Vocational Rehabilitation is an important but often misunderstood part of the NC workers’ compensation system. So, to shed a little light on the role of vocational rehabilitation in NC workers’ comp cases, I am going to dedicate a series of blog posts to the topic. This first blog answers the basic question:

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

An important goal of the workers’ compensation system in North Carolina is to quickly return injured workers back to work as close to their pre-injury wage as practical. Ideally, the worker can return to full-time, full-duty work in his or her prior occupation. But often permanent restrictions related to the workplace injury make this impossible. In these situations, vocational rehabilitation, or “voc. rehab.,” can play an important role in helping the injured NC worker return to gainful employment.

Vocational rehabilitation in workers’ compensation claims is allowed and regulated by North Carolina General Statute § 97-32.2, and Subchapter 10C of the NCIC Rules for Utilization of Rehabilitation Professionals. Together these two provisions set the ground rules for voc. rehab. in North Carolina workers’ compensation claims.

Vocational Rehabilitation in NC workers’ comp cases includes a broad range of services designed to help return the employee to work in “suitable employment” or to provide education or training. “Suitable Employment” is a complicated concept in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law and will be discussed in depth in a later blog post.

Vocational rehabilitation efforts may include:

  • assessing an injured employee’s work qualifications, including skills, education and aptitude;
  • identifying factors that may impair a return to work, including physical and job skill imitations;
  • identifying skills, certifications or training that might improve the workers’ job prospects;
  • arranging for appropriate classes or training in the North Carolina community college or university systems;
  • providing job-search counseling and assistance in preparing a resume;
  • identifying suitable job opportunities in the job market and specific leads.

It is the job of the Vocational Rehabilitation professional to provide voc. rehab. services within the framework and rules of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Vocational Rehabilitation professionals must have specific credentials and be approved by the Industrial Commission. The qualifications and role of the Vocational Rehabilitation professional will be discussed in a later blog post.

Vocational rehabilitation should be a team effort involving the injured worker and his or her NC workers’ comp lawyer, the voc. rehab. professional, and the workers’ compensation insurance company. Ideally, all of these parties will work together to help the injured worker get back to work at a job he or she can do and that will offer financial support the worker for the foreseeable future.

Next:  When is Vocational Rehabilitation allowed in NC workers’ comp cases?

Kevin Bunn is a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney, located in Cary, NC, convenient to Raleigh, Fayetteville, Greenville, Durham and Greensboro. Kevin is a Board-Certified Specialist in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. Please call or email today for your free consultation.

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