Vocational rehabilitation is a service that is offered through federal and state programs to help people with cognitive or physical impairment find and sustain employment. Many disabled people have experienced independence and self-sufficiency for the first time in their lives through these programs. While vocational rehabilitation services are primarily focused on helping people with lifelong disabilities overcome barriers to employment, they are also sometimes available to injured workers who are collecting workers’ compensation insurance and need help returning to gainful employment.
Is Vocational Rehabilitation an Option for You?
Employers in Kansas and Missouri are not required to offer vocational rehabilitation services to their injured workers, so your first step would be to find out if your workers’ comp insurance offers this benefit. If they do not, you may still be eligible for the service through a federal program offered in your state depending on the nature of your disability. You should make this request directly to your state workers’ compensation office.
What Will a Rehabilitation Counselor Do for Me?
If your insurer does offer vocational rehabilitation, you should consider using it if your injuries have left you unable to return to the same job you held previously. A Qualified Rehabilitation Professional (QRP) will conduct an assessment of your skills, interests, and abilities to help you do the following:
- Identify job skills that could transfer to other types of work.
- Determine your mental and/or physical restrictions.
- Assess your ability to return to work with your pre-injury employer.
- Determine your need for a rehabilitation plan.
A rehabilitation plan is a helpful tool for charting a course for your return to meaningful employment. The plan will do the following:
- Identify an appropriate vocational goal.
- Identify the services you will need to achieve that goal.
- Spell out your responsibility in reaching your goal.
- List the responsibilities of the QRP for helping you reach your goal.
Both the worker and the QRP must agree to the terms of the rehabilitation plan before services can begin. The QRP will work with you on job-seeking skills and resume development and will help you locate other services that will aid your return to work, such as:
- Job training programs.
- On-the-job and apprenticeship programs.
- Vocational training at a career center or community college.
Goals of a Vocational Rehabilitation Plan
Working with your QRP, you will set goals for your return to work. Both Kansas and Missouri require that you work with a QRP, who has been approved by the state’s workers’ compensation board and each provides a list of approved vocational counselors with whom you can work. Your plan will specify your work goals, including your estimated earnings at plan completion and whether your plan includes returning to the same employer or not. Your options for returning to work include the following:
- Returning to the same job with the same employer.
- Taking a modified job with the same employer.
- Transitioning to a completely different job with the same employer.
- Moving to the same job with a different employer.
- Looking for a modified job with a different employer.
- Changing to a completely different job with a different employer.
As you get ready to return to work following rehabilitation or retraining, your counselor can work with your employer to make sure you receive any necessary accommodations to be able to function in your new role and may be able to obtain the services of an occupational therapist or ergonomic specialist if necessary to readjust to the workplace.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at work on the job in Kansas City you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.