Vocational rehabilitation can be a concern for some workers. One of the aims of workers’ compensation in North Carolina is to get injured employees back on the job ASAP. To this end, the workers’ comp benefits include medical bills and lost wages to help them recover quickly. You can conveniently access those benefits with help from an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney.
However, sometimes, some injured workers can’t get back to their previous jobs even after reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI). That’s because they must have suffered debilitating injuries that have become life-altering for them. Another reason is that their previous job roles may not accommodate the “light duty” restrictions that the doctor may recommend. For example, construction workers must engage in hard labor to get their jobs done correctly.
In such cases, the workers’ compensation system will do everything possible to provide income for the affected employee. It could mean getting them a suitable job in a different industry or another job role in their previous sector. That’s what vocational rehabilitation entails under North Carolina’s workers’ comp. We’ll discuss that in detail in subsequent paragraphs.
What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation refers to the efforts an employer makes to secure gainful employment for their injured workers. Generally, vocational rehab will entail providing the training an employee needs to adapt to a new job or earn higher. This service is usually available to these categories of workers:
- Employees who can not return to their previous work because of some disability from the injury
- Workers who return to work but earn less than 75% of their last pre-accident wages due to their injury
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) oversees the vocational rehabilitation process. The commission must approve the employer’s choice of vocational rehab expert, who must also meet the following criteria:
- They must be in the commission’s Registry of Rehabilitation Professionals
- The professionals must hold the required certifications and complete an NCIC-approved compensation case management course.
- They must have, at a minimum, two years of working experience with injured employees.
- They must engage in continuing education.
- Vocational rehab experts must be law-abiding. That is, they must strictly adhere to their rules of professional conduct. That includes the refusal to give legal advice or work as the employer’s agent in any capacity.
Common Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Usually, vocational rehabilitation starts with a physical assessment meeting between you and the vocational rehab professional. Then, the professional will analyze your case and develop an individualized vocational plan to meet your needs and goals. The expert will achieve that by evaluating your medical condition, clarifying your goals, requests, and expectations, etc.
In addition to those above, they may also provide the following services where necessary:
- Work adjustment and job-search counseling
- Sheltered workshop
- Labor market survey
- Training on job seeking and employment
- Transferable skills analysis
- Training in the North Carolina community college or university systems
- Vocational testing and lots more
What if I Refuse To Comply With Vocational Rehabilitation?
In North Carolina, vocational rehabilitation is mandatory. That means that once the commission and your employer approve vocational rehabilitation for you, you must cooperate with them. If you refuse to comply with vocational rehabilitation for no good reason, you may have to forfeit your compensation. That usually is the case when the NCIC suspends your wage replacement benefits after a noncompliance report from the professional.
However, this doesn’t mean that you must accept your vocational services plan in all circumstances. It only means that you can only refuse to comply with vocational rehabilitation on justifiable grounds. Your Charlotte workers’ comp lawyer will tell you whether you have valid reasons to refuse vocational rehabilitation services.
What Role Does My Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Play in Vocational Rehabilitation?
Your Charlotte workers’ comp attorney is an essential part of your vocational rehabilitation. Many times, instead of being a neutral party, your vocational rehab expert may work as your employer’s agent. As such, they may try to frustrate you into giving up your compensation. Your lawyer will ensure legal compliance at all levels and forestall plans to cheat you of your wage replacement benefits.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers in Charlotte, NC, ASAP!
Did you sustain an injury in a workplace accident in Charlotte, North Carolina? Then you have the right to receive specific workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, if your injury limits your daily life functions, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation.
Our workers’ comp lawyers in Charlotte, NC, will ensure that you get all the benefits you deserve. We’re always available to protect your rights and guarantee a stress-free process. So book a free consultation with us today.