Vocation Rehabilitation can assist injured workers return to the labor market following an injury that renders them unable to perform the kind of work they have done in the past. However this is not a benefit provided by the workers’ compensation carrier under most circumstances.
An example of an injured worker who might benefit from vocational rehabilitation follows: a construction worker with a back injury who has a permanent lifting restriction of no more than 50 pounds would have a difficult time finding construction work within his restrictions. He would likely be laid off following discharge from treatment.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services administers a program to help facilitate reentry to the workforce. They can be reached at 609-292-5987 or http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/dvrs/DVRIndex.html. Benefits might include retraining, education, job-search assistance, interview coaching, counseling or Americans with Disability (ADA) reasonable-accommodation assistance. Often times the worker is eligible for unemployment benefits while in the program. There are also private vocational rehabilitation agencies that provide similar services; however, it is rare for workers’ compensation carriers to provide such services. In those instances, if there is credible medical evidence that rehabilitative services would be beneficial to the injured worker in order to improve the quality of his life, then rehabilitative services are permitted through an expansion of the definition of medical treatment. Judicial referrals are no longer utilized, however, injured workers may voluntarily avail themselves to the services.