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The goal of "Vocational Rehabilitation" is to get injured employees back to work as soon as possible. Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1226(B) states:

B. (1) The goal of rehabilitation services is to return a disabled worker to work, with a minimum of retraining, as soon as possible after an injury occurs. The first appropriate option among the following must be chosen for the worker:

(a) Return to the same position.

(b) Return to a modified position.

(c) Return to a related occupation suited to the claimant's education and marketable skills.

(d) On-the-job training.

(e) Short-term retraining program (less than twenty-six weeks).

(f) Long-term retraining program (more than twenty-six weeks but not more than one year).

(g) Self-employment.

As you read the law, a few very important points and questions about Vocational Rehabilitation become obvious:

  • The primary goal of the system is to send injured people back to work as fast as possible.
  • You are very unlikely to obtain any educational or training assistance to help you qualify for a new job or a job in a new field. 
  • The law states that return to work options "must be chosen for the worker." Who decides what type of work you're able to do? Who decides what type of work you're interested in doing? Who decides if you will need to change careers, obtain accommodations for a disability or work even though you're in pain? Who will be making these decisions "for the worker?" Exactly what type of "rehabilitation" are you going to receive?

More than a decade ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court clearly laid out the responsibilities of the employer and insurance company for "Vocational Rehabilitation" in Louisiana Workers Compensation claims:

[A]n employer can discharge its burden 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. All of this can be proven without the cooperation or participation of the employee.

Actual job placement is not required. Banks v. Industrial Roofing, 96-C-2840.

The assistance of a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert can be an excellent asset in helping a person with a disability find a job. But in a Louisiana Workers Compensation claim, the Vocational Rehabilitation Expert's  primary role is to provide testimony as an expert witness for the insurance company in an attempt to convince the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation Court that the injured employee can return to work. The Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance company selects, hires, manages and pays the Vocational Expert to perform the tasks described by the Louisiana Supreme Court in the quote above.

If you are contacted by a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert, this usually means that the Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance company is preparing to reduce or stop your benefits. The Vocational Rehabilitation Expert will attempt to minimize the amount of benefits that you receive by assisting the Workers Compensation insurance company in identifying jobs that they will allege are available within your physical restrictions and general geographic area. This may happen even through your treating physician says you are still unable to go back to work.

Your contact with a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert can be one of the most important parts of your Workers' Compensation claim. Handled poorly, it may result in:

  • the poisoning of your relationships with your doctors.
  • the termination or drastic reduction of your benefits.
  • the termination of your pre-injury job and no new job offers.
  • loss of the opportunity to reach a fair settlement of your claim.

On the other hand, handled correctly, your contact with a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert may result in:

  • continuation of your disability benefits until your claim is settled or you return to work.
  • genuine assistance with finding a satisfactory new job even though you may have a long-term disability.
  • a fair and prompt settlement of your case. 
In practice, in the vast majority of Louisiana Workers Compensation claims, "Vocational Rehabilitation" simply means that the Vocational Expert hired by the Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance company will prepare and provide you with "Labor Market Survey."

The first stop on the path to a completed Labor Market Survey is for your treating doctor, or the insurance company doctor, to send you to a Functional Capacity Evaluation.

Next: Functional Capacity Evaluations


David Buie, Louisiana Workers Compensation Attorney and Social Security Disability Attorney, 650 Poydras Street, Suite 1400, New Orleans, LA 70131, (800) 851-9405 / Fax: (866) 702-5297 Representing claimants in:
Alexandria Baton Rouge Bossier City Covington Gretna
Hammond Harahan Harvey Houma Kenner Lafayette Lake Charles
Laplace Marrero Metairie Monroe New Iberia New Orleans
Opelousas Ruston Shreveport Slidell Terrytown

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