and Vocational Rehabilitation
An occupational injury is any injury that occurs while in the course of one’s employment. Types of injuries that occur while working can range from cuts and sprains to amputations and fractures. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2003 sprains and strains, usually involving the back, accounted for 43 % percent of the 1.3 million injuries or illnesses in private industry that necessitated recuperation away from work beyond the day of the incident.
Because of the risk of these injuries, employers obtain workers compensation insurance that provides medical care for the injured worker in exchange for relinquishment of the worker’s right to sue his or her employer for negligence. This insurance covers workers’ injuries while on the job whether at their place of employment or working off-site. Under this insurance, the injured worker is provided with medical care and receives payments in place of wages, if he or she is unable to work for a period of time.
Just as most injured workers look forward to recovering and returning to his or her pre-injury position, the same goal is pursued by their employer and the physicians involved in their evaluation and treatment. Vocational rehabilitation functions best when all parties are working towards the goal of returning the injured worker to his or her past position in a timely matter.
While most occupational injuries allow the worker to continue in his or her pre-injury occupation, the extent of some of these injuries precludes the worker from returning to their prior position. It is with these extensive occupational injuries, where an injured worker is unable to return to work that they previously performed, that vocational rehabilitation services should be a consideration.
The first step in these services is a Vocational Evaluation which can assist the injured worker in identifying his or her vocational interests, skills and best mode for learning. These results are then compared to their post-injury physical capacities, as indicated by their physician, to come up with occupations that would be appropriate. A Vocational Evaluation can be used as the basis for a plan leading to re-employment, or it can be used as expert testimony in the injured workers’ claim to assist an Administrative Law or Civil Judge determine the extent of disability for settlement purposes.
A Rehabilitation Plan has as its goal the re-employment of the injured worker. This can be realized through academic training, vocational technical training, on-the job training or direct placement. An individualized rehabilitation plan takes the injured worker’s vocational strengths and deficits, and with their participation, uses these to recommend the best avenue for success in obtaining future employment.
Working in partnership with a vocational rehabilitation counselor, the injured worker can begin moving forward in his or her vocational future.