Every now and then you will hear a story on the news about some state that repealed some crazy law. Or you learn about some ridiculous sounding law that is never enforced. For example, in Illinois it’s illegal to possess more than $600 worth of salamanders. Raise your hand if you know anyone who has ever been arrested for that. In Texas, it used to be illegal to milk your neighbor’s cow.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission generally enforces all of the provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. But there is one law that injured workers and employers for whatever reason choose to ignore.
Under Illinois law, you are entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits if your work injury causes a reduction and your earning power and there is evidence that vocational assistance will increase your ability to earn more. You typically prove this by showing that you can’t go back to your old job and a job search has lead you to find either no jobs or ones that pay you less than you’d earn in your old job. If you don’t look for work on your own, you likely won’t get this benefit and will reduce the value of your case. This law is heavily followed and enforced.
What isn’t followed is a law that says when you miss more than 365 days the employer must provide a written vocational assessment that addresses the medical care you’ve had and if appropriate, what rehabilitation you need in order to get back to work. That could include ordering voc rehab for you which generally allows you to choose a person who can help you with resume, job search, etc. at no cost to you. It can even include paying for you to go back to school if that is appropriate.
I’m not saying this never happens. What I am saying is that I just read a court case about this being enforced because it didn’t happen. It’s the first time in my 23 years in practice that I can recall reading about this benefit being an issue in a case. And I almost never see a copy of these reports because it almost never happens. Why? Because generally speaking it doesn’t really change much. Every now and then you’ll see some insurance company that does this either because they think they have a novel strategy or someone actually knows the law, but it’s really rare.
There might be times when it’s a good strategy for you to consider enforcing this rule. It’s usually when you want voc rehab but it’s been denied. Otherwise, if you’ve been off work for over a year and are getting benefits, I’d probably just chill and work out what you need to do to protect yourself with your lawyer. There is no need to draw attention to your case by asking for this report as it may make their defense of your claim more aggressive than normal.