Most people who are hurt at work intend to return to their jobs as soon as their injuries heal. However, employees who have suffered permanent disability may never be able to go back to the careers or income level they once had. Fortunately, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) oversees a job retraining program to help injured workers in Massachusetts rejoin the workforce. Retraining after a work injury

Workers’ Comp Job Retraining for Injured Workers

If your work injury has caused permanent functional limitations that make it difficult or impossible to return to your job, you may apply for vocational rehabilitation with the Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation Services (OEVR). The OEVR will evaluate whether you are a good candidate for retraining and whether your workers’ compensation insurer could be liable for the costs. If approved, you may receive up to 140 weeks of vocational rehabilitation services programs.

The Goal of Vocational Retraining

  • To work at the same job with the same employer. The OEVR will attempt to place employees in the same position whenever possible. This may include changing the job description, offloading some of the employee’s previous duties, or modifying the employee’s workplace to allow for greater accessibility.
  • To work in a new position with the same employer. If the employee cannot return to their previous job, OEVR will focus on placing them in a new position with the same employer. This may include authorizing the insurer to pay for assistive devices (such as artificial limbs or mechanical wheelchairs) or allowing remote work to accommodate a physical disability.
  • To work at a different job with a new employer. If no amount of modifications can return the worker to their previous employer, OEVR will attempt to locate the employee to a different position with an alternative employer. In this case, rehabilitation may include special classes, certification programs, or allowing a disabled worker to complete a degree to work in an entirely different occupation.

Who Qualifies for Vocational Rehabilitation?

You may have an easier time getting job retraining if your workers’ compensation insurance company is currently paying benefits and you have reached a state of maximum medical improvement. You must also have suffered an injury that has caused persistent or irreversible limitations such as amputation of a finger or limb, spinal cord injury, hand or wrist injuries with tendon damage, a traumatic brain injury, or loss of vision or hearing.

If you submit a request for vocational retraining, the DIA will contact you to set up a meeting with a vocational counselor. The counselor will create a report with their findings and send it to the DIA. If approved, a vocational counselor will be assigned to your case, and your workers’ comp insurance company will be billed for the service.

Determining if Rehab Services Are Right for You

  • Medical records
  • English language skills
  • Educational background
  • Employment history
  • Age

If you fail to attend the vocational rehabilitation services meeting, you could be putting your benefits at risk. Similarly, if you’re approved for the program but refuse to participate, your benefits may be terminated or reduced by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.

Our MA Workers’ Comp Attorneys Can Help You Rejoin the Workforce

It’s not uncommon for an injured worker to fight to get reimbursement for job retraining. An insurance company may be unwilling to pay for vocational rehabilitation, even if it increases the chances that a claimant will return to work.

If you’re thinking about returning to work but are afraid of risking your benefits, the workers’ compensation attorneys at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP can help. Please contact us online, or call 508-879-3500 to schedule a free case evaluation.