Understanding Pennsylvania's vocational rehabilitation program

Workers in Pennsylvania who are receiving worker's compensation should have a basic idea of what the vocational rehabilitation program has to offer. Workers must understand that receiving worker's compensation doesn't entitle them to get their job back, or get an equivalent job to their old one. The insurance company paying the benefits is also not required to provide retraining for an equivalent job. There are certain rules put in place by the court which workers need to follow. Otherwise, worker's compensation benefits may be withdrawn.

If the insurance company offers the worker a position that the worker can perform within their medical restrictions, that worker should interview for the position without being concerned about the kind of position, the pay or the benefits associated with it. There is a provision in the law that restricts the insurer or self-insured employer from conducting a vocational evaluation of a worker who has applied for vocational rehabilitation through the Pennsylvania Vocational Rehabilitation Office.

A worker needs to bring his or her medical records to the interview along with a copy of their Physical Capability Evaluation, and should provide those documents to the interviewer. If possible, the worker may want to videotape the interview or take a court reporter along with them to record everything that occurs during the interview. The worker should also request a written copy of the job referral, including a detailed description of the type of job. The worker should also maintain a record of every job referral and also send a copy to his or her doctor, explaining what the worker is expected to do in that job role.

The worker may ask for opinions regarding whether the job is suitable for them. It is a good idea to apply for every job that falls within the medical restrictions. Failing to do so may result in the compensation benefits being withdrawn. Before proceeding with the interviews, it may be best if the worker consults a workers' compensation attorney in order to understand their rights in the rehabilitation process.

Source: PA Federation of Injured Workers, "Vocational Rehabilitation," accessed Aug. 20, 2015

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