Tag Archives: Vocational Rehabilitation

Who is going to hire me with restrictions?

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Injured workers who are looking to return to work with work restrictions after an extended time of healing from an injury face some problems in returning to work. In many cases the injured worker has been off work well beyond any time covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and or any leave of absence policy, so they are unable to return to their old job assuming they could do their old job.

Workers in this situation often ask “Who is going to hire me with restrictions?” It’s a legitimate question. Here a few do’s and don’ts from my experience as a lawyer representing injured workers.

Do: Work with vocational rehabilitation

Nebraska offers vocational rehabilitation, VR for short, as part of our workers’ compensation act. Sometimes vocational rehabilitation can mean an injured worker gets paid their so-called temporary total disability rate while they go to school. More often this means a vocational counselor helps an injured worker look for work while they are receiving those benefits. VR is the Rodney Dangerfield of workers’ compensation benefits – it often gets no respect – but it can be very helpful for injured workers. It’s also not a benefit that an insurance company will often voluntarily offer to an injured worker like medical benefits or temporary disability pay.

Nebraska also offers vocational rehabilitation through our state department of education. That fact confuses a lot of my clients when I talk about VR through workers’ compensation. But if an injured worker has settled their workers’ compensation case or is fighting their workers’ compensation case, they can use VR through the state department of education to help return to work

Don’t: Assume no one will hire you

Disability discrimination is real. That’s why there is the Americans with Disabilities Act and parallel state laws. Under the ADA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a qualified employee with a disability who can do a job with or without reasonable accommodations.

What that does that last sentence mean?. In plain terms, this means that so long as you meet most of the qualifications of the job, an employer or perspective employer should work with you to make minor tweaks to a job. Sometimes this means using a stool to avoid standing. Sometimes this means using a cart to avoid heavy carrying or lifting.

In practical terms, Nebraska employers claim there is a shortage of workers. I think business interests overstate this concern for political reasons, but as the job market has improved employers seems more willing to take chances on employees.

Don’t: Fail to disclose your restrictions or injury if asked by a new employer post-hire

In order for an employee to accommodate restrictions from an old injury, they need to know about the restrictions. While an employer can’t ask you about a disability pre-hire, they can ask about a disability post-hire so long if it is job related. The “Who is going to hire me with restrictions” line can get a worker into trouble if they don’t disclose they have some restrictions to certain body parts. Again, an employer needs to work with you to some extent on accommodating an old injury,

Failing to disclose an old injury can also make it more difficult to make a workers’ compensation claim if an injury with a new employer worsens an old injury. It can also be grounds to deny a workers’ compensation claim entirely. Failing to disclose an old injury can potentially be grounds for termination for dishonesty on employment application.

Don’t: Tell anyone who isn’t your lawyer or a family member that “No one is going to hire me with restrictions.”

Going back to the “Who’s going to hire me with restrictions?” It’s a legitimate question. But if an injured worker is still fighting a workers’ compensation claim, that statement said to the wrong person can hurt a claim.

Who is the wrong person? Anyone who isn’t a family member or your lawyer.

When a vocational rehabilitation counselor, doctor, insurance company lawyer, insurance adjuster or mediator hears “Who is going to hire me with restrictions?”  they tend to think. “This person doesn’t want to work” and or “This person isn’t hurt as bad as they think they are.”

Why do they think that way? If you work on the insurance-side of workers’ compensation for an extended length of time, I think you tend to perceive cases from that perspective. Lawyers and doctors and other professionals look at work differently. Many professionals tend to live to work rather than work to live. I believe that professional class people glamorize blue collar labor and tend to get nostalgic about blue collar or service jobs they did when they were younger. Professional class people also tend to consume media geared towards professional class people that tends to cover the workplace from the perspective of business.

But regardless of why professionals involved in workers’ compensation case think this way, those professionals have a lot of influence over the value of an injured workers’ compensation claim. Injured workers need to be careful about how they communicate with these professionals.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , .

What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation and what does it mean for a workers’ compensation claim?

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A functional capacity evaluation, or FCE for short, is a test that is usually conducted by a physical therapist that tests your physical abilities. They are common in workers’ compensation claims that involve surgeries or extended courses of treatment. So why are injured workers asked to perform functional capacity evaluations:

Injured worker is done treating and medically stable: Usually a doctor will order a functional capacity when the injured worker is medically stable. Sometimes the term “maximum medical improvement” or MMI is used in conjunction with an order for an FCE. MMI is as much a legal determination as it a medical determination. But when an injured worker is at the point of an FCE, the insurer likely believes or would like to believe the claim is close to finished.

Determining restrictions for return to work, permanent disability and vocational rehabilitation. FCE results are given almost total deference by workers’ comp bureaucrats like adjusters and case managers. HR managers also rely on them to place injured workers back in employment. But the FCE is only an estimate. By law an employee can testify to the extent of their own restrictions and an employer has some reasonable obligation to work with those restrictions. A Judge can also rely on testimony from a worker about the extent of their own restrictions. The problems is that an employee may have to wait months before they can testify to their own restrictions and go without benefits and pay until then.

Restrictions from an FCE can also be used to determine permanent disability or vocational rehabilitation benefits. This should mean that at some point a vocational rehabilitation counselor should be involved in your case. Even if you have returned to work for the same employer, in many cases a counselor should be still he helping to determine your disability. Also even if you haven’t gone back to work and might have applied for or be receiving social security disability a counselor should be performing a loss of earning power evaluation in many cases. Often times an insurance company will attempt to close a case after an FCE.

Employers/Insurers may be trying to the validity of your work restrictions. FCEs are designed to see if an employee is giving full effort on the test. In many cases an FCE that is set up by employer/insurer harkens back to the old concept of “trial by ordeal” or “trial by battle” where success in a physical feat could prove guilt or innocence. In the case of a workers’ compensation claim success or failure in an FCE can go a long way towards determining the ultimate outcome of a workers’ compensation case.

Regardless of why an injured worker is being sent to an FCE, it is probably good idea for an injured worker to check-in with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for a free consultation if they are scheduled for an FCE. The attorneys at our firm can help injured employees navigate the trial by battle that an employer-scheduled FCE can be. We can also let you know what to expect after an FCE and help you overcome the consequences of a bad FCE.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in FCE, Nebraska, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , .

Workers’ Compensation Basics: What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

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Along with payment of medical bills, time off of work, and permanent injury benefits, Nebraska laws include a unique workers’ compensation benefit: vocational rehabilitation.

To understand how the vocational rehabilitation benefit works in Nebraska, one must understand that the primary purpose of workers’ compensation is to restore an injured worker to gainful employment.

In order to accomplish that purpose, the workers’ compensation laws provide guidance of the following priorities: 

  1. Return to the previous job with the same employer;
  2. Modification of the previous job with the same employer;
  3. A new job with the same employer;
  4. A job with a new employer; or
  5. A period of formal training that is designed to lead to employment in another career field.

The goal of “gainful employment” is to get the employee back to making equal or similar wages to what he or she was making at the time of the injury. As a result, sometimes an injured worker’s permanent restrictions (resulting from the work injury) are such that he or she cannot return to work in the previous job. Further, the employer may not be able to modify or give him or her a new job within those restrictions.

Thus, if the goal of “gainful employment” cannot be accomplished by numbers one through three above, a vocational-rehabilitation specialist may be appointed in order to provide vocational-rehabilitation services such as job placement, training, or even further education. The expenses of the aforementioned are covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund. During the time the injured worker is undergoing job placement, training, or education, he or she is entitled to temporary-disability benefits from the employer. This is a wonderful benefit, and some of our clients have even been able to go to college for a two-year or even four-year degree in order to return to the workforce and make similar or more money than they were making at the time of the accident and injury.

Today’s blog post is a part of a continuing series that explores the basics of workers’ compensation. Please read the previous blog posts in the series by clicking on these links, and be sure to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with questions:

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Comp Basics, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury and tagged , , .