I was just sharing some war stories on line with other claimants attorneys about our experiences with particular vocational rehabilitation counselors. There is no question that some counselors do a poor job of assisting injured workers with realistic and fair plans for returning the injured worker to work. However, the injured worker can make the best of the vocational rehab experience by doing the following:
1. Be sure you understand the rules.
During your first meeting with your voc rehab counselor, you will learn that you only have 60 days to decide and present a retraining plan to the adjuster. Make sure you know when that 60 days ends.
Your case is assigned to the voc rehab counselor, and your 60 days is running when neither you nor your counselor knows the length of a retraining program that can be authorized. Nor will you or your counselor know how much a minimum lump sum buy-out will be. Most injured workers won't get the results of their permanent partial disability rating when they must start working with a voc rehab counselor. (The percentage of impairment from the PPD rating determines whether you get 9, 12, or 18 months of retraining, and it will determine how much the minimum voc rehab lump sum buy-out will be.) You must still use this time to investigate whether you will want a retraining program, or whether you will accept money and find yourself another job.
2. Keep your expectations realistic.
The voc rehab counselor is paid by the insurer. If the counselor doesn't please your adjuster, the counselor won't continue to have a job. However, good counselors have integrity and will try to do what is right for the injured worker. Your counselor isn't going to advocate for you like your attorney.
if your vocational test results show that you have no math skills, don't expect the counselor to support your desire to be an accountant. There are many limitations that may apply to you, such as the length of a program that can be authorized for your impairment percentage, your own work experience, your aptitudes for particular programs, whether a program actually exists in Nevada, whether you have had criminal convictions that prevent particular employment, your physical limitations, and your chances for employment when you complete the program.
3. You want the counselor to want to help you.
If you miss your appointment with your counselor, or you are disrespectful, then don't expect your counselor to go the extra mile to help you. Some claimants don't really want to go to school, and they frustrate and waste the time of the counselor by not initially opting for a buy-out instead of a program.
When you simply cannot stand your counselor, you may ask for a new counselor, but understand that you have no legal right to have a different counselor assigned to your claim. Listen to what the counselor recommends for you, and research the training programs yourself instead of depending on the counselor to find a new career for you.
--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office