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If you have been injured in the workplace and sustained a permanent disability that prevents you from returning to the job, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation (VR) benefits. This article defines vocational rehabilitation and explains how it relates to workers’ compensation and personal injury law. 

Key Takeaways

  • Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is a federally-funded program helping people with disabilities prepare for, find, and keep a job.
  • VR is used by workers who have sustained a permanent injury in the workplace that prevents them from being able to continue on in the same career.
  • Employers of workers in this situation are required to pay out VR as part of workers’ compensation in addition to other disability benefits. 

What Is Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)?

Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is a U.S. Department of Education-funded program that helps people with physical, psychiatric, and learning disabilities prepare for, find, and keep a job. 

To qualify for VR services, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that presents a substantial barrier to employment
  • Be able to benefit from VR services to achieve employment
  • Need VR services to prepare for, get, keep, or regain a job

Note that individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are automatically considered eligible for VR unless they are too disabled to benefit.

VR offers a number of services including:

  • Counseling and guidance
  • Interest and aptitude testing
  • Job placement assistance
  • Diagnostic evaluations
  • College or vocational training
  • Assistive and/or rehabilitation technology
  • School to work
  • Employer consultation
  • Communication access services such as ASL interpreters, oral transliterators, and Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART)

The exact nature of any individual’s vocational rehabilitation will depend on their injury, the accident, the type of work they were previously doing, and the employment opportunities available to them.

In order to apply for vocational rehabilitation services, you must contact your local office. They will be able to explain the exact process for applying. It will most likely involve submitting a written application. Decisions are made within 60 days of applying. 

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in Personal Injury Law

Vocational rehabilitation is a benefit offered to workers who are injured in the workplace and are permanently disabled such that they cannot return to the same job afterward.  For example, if a circus performer falls during a show and sustains a back injury that stops them from being able to continue working in the circus industry, VR can help them choose, train for, and find a new job. 

In this type of situation, the circus company where the individual was previously employed would be required to pay for the VR under workers’ compensation. This is in addition to, not instead of, compensation for medical expenses, lost time from work, and disability benefits. Note that this is only the case if the injury was caused by a work-related accident. 

It is highly recommended to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your workers’ compensation claim, especially if it involves permanent disability and vocational rehabilitation. They will be able to help you determine your eligibility, guide you through the application process, and improve your chances of getting your VR covered in addition to your other workers’ compensation benefits.

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