The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) vocational rehabilitation program focuses on restoring or maximizing an injured worker’s abilities and minimizing absences from work. The program places a strong emphasis on helping the injured worker return to a position with the original employer. If that isn’t possible, rehabilitation services will aim to help the worker obtain new skills and abilities to secure a new job with a different employer.
Vocational rehabilitation eligibility is often based on whether an injured worker is “feasible” for rehab services. A person is considered feasible if he or she will benefit from the services and has a high likelihood of being able to return to work because of them.
In some cases, vocational rehabilitation may help an injured worker to return to his or her former job. In other cases, the services help people find jobs with different employers. Every vocational rehabilitation plan must identify a specific job goal, but job goals may change as the rehabilitation plans progress.
If you or a loved one needs help securing vocational rehabilitation services after a workers’ comp injury, contact Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co. Our law firm can review your case and answer all of your legal questions. Call (330) 792-6611 to set up a free consultation.
What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Ohio Administrative Code § 4123-18-03 defines vocational rehabilitation (occasionally referred to simply as “voc rehab”) as “the process of restoring the vocational functioning of a worker who experiences an industrial injury or occupational disease and who voluntarily agrees to participate in vocational rehabilitation.”
Am I Eligible for Vocational Rehab Services?
Ohio law requires injured workers to meet specific criteria in order to be eligible for rehabilitation services.
First, the injured worker will need to have his or her claim referred by BWC order or the industrial commission. Usually, the referral will come after eight or more days of missed time from work due to a work-related injury.
The worker also must demonstrate that the injury significantly inhibits the ability to work. These are typically functional problems that would normally cost the person their job if they could not receive rehabilitation services.
An injured worker will also need to have at least one of the following present in the referred claim:
- The receipt or awarding of temporary total, permanent total, or non-working loss of wages from the time of referral.
- A scheduled loss award that has been granted according to Ohio Revised Code § 4123.57(B).
- Permanent partial award and a physician of record (POR) documented job restrictions dated no more than 180 days prior to the referral date.
- The worker has eight or more days of lost time due to a work-related injury and has been determined to have reached “maximum medical improvement” by the BWC, industrial commission, or the POR, documented in writing.
- The individual suffered a catastrophic injury that makes returning to work unlikely. In this case, a vocational goal will be established.
- The individual has continuing job restrictions according to the POR and lost their job through no fault of their own.
The injured worker must have a clearly defined, workable job goal based on the extent of the disabilities documented by the POR. Medical documentation might be requested to make sure the restrictions are current.
How Long Does Workers’ Comp Coverage Last?
The duration for workers’ compensation benefits can vary depending on numerous factors, including the severity of the injury and other aspects specific to the injury case. In general, injured workers are entitled to wage loss benefits under workers’ compensation while pursuing vocational rehabilitation.
The types of compensation you may be entitled to include:
- Temporary Total (TT) — For injured workers who are determined to be totally disabled and unable to work due to the work-related injury or occupational disease for a short period of time. TT benefits stop when an injured worker returns to work part-time or full-time at any job.
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) — PTD benefits compensate injured workers for impairment of earning capacity and are payable for life.
- Percentage of Permanent Partial Award (%PP) — A specific amount of “residual damage” may remain as a result of the injury. The award will be based on a percentage of that disability.
- Disabled Workers’ Relief Fund (DWRF) — The DWRF is a special fund that supplements the benefits received by permanently and totally disabled workers whose benefits fall below the current cost of living, which the BWC adjusts annually based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index.
- Wage Loss (WL) — The two types of WL benefits include working wage loss (WWL) and non-working wage loss (NWWL). NWWL benefits are limited to 52 weeks, while WWL benefits are limited to 200 weeks, although this can be extended to 226 weeks when combined with a maximum of 26 weeks of NWWL benefits.
- Living Maintenance (LM) — This compensation is usually issued to workers who are participating in an approved voc rehab plan. The BWC will issue this compensation for a period not to exceed six months, unless BWC’s review reveals the injured worker will benefit from an LM extension.
Some cases may also involve lump-sum settlements or advances. Injured workers should retain legal counsel to make sure they are pursuing all of the compensation that they will need to pay their bills and support themselves and their families.
Can I Receive Wage Loss Benefits While I’m Pursuing Vocational Rehabilitation?
People are entitled to wage loss benefits while pursuing vocational rehabilitation. In most cases, employers may have a vested interest in seeing that injured workers receive necessary training.
In the event that an individual uses vocational rehabilitation to obtain a job that pays similarly to their prior employment, they will no longer be able to obtain wage loss benefits. The difference between an old wage and a lower one at a new employer may be paid through wage loss benefits.
Our Ohio Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Are Here to Help
Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co. helps injured workers all across Ohio with their vocational rehabilitation questions and concerns. Our attorneys are ready to help you understand your rights as an injured worker in this state, so call us at 330-792-6611 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your claim today.