In most Illinois worker’ compensation cases, you get hurt at work, get medical care, eventually get better and return to your old job.
In some cases though, you don’t get better or your best is no longer good enough to allow you to do your old job. When you have permanent restrictions and your employer can’t cover them, you aren’t just kicked to the curb.
In a situation like this, you can either look for a job on your own (and while you do so you should continue to receive TTD benefits although at that point it’s called maintenance) or if you need assistance in finding a job or maximizing your earning potential, you can ask for vocational rehabilitation.
Vocational rehabilitation or voc rehab is the process in which a professional helps you in looking for work and figuring out what you can do for work. Let’s say you’ve been a heavy duty laborer for 25 years and have a high school degree. You blew out your back at work and now can’t lift more than 10 pounds. That prevents you from doing any job that you used to do in the past. You go from making $80,000 a year to now only finding minimum wage jobs.
A voc rehab counselor would help you in many ways: 1. They would help you prepare a resume which you likely have never had to do. 2. They would seek out jobs for you. 3. They would conduct practice interviews with you and give you job search tips. 4. They can arrange interviews for you. 5. They can suggest re-training that you’d be qualified for.
So if you did end up with a severe lifting restriction, but were in your 40’s, maybe you’ve had an interest in computers and could go back to school to learn graphic design or how to run an IT department. It could be something that you’ve never thought of before, but if it’s realistic for you, the insurance company could be required to pay for your re-training which would include continuing your benefits until you are back to being employed.
So how do you find a voc rehab counselor?
I wrote this blog because I’ve seen a handful of cases where the insurance company or their attorney is picking the person who does voc rehab for the injured worker. This is typically happening in cases where the worker does not have a lawyer or has a bad one.
Under Illinois law, just as you can choose your own doctor, you can choose your own voc rehab counselor. And just as you would want an independent doctor who is looking out for you, not a hired gun of the insurance company, you want the person who helps you with your job search to have your best interests at heart as well.
Of course finding one isn’t like finding a doctor where you can just Google it and read reviews. This is really where a good attorney comes in. You want a voc counselor that is credible, understands Illinois workers’ compensation law, has experience, understands medicine, has testified in court and is not seen as biased. If your lawyer hasn’t handled thousands of work comp cases they likely wouldn’t have a good handle on who to recommend that you work with.
The importance of getting this right can literally mean the difference of a case worth $50,000 and a case worth $500,000.00. The insurance company doesn’t have to show that you got a job, they have to show that either you didn’t cooperate (they say that a lot even when it’s not true) or that you can earn some magical number that limits their costs even if you can’t find a job making that much.
As always, if you have any questions about this process, we help with work injuries anywhere in Illinois. You can contact us for a free consultation with an attorney at (312) 346-5578.