the services to which an injured worker may be entitled include:
- On-the-job training
- Transferable skills analysis and testing
- Resume and job application completion services
- Interview skills and techniques assistance
- Labor market surveys
- Job analyses
- Job search assistance
- Wage assessment evaluations
- Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling
- Ergonomics assessments
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reasonable accommodation assistance
- Medical case management
- Education and Tuition payments for retraining
Some states Pennsylvania is an example, operate on a system of loss of earning power. Once a worker is injured, his workers compensation benefits will continue for life unless he is proved to have an earning power. A proof of earning power can be accomplished in many ways. Initially, Pennsylvania requires that the time of injury employer offer a job to the injured employee if one is available within his physical restrictions. If this is not possible, Pennsylvania requires that rehabilitation efforts begin. These rehabilitation efforts include finding positions that are available within the restrictions of the injured worker. Workers compensation acts are humanitarian acts and must be considered as such. Neither employers nor claimants should forget about the importance of returning injured workers to productive lives after industrial injuries. If all parties keep this in mind, there will be better production and fewer long-term costs associated with workers compensation injuries.
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