The Injured Worker's Rights under Vocational Rehabilitation in Louisiana Workers Compensation
Under Louisiana law, an injured employee is entitled to prompt vocational rehabilitation services when he or she suffers an injury which precludes him or her from earning wages equal to those earned prior to the injury and, prior to the workers' compensation judge adjudicating the employee to be permanently and totally disabled, the workers' compensation judge determines that there is reasonable probability, with appropriate training or education, that the employee may be rehabilitated to the extent that such employee can achieve suitable gainful employment and that it is in the best interest of such individual to undertake such training or education.
Additionally, the Louisiana Workforce Commission for the Department of Labor has identified the following worker's rights in the vocational rehabilitation process:
- The right to apply for vocational rehabilitation services.
- The right to be treated with respect.
- The right to be evaluated fairly and completely to have eligibility determined.
- The right to receive a determination of eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services within 60 days of application or agree to extend this period of time.
- The right to know why the worker is considered ineligible for services.
- The right to be referred to other agencies and facilities as appropriate.
- The right to appeal any decision or denial of vocational rehabilitation service through either an administrative review and/or a fair hearing.
- The right to receive an explanation of the help available through the Client Assistance Program (CAP).
- The right to receive an assessment of the worker's need for post-employment services.
Confidentiality in Vocational Rehabilitation
Under Louisiana law, an injured employee is also entitled to confidentiality during the vocational rehabilitation process.
Confidentially is extremely important during the vocational rehabilitation process, because the injured employee will be expected to provide extensive detailed personal information to the vocational rehabilitation counselor in order to evaluate the employee's disability, determine the employee's eligibility, and plan the employee's vocational rehabilitation program.
Therefore, a consent to release the information must be signed by the employee before any of this important detailed confidential information can be shared with any other individuals, agencies, or companies.
The Worker's Responsibilities for Vocational Rehabilitation in Louisiana Workers Compensation
The Louisiana Workforce Commission for the Department of Labor has identified the following worker's responsibilities in the vocational rehabilitation process, under which an injured employee should:
- Take an active part in planning and making decisions.
- Ask questions anytime if something is not understand .
- Stay in regular contact with the people working with the employee.
- Follow through with all the agreed upon activities.
- Keep the vocational rehabilitation counselor advised of anything that changes one's ability to complete a vocational rehabilitation program.
- Ask the vocational rehabilitation counselor for any help needed during any part of the vocational rehabilitation program.
- Actively seek employment when job ready.
- Tell the vocational rehabilitation counselor when employment is achieved.
- Ensure that the vocational rehabilitation plan developed by the employee and the vocational rehabilitation counselor meets the employee's needs.
The Insurance Company's Responsibilities for Vocational Rehabilitation in Louisiana Workers Compensation
A workers compensation insurance company is required under Louisiana law to provide vocational rehabilitation services.
However, vocational rehab is almost always used to the detriment of the employee, not the the benefit of the employee, because vocational rehabilitation is used as a means to reduce or eliminate an employee's indemnity (or lost wages) benefits.
Specifically, Louisiana law has determined that a workers compensation insurance company can reduce or eliminate an employee's lost wage benefits, while meeting its responsibilities, simply by establishing the existence of a job within claimant's physical capabilities and within claimant's or the employer's community or reasonable geographic region, the amount of wages that an employee with claimant's experience and training can expect to earn in that job, and an actual position available for that particular job at the time that the claimant received notification of the job's existence.
So all of this can be proven without the cooperation or participation of the employee, and actual job placement is totally unnecessary.
Essentially, if the employee's doctor releases the employee to work with restrictions (such as light duty), the insurer will appoint a vocational rehabilitation counselor (or "vocational rehabilitation specialist") to conduct a Labor Market Survey, and in some cases a Functional Capacity Evaluation, to identify jobs within the area that actually available and that are a match with the employee's skills and present physical ability (as per the doctor's written restrictions).
Unfortunately, it does not matter if the employee receives the new recommended job, or if the job recommended is not very reliable, or if the job recommended requires more experience than the employee has, or if the job recommended requires physical demands that are too hard on the employee.
The workers compensation insurance company has still met its responsibilities under Louisiana law to provide vocational rehabilitation services and can legally reduce or eliminate the employee's lost wages benefits.