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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS about Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Injured Worker in Maryland

A brief overview of the new procedures and associated forms can be found here: Link to Instructions.

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational Rehabilitation is a workers' compensation benefit that provides a disabled covered employee who cannot return to his former job as a result of work-related injury assistance in re-entering the workforce.  A specialist in vocational rehabilitation provides services that may include testing, job placement, vocational counseling, on the job training and retraining to the injured worker to enable them to return to work.

Am I a candidate for vocational rehabilitation?
You may be a candidate for vocational rehabilitation if your injury prevents you from returning to the occupation you held at the time of the injury.  Discuss your need for vocational rehabilitation with your attorney.  If you do not have an attorney you can discuss it with your insurance claim representative.  If they all agree you need rehabilitation you will be assigned to a vocational rehabilitation counselor.  It is important that you first have approval from the insurer or Commission to receive rehabilitation services.  If the insurer has refused to provide vocational rehabilitation services, you or your attorney may request a hearing before a Commissioner who will decide if the services are appropriate.

What happens if I need vocational rehabilitation?
In Maryland there are both public (Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services - DORS) and private rehabilitation counselors. Maryland Law requires registration for all private practitioners serving injured workers and you may request a copy of the registration if you are assigned to work with a private provider. DORS is a recognized provider but exempt from the practitioner registration requirement; however, DORS will work with eligible Maryland residents. Your attorney may select DORS or a private counselor to provide vocational rehabilitation services. It is important that you advise the DORS counselor that you have a Workers' Compensation claim. The DORS counselor must inform the Commission that DORS is working with you.

Step One Interview with the counselor.
The counselor will take a complete history of your background, physical limitations and other information such as your prior work experience, hobbies and personal interests that might affect your employability.
Step Two -  Development of Plan and Goals.
The counselor will create a customized plan with specific goals tailored to your individual needs.
Step Three -  Obtain agreement.
All parties must agree that the plan and goals are acceptable or the matter will be presented to a Commissioner for a determination as to the appropriateness of the plan.
Step Four Action.
After the parties have agreed to the plan and the plan has been submitted and approved by the Commission, with the counselor's assistance you will begin to pursue job leads or training.

When am I entitled to training?
If it appears that there are no suitable jobs available in the local job market in which you may become gainfully employed you may be a candidate for retraining. If retraining is recommended and approved there is a maximum of two years. This does not mean you will always receive two years of training, your approved course may require a shorter time period to complete.

 What alternatives will be explored before it is decided that I am a candidate for retraining?
Typically, the counselor will begin the rehabilitation process by determining whether you can return to your former employer with modified duties or in a different job. If this is not feasible, other forms of job placement may be attempted in positions for which you have transferable skills. If the job search proves to be unsuccessful your counselor may then begin to develop a training plan.

 Is the counselor required to find a job making the same amount of money that I made at the time of my injury?
The goal is to try to match you with a salary as close as possible to your current wage, but this may be difficult to achieve in some cases. For example, you may have been employed on your former job for several years and may have received pay based on seniority and other benefits. It may be difficult to achieve this benefit level in a position in which you have just recently become trained.

 What documentation do I need to show that I am a candidate for vocational rehabilitation?
A current medical report indicating that you are unable to return to your former job duties is necessary before you may request vocational rehabilitation.

 Can I pick my own school or develop my own rehabilitation plan?
You may already have an interest in a specific type of alternate employment or you may have selected a school that you would like to attend. The fact that you have thought about your interests is a positive factor. However, you must work through a professional rehabilitation counselor to develop a final rehabilitation plan.

 Will I get paid during rehabilitation services?
If you are referred for rehabilitation services you are entitled to receive Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits at your Temporary Total Disability rate as long as you actively cooperate in the rehabilitation process.