A Maryland employee who sustains a work-related injury or develops an occupational disease is entitled to Workers’ Compensation. Most people think of Workers’ Compensation as consisting of payments that are a percent of the person’s average wages, as well as medical treatment.
In addition, vocational rehabilitation services are another important Workers’ Compensation benefit available to an eligible worker who cannot go back to his or her previous work.
Vocational rehabilitation services help the claimant return to work, but in a different capacity than that of the job held at the time of disability onset. A specialized vocational counselor is provided to the worker as part of the benefit.
Definition and scope
Maryland statute defines “vocational rehabilitation services” in Workers’ Compensation as “professional services reasonably necessary during or after or both during and after medical treatment to enable a disabled covered employee, as soon as practical, to secure suitable gainful employment.” The law lists nine different types of vocational services that may be available:
- Medical service coordination
- Vocational assessment
- Vocational rehabilitation planning
- Plan monitoring
- Job development
- Job placement
The counselor will assess whether the worker can return to the same employer in another capacity or with modifications to the old job. Should this be impossible, the counselor will determine whether jobs with other employers are available using work skills the claimant already possesses, including an actual job search.
If this is not successful, retraining may be appropriate. Normally, if the counselor recommends retraining, two years is the maximum amount of time retraining may be provided.
During rehabilitation services, the covered employee is entitled to payments as if the “employee was temporarily totally disabled.”
To request vocational services, the worker should get a current medical statement that he or she cannot return to the former job. If a claimant’s request is denied, he or she may ask for a hearing.
It is smart to discuss the need for vocational rehabilitation with a Workers’ Compensation attorney who can explain the services and assess the need for and type of services that will be helpful. A lawyer can help make the request, advocate for eligibility and request a hearing if necessary. At the hearing, legal counsel will present the claimant’s case as to why rehabilitation services are necessary.