Vocational Rehabilitation in Mississippi
In Mississippi, you have the right to seek workers’ compensation after suffering from an injury or developing an illness while at work. One aspect of workers’ compensation that people often overlook is vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is the process in which an employee receives retraining and education after suffering from an illness or injury.
Additional occupational training is often necessary for those who have suffered from an injury or illness because they may never be able to fully recover physically or mentally. If they cannot perform their previous job or occupation due to their injury or illness, an employee could undergo vocational rehabilitation to qualify for a new job.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that injured or ill employees do not need to prove that someone caused their affliction. Injured or ill employees can seek compensation for medical bills and lost wages, and they may qualify for vocational rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, employees are often deceived or taken advantage of during the workers’ compensation process. Employers and insurance companies often look for ways to deny or underpay claims, and they’ll look for a reason to cut off benefits. When you’re notified by the workers’ compensation insurance company that you can start receiving vocational rehabilitation, that likely means that you’ll soon stop receiving full or partial benefits.
If your benefits are being cut short by the insurance company prematurely, you need workers’ compensation legal assistance. Workers’ compensation lawyers can help you with your workers’ compensation claim and fight for your benefits if they’re underpaid, denied, or cut short. For expert Mississippi workers’ compensation attorneys, contact Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC. Our lawyers have years of experience helping Mississippi residents receive the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve for their injuries or illnesses. Call our Jackson office at 601-488-3975 or click here to schedule a free case evaluation.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Eligibility in Mississippi
Mississippi vocational rehabilitation can include vocational evaluation, educational assistance, counseling, guidance, and job training and placement.
The overall amount of compensation you can expect to receive for vocational rehabilitation is on a case-by-case basis. The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission states in Rules 2.19 (e) that:
(e) “The amount of additional compensation awarded to be used for vocational rehabilitation purposes will be determined by the recommendation of Vocational Rehabilitation Division setting out the contemplated program of training needed and the necessary cost thereof, and shall be awarded only after the injured has been accepted for training. The employer and carrier shall report all cases not within the purview of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Act where an employee needs vocational rehabilitation services.”
The Mississippi Rehabilitation Department determines which candidates will likely benefit from receiving rehabilitation services. Once the Rehabilitation Department reviews your case and determines that you’ll benefit from the services, they will refer you to the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS). The MDRS then assigns a nearby vocational rehabilitation counselor to your case.
If you’re denied vocational rehabilitation, you or your lawyer can request to present your case to the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. From there, the Commissioner determines whether you qualify for vocational rehabilitation.
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors in Mississippi
Vocational rehabilitation counselors work with injured employees and their primary physicians to find new employment. Counselors meet with injured employees to discuss physical and/or mental limitations and their remaining skills and abilities. They evaluate injured employees and discuss the possibility of additional training and education as well as technology offers assistance. They will also discuss future employment opportunities.
During the evaluation stage, counselors will likely:
- Test your capacity to perform tasks
- Evaluate your cognitive abilities for reasoning, collaborating with others, and following instructions
- Investigate the current job market based on worker’s current skill sets and limitations
- Evaluate the job market if the injured employee acquires new skills
- Create a plan for the employee which may include onsite education, vocational learning, and classroom learning
- Look into the worker’s access to transportation for their education and training
- Whether the employee needs technological assistance, such as a wheelchair
- Medical needs and limitations of the injured employee, such as the inability to stand for extended periods or perform physical tasks
Mississippi Vocational Rehabilitation Process
Some of the services that you can expect to receive if you undergo vocational rehabilitation include training and testing, vocational counseling, onsite training or retraining, and job placement.
Workers’ compensation usually covers two years of vocational rehabilitation, but there are instances in which injured employees need to pay for part of their vocational rehabilitation.
Issues and Benefits of Vocational Rehabilitation
Insurance companies are required to offer vocational rehabilitation benefits for those who can’t return to their previous place of employment after an injury. Unfortunately, insurance companies often use vocational rehabilitation to end wage loss benefits prematurely.
Although you can continue earning lost wages during the rehabilitation process (which we discuss in greater detail below), the idea of vocational rehabilitation is to get an injured employee back to work as quickly as possible so that insurance companies don’t need to continue paying for lost wages. In an ideal world, only those ready to return to some form of work would go through vocational rehabilitation, but rehabilitation counselors often insist that workers are ready to return to work despite their need for additional recovery.
Additionally, vocational rehabilitation counselors may try to convince you to perform a job that you’re not qualified for and doesn’t match your skillset. They may also not offer beneficial training options. It’s important to remember that vocational rehabilitation counselors usually don’t have your best interest at heart.
Their main job is to get you back to work, even if it’s not a favorable employment situation. The main aim of vocational rehabilitation is to get you off of workers’ compensation lost wages benefits. If you feel that your workers’ compensation insurance company is trying to cut your claim benefits short, contact seasoned Mississippi workers’ compensation attorneys.
Although undergoing vocational rehabilitation likely means that the workers’ compensation insurance company is attempting to put an end to your lost wages benefits, you can potentially earn more if you go through the process. Vocational rehabilitation is supposed to assist you with obtaining a job that pays equal to or around the same amount of compensation you received before your injury or illness.
Workers’ compensation wage loss benefits only cover ⅔ of the wages you received before your injury or illness, so you’ll likely earn more if you’re able to rehabilitate safely and return to work. Plus, impaired employees can only receive wage loss benefits for a maximum of 450 weeks in Mississippi, so vocational rehabilitation may be a better long-term option.
How to Protect Yourself During Vocational Rehabilitation
As we’ve discussed, vocational rehabilitation can be potentially very beneficial, but it could also be detrimental to your recovery. Your vocational rehabilitation counselor may only be interested in saving the workers’ compensation insurance company money. Take these critical steps in order to protect yourself while undergoing vocational rehabilitation:
- Maintain consistent communication with both your vocational rehabilitation counselor and your doctor.
- Talk to your treating physician about your job limitations.
- Ensure that your doctor and counselor communicate with one another about your physical or mental limitations.
- Have your doctor approve jobs suggested by your counselor.
- Hire a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Am I Required to Undergo Vocational Rehabilitation in Mississippi?
Injured or ill employees who receive workers’ compensation benefits are required to undergo vocational rehabilitation when it’s offered. Otherwise, they could lose partial workers’ compensation benefits.
Can I Receive Wage Loss Benefits While Receiving Vocational Rehabilitation?
You can continue receiving wage loss benefits while undergoing vocational rehabilitation. If vocational rehabilitation leads to employment that compensates you the same amount as your pre-injury or illness employment, you’ll no longer qualify for lost wages benefits.
If you start working a position that pays less than your pre-injury or illness salary, you could continue receiving wage loss benefits called supplemental earnings benefits. Lost wages or supplemental earnings benefits only cover ⅔ of your pre-injury or illness earnings. In the event that you work a new job that pays less, you can receive ⅔ of the difference between the compensation of your old job and your new job.
Call a Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation and vocational rehabilitation are complex processes, and workers’ compensation benefits often go unpaid, underpaid, or cut short by insurance companies. Additionally, vocational rehabilitation counselors may only be interested in getting you off of wage loss benefits rather than helping you rehabilitate.
They are paid by insurance companies, so they’ll often side with the workers’ compensation insurance companies. Don’t let unscrupulous employers, insurance companies, and vocational rehabilitation counselors take advantage of you — contact expert workers’ compensation attorneys today.