Today’s article focuses on vocational rehabilitation and retraining. I often get phone calls or have initial consultations involving injured workers who have no idea that they are entitled to rehabilitation services. Often times the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will not provide a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) unless the injured worker specifically requests one. As such, I think it is important to shed some light on a very important concept of workers’ compensation.
When I get involved in a file, many of my clients are very skeptical of the role of a QRC and who’s “side” he or she is on. It’s important to understand that QRC’s are neutral on a workers’ compensation file, they do not advocate for either side. Their primary role is to assist the injured worker return to employment, either with their date of injury employer or another employer. In achieving this goal, QRC’s will attend medical visits with injured workers. Many of my clients feel uncomfortable when the QRC shows up to their medical appointments, but their presence is very important. The reason QRC’s attend medical appointments is to make sure the doctor is aware of the injured worker’s job duties and if the work injury hinders these job duties, that the doctor provides the appropriate work restrictions. As I have written about in the past, work restrictions are vital in a workers’ compensation file, so that’s why it’s important to have the QRC attend these medical appointments.
Another very important role of the QRC is job placement. When an injured worker is given work restrictions, it is the responsibility of the worker to find a job consistent with those restrictions. This can be a difficult task when the date of injury employer will not accommodate those restrictions. Some of my clients have been with the same employer for many years, so now being tasked with finding a different job that may be in a different line of work can be overwhelming. In these situations, the QRC takes the lead and assists the worker in looking for employment that is consistent with the work restrictions and is also in line with the interests of the worker. A QRC will often have the injured worker go through aptitude and career testing to better assist the injured worker find suitable employment.
When the injured worker’s injury is serious enough to produce permanent restrictions that preclude he/she from returning to the date of injury employer, then the QRC may also assist in retraining. Retraining is the term used in workers’ compensation for the injured worker getting additional education and skills that will make them more employable. The QRC’s role in retraining is to help guide the injured worker to the appropriate line of work that is both consistent with the permanent restrictions and will produce a wage similar to what they were making when they were injured. In doing so, the QRC puts together a Retraining Plan and submits it to the workers’ compensation adjuster for approval. If the Retraining Plan gets denied, an attorney often steps in to advocate for the injured worker in getting the Retraining Plan approved.
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