Vocational retraining is often a part of workers' compensation claims. It's designed for your benefit, to help you replace your earnings capacity when your injury prevents you from going back to your old line of work. However, if you do or say the wrong thing when dealing with a vocational rehabilitation counselor, you can put your workers' comp benefits in serious jeopardy. Keep these things in mind:
1.) The vocational rehabilitation counselor works for the insurance company.
While the vocational rehabilitation counselor is supposed to be there to help you find a new line of work, the reality is that he or she works for the insurance company that's paying your workers' comp benefits. If the counselor decides that you aren't cooperating well enough with the program, they can and will stop your check.
2.) You need to be careful what you say to the vocational rehabilitation counselor.
Do a lot of listening and as little talking as possible when you meet with the vocational counselor. Remember that everything that you say to the counselor will be written down and reported back to the insurance company. If you make a remark like, "I don't want to work at a job that's paying minimum wage," or "I don't see the point in applying for that job because I know that my injury makes it impossible for me to do it," the vocational counselor may try to use that as evidence that you are refusing to cooperate or are unwilling to seek available work.
3.) You do not have to lie on your job applications or hide your disability.
Some vocational rehabilitation counselors encourage people on workers' comp to apply for jobs that they know they aren't able to do or to suggest that workers not tell potential employers about any disabilities. If you have a permanent back injury that prevents you from kneeling and bending on a regular basis, you wouldn't be qualified for a job stocking shelves. If your vocational counselor insists that you apply anyway, you cannot be forced to hide your physical limitations in order to get the job. Keep a record of every job application you submit and whether or not you would be qualified for the job based on your physical limitations. If you were told why you weren't hired, make a note. If the vocational counselor tries to insist that you aren't being cooperative, you will be able to show a detailed record of your efforts.
4.) You should let your lawyer handle any disputes that arise instead of handling them yourself.
The vocational counselor is supposed to help you find suitable employment -- not send you out looking for any job that's available. You also shouldn't be required to look outside of your local area. If the vocational counselor starts handing you the job ads from the paper and instructing you to apply to all the positions, don't argue about the pointlessness of it. No matter how wrong your vocational counselor is, go to the interviews if requested and give your attorney a call. Explain the situation to your attorney and let your attorney begin the process of enforcing your rights. By handling it that way, you avoid giving the vocational counselor any excuse to terminate your benefits for non-compliance in the meantime.
For more information, contact Hardee and Hardee LLP or a similar firm.