If you have suffered a workplace injury and are unable to return to work, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services through the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. These services are voluntary but can be highly beneficial for injured employees looking to get back on the job. If your injury prevents you from successfully rejoining your original field, vocational rehab services can even cover postsecondary education to assist you in changing professions. If you believe you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, or you were offered rehab services and are curious about the next steps, this quick guide can help you make sense of your options.
What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation benefits, also known as return-to-work services, are a set of services meant to aid injured employees in getting back to work. Eligible claimants are assigned a court-certified vocational counselor, who evaluates and works with them to develop a return-to-work (RTW) plan. RTW plans are individualized to meet each claimant’s needs for successful reintegration into the workforce. Vocational rehabilitation services can include additional training, post-secondary education, and job-search counseling. Once you and your employer/their insurer are satisfied with your proposed RTW plan, your vocational counselor will submit the plan to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) for approval.
Who Is Eligible for Vocational Rehab in Nebraska?
Many workers’ comp claimants are eligible for return-to-work services in Nebraska. If you were injured on the job and are unable to return to the work you were doing prior, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits.
How Do I Apply for Vocational Rehabilitation?
Often, your employer and/or their insurer will offer you vocational rehabilitation services if you have been injured on the job. If you do not receive this offer, however, you can request these services through your employer, your employer’s insurer, or the Nebraska WCC’s Vocational Rehabilitation section.
What If There Is a Disagreement Regarding My RTW Plan?
You do not have to sign onto, or comply with, your counselor’s proposed RTW plan if you do not agree with it. If you, your employer/their insurer, or the Nebraska WCC would like to adjust your proposed RTW plan for any reason, you can discuss changes directly with your vocational counselor. If third-party mediation becomes necessary, you can request a court mediator to assist you with informal dispute resolution (IDR). You or your employer/their insurer may also file a petition with the Nebraska WCC, and a judge will approve or deny your RTW plan if your case goes to trial.
Who Pays for Vocational Rehabilitation?
If your RTW plan is approved by the Nebraska WCC and your employer/their insurer, most of your plan-related expenses will be covered. Your employer and their insurer will pay for your medical expenses and temporary disability benefits, and the Nebraska WCC trust fund will reimburse expenses related to mileage/transportation, housing, tuition, and school supplies. Costs related to childcare, clothing, and internet access, however, are not reimbursed.
Can I Accept or Decline Vocational Rehabilitation Services?
Vocational rehabilitation services are voluntary, but there are numerous benefits to participating, including an assisted transition back into the workplace. If you need to switch professional fields due to your injury, vocational rehabilitation services can cover the additional training or schooling you might need to do so. There are no settlement-related benefits to declining these services—waiving vocational rehab will not result in a higher payout. In fact, claimants who do not cooperate with vocational rehabilitation services may receive lower compensation for their workers’ compensation claim, so participating is highly encouraged.
For short answers to other frequently asked questions, visit the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court website. If you have case-specific questions or need help navigating your vocational rehabilitation services, we recommend consulting an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. To learn more about Dyer Law’s approach to workers’ compensation, visit https://dyer.law/practice-areas/workers-compensation/ or call (402) 393-7529 to schedule your free consultation.