If you can't return to your previous job after a work-related injury but expect to be able to work at another position, workers compensation will pay for training or a certain amount of additional education. You may be required to have sessions with a vocational rehabilitation counselor beforehand or when you're about to start your job search. Unfortunately, these sessions sometimes work against the individual, since the counselor reports to the insurer providing the benefits.
Learn some strategies that help prevent negative results associated with vocational rehab meetings.
Take brief notes during the sessions if the counselor allows this and expand on them later. If you can't take notes while you're in the meeting, document everything immediately afterward while your memory is still fresh. You'll need to have documentation of what has occurred in case you run into discrepancies, issues, or the counselor makes you uncomfortable.
Be Careful What You Say
There are two primary pitfalls regarding statements you make to a vocational rehab counselor.
First, don't admit to abilities you may not actually have. Counselors may encourage workers comp recipients to say they can do activities such as climb ladders, sit or stand for lengthy time frames, or lift more weight than they should. You might be able to climb up and down a ladder a few times to clean out your gutters twice a year, but that doesn't mean you should be doing this as part of a daily job.
The problem with admitting to abilities you don't have is that you may be sent on interviews to jobs requiring those abilities. If you turn down a job offer, you'll probably have your benefits canceled. If you accept a job but have to quit because you can't physically handle it, you won't be eligible to start workers comp again.
Second, don't dismiss job possibilities because of aspects you simply don't like. For example, refrain from stating that you won't accept a job below a certain wage or one that isn't on a certain shift. Otherwise, when the counselor reports your comments to the insurance carrier, you may be seen as refusing to cooperate.
The whole point of vocational rehab is to get you into an occupation as soon as possible; you can progress to a more suitable position later.
Be Cautious About Settlement Offers
The counselor might ask whether you have any interest in starting your own business, because many people do. You might envision getting a settlement that would help you start this new venture. Keep in mind that 80 percent of new businesses started by entrepreneurs don't last even two years. If you lose your settlement in a failed business venture, you don't have the option of paid job training through the workers comp system.
Don't Allow the Counselor in Your Home
A vocational rehab counselor may tell you it's common for meetings to be held in the individual's house, but you are under no obligation to agree. Choose neutral settings instead, such as a coffee shop.
At your home, the counselor could learn personal information that could be provided to the insurer and used against you. The sight of a rake and wheelbarrow in the yard, a tennis racket or a set of golf clubs may lead to questions that can be tricky to answer.
Bring a Lawyer to the First Meeting
You may only need one meeting with the counselor, and it's a smart idea to have a workers compensation attorney at that session.
These lawyers know the relevant laws and rules regarding workers comp and vocational rehabilitation counseling. It's less likely you'll have to deal with tactics such as being sent on interviews for jobs you're not qualified. That type of tactic is intended to persuade you to settle your claim at a low amount so you're not forced to keep doing useless tasks.
For more about this topic, contact a workers comp lawyer for a free consultation. If you decide to hire this attorney, he or she will accompany you to your first meeting upon request and provide legal representation throughout the vocational rehab process.