Health Care

Understanding Vocational Rehabilitation in North Carolina

Vocational Rehabilitation

Understanding Vocational Rehabilitation in North Carolina

When an employer has accepted liability for an employee’s injury at work, the employer may initiate vocational rehabilitation services at any point during the claim. When an employer has accepted liability for an employee’s injury at work, if the employee has not returned to work or has returned to work earning less than 75 percent of his or her average weekly wages, the employee may request vocational rehabilitation services. In both of these instances, the employer is responsible for paying said vocational rehabilitation services.

North Carolina Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorneys from Cardinal Law Partners have helped clients address these issues in their extensive years of practice.

Who Provides Vocational Rehabilitative Services?

Vocational rehabilitation services shall be provided by either a qualified or conditional rehabilitation professional who is approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Unless the parties mutually agree to a vocational rehabilitation professional, the employer may make the initial decision. At any point during the vocational rehabilitation process, either party may request that the Industrial Commission order a change of vocational rehabilitation professionals.

What do Vocational Rehabilitation Services Involve?

Vocational rehabilitation services shall include a vocational assessment and the formulation of an individualized written rehabilitation plan. The goal is to substantially increase the employee’s wage-earning capacity.

When performing a vocational assessment, the vocational rehabilitation professional should evaluate:

  • The employee’s medical and vocational circumstances
  • The employee’s expectations and specific requests for vocational training
  • Benefits expected from vocational services
  • Other information significant to the employee’s employment potential

The assessment should also involve a face-to-face interview between the employee and the vocational rehabilitation professional to identify the specific type and sequence of appropriate services. If the vocational rehabilitation professional determines that the employee will not benefit from vocational rehabilitation services, the employer may terminate said services unless the Commission orders otherwise.

Following the initial assessment, and after receiving input from the employee, the vocational rehabilitation professional shall draft an individualized written rehabilitation plan. The plan should be individually tailored to the employee based on his or her education, skills, experience, and aptitudes. Additionally, there should be appropriate recommendations for vocational services such as appropriate retraining, education, or job placement. The plan may be changed or updated by mutual consent at any time during the rehabilitation process.

Specific vocational rehabilitation services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Vocational assessment
  • Vocational exploration
  • Sheltered workshop
  • Community-supported employment training
  • Counseling
  • Job analysis, job modification, job development, and placement
  • Labor market survey
  • Vocational or psychometric testing
  • Analysis of transferable skills
  • Work adjustment counseling
  • Job seeking skills training
  • On-the-job training or education through North Carolina community college or university systems

Vocational rehabilitation services may be terminated by agreement of the parties or by order of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

Job placement activities may commence after the completion of an individualized written rehabilitation plan. Return-to-work options should be considered, with priority given to returning the employee to suitable employment with the current or new employer. If needed, the employee may undergo additional formal education or vocational training.

Are Vocational Rehabilitation Services Mandatory?

Employees who refuse to accept or cooperate with vocational rehabilitation services will be barred by the North Carolina Industrial Commission; the employee will not be compensated until such refusal ceases. This rule doesn’t change unless the opinion of the Industrial Commission the circumstances justified the refusal.

If you or a family member has any questions about vocational rehabilitation issues involving your Workers’ Compensation claim, contact Cardinal Law Partners’ Workers’ Compensation attorneys today. Our team is experienced in handling all areas of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and will help you navigate your way through your case in North Carolina and the surrounding areas. Call 833-444-4257 to contact us today!