Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC)
Vocational Rehabilitation FAQs
The Frequently Asked Questions below were created to assist injured workers in obtaining a general understanding of the vocational rehabilitation services available under the Longshore program. However, this guidance is general in nature and for specific answers to questions concerning provision of services in a particular case, please contact your Longshore district office and ask to speak to the Rehabilitant Specialist. Visit the Contact Us section of our website for the phone numbers for our district offices.
Questions and Answers about the Longshore Vocational Rehabilitation
- What is the goal of vocational rehabilitation?
- What services are provided?
- Can you help me get back to work with my previous employer?
- Who is eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services?
- Can DOL provide rehab services before I reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) if my doctor has told me to consider alternative employment?
- What if I have a permanent disability but I'm not currently receiving compensation payments because I have received a settlement instead?
- Am I eligible for vocational rehabilitation services if I can only work part-time?
- My doctor said I need additional medical treatment or surgery before I can return to work, but my Employer/Insurance Carrier is denying those requests. What can I do?
- Who pays the cost for vocational rehabilitation services?
- How does an injured worker obtain vocational rehabilitation services?
- If I don't participate when vocational rehabilitation services are first offered, can I ask at a later date?
- Will I be required to participate in DOL sponsored vocational rehabilitation?
- Do I get to choose my own career goal?
- How long will I be in vocational rehabilitation?
- What type of training will I receive?
- Is there a limit with regard to how much the training program can cost?
- Can I go to college?
- Can I start my own business?
- Can OWCP pay for my relocation to a more viable job market?
- What If problems arise during my rehabilitation program?
- What are injured workers are expected to do?
- What will the assigned Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor do?
- What will the Longshore Claims Examiner do?
- How will vocational rehabilitation affect my compensation benefits?
- Will I receive any monetary assistance while participating in an approved vocational rehabilitation plan?
- What if the Employer/Insurance Carrier stops paying me?
- What if I can't find another job paying the same salary that I earned prior to the injury?
The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help you return to work as quickly as possible, to a job compatible with the work restrictions provided by your physician, with pay as close as possible to your pre-injury wages.
- Communication with your previous employer to determine if there is alternative work available within your restrictions;
- A vocational evaluation, which may include testing, to determine your abilities, aptitudes, and interests;
- Development of a resume based on your work history and transferrable skills;
- A vocational rehabilitation counselor's recommendation for a return-to-work plan designed to return you to successful employment; and
- Other vocational services such as job development and placement with a new employer, redesign of jobs, or limited training.
The first option in designing a vocational rehabilitation plan is always to get you back to work with your previous employer as quickly as possible. This lessens the need for training or other services and helps you continue your career with your previous employer. However, even though reemployment with the previous employer is our first option, we cannot force your previous employer to offer you a position. If you are unable to return to work with your previous employer, a return-to-work plan aimed at a placement with a new employer will be considered.
You are eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services if:
- You are an injured worker in receipt of compensation payments (or will likely be in receipt of compensation payments) as a result of a work-related disability,
- You are unable to return to your regular job due to some remaining permanent disability, and
- There are appropriate return-to-work opportunities in your commuting area.
Typically vocational rehabilitation services are not offered until you have reached maximum medical improvement and the evidence supports that you can no longer perform your regular job due to permanent medical restrictions stemming from the work injury.
However, on a case by case basis, vocational rehabilitation services may be considered before you reach maximum medical improvement if your physician has released you to work and the medical evidence indicates that a permanent disability that would prevent you from performing your regular job is likely.
If you have a permanent disability that would prevent you from performing your regular job, you still may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services even if you received a settlement. However, you must be able to support yourself financially during the vocational rehabilitation process.
Vocational rehabilitation based on part-time work restrictions is considered on a case by case basis.
Any claims or medical issues should be discussed with your Longshore Claims Examiner. Visit the Contact Us section of our website for the phone number of your district office.
Vocational rehabilitation services are FREE to the injured worker. Costs are covered by the Longshore Special Fund.
You, or your attorney, may ask for services by contacting the Longshore Claims Examiner in your district office. For a list of phone numbers, visit the Contact Us section of our website. Also, your employer or insurance carrier, may refer you for vocational rehabilitation if you will be unable to return to your previous job due to your work injury.
As long as you are still eligible to receive services (see question #4), you may inquire again at a later date.
No. Participation in DOL sponsored vocational rehabilitation in the Longshore program is entirely voluntary.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Plan
You, in coordination with your vocational rehabilitation counselor, will explore realistic career goals in your local labor market within your medical restrictions based on results of vocational testing, your work history, etc. to determine what types of jobs are best suited for you.
It depends on the type of program and/or training approved and whether placement is pursued with your previous employer or a new employer.
Retraining is not automatic. When developing a return-to-work plan in conjunction with your counselor, it will be determined whether training is necessary for you to obtain employment. Training may be considered if placement with your previous employer is not possible and there is an increased ability to earn significantly higher wages with training.
Costs are limited to the usual and customary fees in your locale. OWCP also tries to use public training facilities.
Training plans are usually short-term; therefore, college programs are usually not considered.
Starting a business is a high-risk activity and continued income cannot be assured; therefore, your rehabilitation counselor will consider placement opportunities in existing businesses in the community, with and without training.
No. OWCP will not pay for moving expenses.
Issues can usually be resolved through your assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor. If they are not resolved on that level, you may contact the Claims Examiner in the district office for assistance.
Roles and Responsibilities during Vocational Rehabilitation
- Cooperate fully in any necessary testing and evaluations,
- Collaborate with the vocational rehabilitation counselor to formulate a viable and realistic return-to-work plan,
- Seek and accept work that is within your physical restrictions and in line with your education and work experience, and
- Be flexible with regard to adjustments that may be necessary in order to accept a different job offered by your previous employer.
- Provide vocational counseling and testing to identify your skills and abilities,
- In conjunction with you, develop a return-to-work plan for job placement based on your work restrictions, aptitudes, skills, vocational interests, and job market, and
- Assist you with job placement with a new employer if you are unable to return to work with your previous employer.
- Seek to ensure that you receive timely compensation payments and appropriate medical treatment, and
- Work to resolve disputes among the parties to the claim in order to increase your chance of successful rehabilitation.
Compensation Benefits DURING Vocational Rehabilitation
Your compensation benefits should not be affected by participating in a vocational rehabilitation plan.
A small amount not exceed $25 per week may be payable for expenses incurred as a result of approved vocational rehabilitation activities.
This should not happen simply as the result of your participation in the program. However, if it does, contact your Longshore Claims Examiner. Visit the Contact Us section of our website for the phone number of your district office.
Compensation Benefits AFTER Vocational Rehabilitation
Depending on the circumstances of your particular case and in particular whether you are currently receiving disability compensation, you may be entitled to a partial wage loss benefit. This determination, however, depends on the status and circumstances of your particular case. Contact your Longshore Claims Examiner for more information. Visit the Contact Us section of our website for the phone number of your district office.