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What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?

December 13, 2017By Niko Pothitakis

The goal for most injured workers is a healthy and expedient return to work. The majority of work injuries require only some time off, and employees are able to get back on the job after recovery.

Unfortunately for some workers, their injuries or illnesses leave them with some lingering limitations, making it difficult or even impossible to resume their previous position. They may be unsure of what to do. Can they perform their old job with modifications? Will they have to seek a new type of employment? Will it be possible to find employment with their new disability? The answers to these questions may depend on a number of factors, including the employer, the type of restrictions, the nature of the job, and much more. To help those disabled workers address these issues and return to work, the state of Iowa offers vocational rehabilitation services.

Vocational Rehabilitation Assists Workers With Limitations Get to Work

Vocational rehabilitation is a program that helps workers with physical or mental disabilities both find and maintain employment. The goal of this type of rehabilitation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is to help workers:

  • Return to work as quickly as possible.
  • Find a job appropriate for the work restrictions named by their physicians.
  • Obtain income as close as possible to their earnings before the injury or illness.

The Iowa vocational rehabilitation program is state-federal program, and it is among the most successful in the country. A recent study ranked the state sixth in the nation for workers with disabilities; there are over 180,000 disabled workers in the workforce. This figure represents about 47 percent of all people with disabilities in Iowa.

Types of Services Provided Through Vocational Rehabilitation

A vocational rehabilitation program can provide a wide variety of services to support those trying to get back into the workforce. Every case is unique, and the types of services necessary depend on the circumstances of each individual. Common interventions include:

  • Facilitation of communication with former employer to explore a return to previous work
  • Evaluation to determine interests, aptitude, and abilities
  • Assistive technology and devices
  • Résumé development
  • Job training
  • Interview skills and techniques training
  • Job search assistance
  • Education and tuition payments for job training
  • Career counseling
  • Assistance with accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Formation of a return-to-work plan

Typically, the most desirable option for getting back to work is returning to your former position with the same employer. Vocational rehabilitation can help facilitate this as much as possible through counseling and modifications. If that option fails, rehabilitation will help explore new opportunities.

Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Iowa

Injured workers are entitled to vocational rehabilitation as part of their workers’ compensation benefits, as long as they meet certain criteria. In Iowa, an individual must:

  • Be an injured worker receiving compensation payments (or have received a lump sum settlement in some cases).
  • Be unable to return to his job as before due to some lasting disability.
  • Have appropriate return-to-work options in his local area.

Usually, the worker must also have reached maximum medical improvement as determined by a treating physician before beginning a vocational rehabilitation program, though there are some exceptions.

Compensation During the Rehabilitation Period

While a disabled worker is working with vocational rehabilitation services, he is receiving some type of available Iowa workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to those payments, the worker could be entitled to an additional $100 per week for up to 13 weeks. The payments may be extended in some cases. The vocational rehabilitation program itself is typically free of cost to the injured worker, or it can be obtained for a minimal charge.

If you or someone you love has suffered a work injury that has left you with a lasting disability, you may need assistance getting back to work. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team is here to help you obtain the information, skills, and tools you need to be successful. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more.