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Is vocational rehabilitation available to injured workers?

In North Carolina, both employers and employees can engage vocational rehabilitation services in the context of a workers' compensation claim. Following a workplace injury or illness, if the employee has not returned to work or has returned to work and is earning less than seventy-five percent of the employee's average weekly wages while receiving benefits for partial incapacity, the employee is able to request vocational rehabilitation services which can include education and retraining.

Vocational rehabilitation services typically include a vocational assessment and preparation of a personalized written rehabilitation plan. The goal of the rehabilitation plan is to increase the employee's wage-earning capacity. An approved rehabilitation professional will perform the assessment and can be selected by the employer. If the rehabilitation professional determines that the employee will not benefit from vocational rehabilitation services, the employer can terminate the services. In addition, the vocational rehabilitation professional can be changed for good cause at the request of either the employee or employer. The services can also be terminated by agreement of the employee and employer or if the Industrial Commission orders termination of the services.

Additional vocational rehabilitation services include vocational counseling; education; on-the-job training; analysis and testing for transferable skills; job search assistance and job placement assistance; resume assistance; interview coaching; and assistive technology. Following the development of a rehabilitation plan, job placement services can begin. Priority is given first to returning the employee to work for the same employer, then to a return to work with a new employer or to education and vocational training for suitable employment with either the current employer or a new employer.

Refusing to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation services can prevent the employee from receiving further compensation. Injured workers should ensure they are familiar with the number of different options available to them, as well as their rights and obligations following a workplace accident.

Source: www.ic.nc.gov, "Article, 1 Workers' Compensation Act, Section 97-32.2. Vocational rehabilitation," Accessed Aug. 3, 2015

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