Workers’ Compensation: What is Retraining?

Retraining is a formal course of study in a school setting that is designed to train an employee to return to suitable gainful employment. Retraining is different from other forms vocational rehab assistance in that when an injured worker is granted retraining, they are also entitled to compensation while participating in an approved program.

When an injured worker is precluded from returning to their pre-injury job due to a work injury, they will likely be assigned a qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC). A QRC is assigned to help the injured worker with job search and even provide assistance in acquiring new skills. The QRC serves as a neutral party on a workers’ compensation claim to make sure the job search is consistent with the injured workers’ restrictions and if pursuing additional training, to make sure the injured worker is capable of the pursued additional training. If the injury is significant enough where the injured worker will likely never be able to return to their old job, the topic of retraining will likely come up with the QRC. The QRC will first put the injured worker through a series of testing to see what the person’s interests are. The QRC will then put the injured worker through some aptitude testing to see if the person would be capable to complete the program. If these first two tasks are promising, the QRC will then put together what’s called a Labor Market Survey (LMS) to see what types of jobs are available in the area with the potential retraining and what the pay would be. After all of this is completed, it will then be delivered to the workers’ compensation insurer to determine whether or not they will approve the retraining plan. If they don’t, then it will be sorted out in a rehab conference, where a rehab specialist will hear both sides and issue a decision.

Retraining plans are almost always contested. There are four factors commonly associated with a retraining plan. The first is the reasonableness of retraining compared to the employee’s return to work with the employer or through job placement activities. In order to satisfy this prong it must be proven that the injured worker will not be able to go back to their date of injury position or that job search will be unsuccessful. This is often the case when a worker who has a physically demanding job that paid well is given permanent work restrictions that no longer allow that person to perform their old job.

The second factor is the likelihood the employee will succeed in the formal schooling program. That is why the aptitude testing is very important to see whether or not the injured worker has the capability to complete a formal schooling program. The injured workers’ determination to complete the schooling is also essential. It’s no easy task for a 40 year old who has been out of school for 20 years to all of a sudden return to school.

The third and fourth factors are that the retraining plan will produce a job and that it will produce an economic status as close as possible to that which the employee would have had without the work injury. This is easily the most contested area of each retraining plan. That is why it is also very important that the injured worker and QRC work together on putting together the retraining plan. The labor market survey is important here, but it also requires the injured worker to do their own research to find jobs available with the newly acquired retraining.

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