Failure To Comply With Vocational Rehabilitation

Failure To Comply With Vocational Rehabilitation Could Lead To Loss Of Compensation

May 9, 2013 at 3:14 -- Christina Hill

We give you these examples of injured workers doing dumb things in the hopes that it’ll discourage you from doing likewise.  As we’ve said time and time before, you have to comply with vocational rehabilitation.  If you don’t the insurance company will do everything they can to stop your benefits.  After all, the primary reason we’ve found that they even pay for voc rehab is to set you up so you won’t comply.  Don’t fall for this trap like the claimant did in Miguel Nix v. Tappan Contracting and Stonewood Insurance Company.


On April 11, 2013, the Full Commission entered an Opinion and Award suspending the disability compensation of Mr. Nix.  After reading the Opinion and Award, we see why.  See, Mr. Nix fell off a ladder on February 8, 2007 and hurt his back pretty bad.  He was in his mid-30’s at the time.  He eventually required surgery, which improved his condition.  He had an FCE in January of 2008.  It showed that he was capable of medium level work.  He was eventually assigned permanent work restrictions of no lifting more than 40 pounds.  Because of his permanent restrictions, his employer couldn’t take him back so the insurance company started him on vocational rehabilitation in March of 2008.


When voc rehab started, Mr. Nix was 36 years old.  He had a high school diploma.  He was bilingual and had certifications in forklift driving, and computer literacy.  There were a lot of jobs he could do if he wanted to.


The vocational rehabilitation specialist initially assigned to this case testified that Mr. Nix didn’t look for work or cooperate with the voc process.  Knowing this voc rehab specialist, this testimony doesn’t surprise us.  Still, the facts of the case show that Mr. Nix failed to communicate with him, always had transportation issues, and failed to apply for jobs that were suitable for him.  Because of these actions, the Executive Secretary’s office entered an Order on October 31, 2008 requiring Mr. Nix to cooperate with vocational efforts.


Eventually, the first vocational rehab specialist was removed and another one assigned.  Following this new assignment though, he still failed to cooperate with voc rehab.  Specifically, according to the evidence presented, he would cooperate for a while hen allege transportation and communication problems as the basis for his failure to cooperate.  He said he wouldn’t look for work more than 30 miles from his home even though the law doesn’t require that short of a distance on job search.  He refused to go to job fairs at the Employment Security Commission.   He’d fail to follow up in a timely manner on job leads he received from Job Link and from Employment Security Commission counselors. He failed to perform various assigned weekly vocational rehabilitation tasks, despite being reminded, on numerous occasions.

Based on these facts, the Full Commission found that Mr. Nix demonstrated a pattern of failing to comply with vocational rehabilitation and willfully refusing to accept rehabilitative services.  They found that his conduct demonstrated that he had not made a reasonable effort to search for suitable employment.  As such, they found that he couldn’t prove that he was incapable of working in any employment.  Therefore, since he couldn’t prove that he was disabled he was no longer entitled to disability compensation and they cut his benefits off.


As you can imagine, this was a terrible result for the claimant in this case but one he apparently brought on himself.  What makes matters worse is that even if he starts complying with vocational rehabilitation now, he’ll still have to go through the entire hearing process, which will probably take more than a year, to get his checks turned back on.


As we’ve said before, please comply with vocational rehab.  If you think you’re not being treated fairly during that process, call a Board Certified Specialist in workers’ comp.  They can help you through the process and better explain to you your rights and obligations.

This article was written by Chip Permar

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Todd Oxner is a founder and managing partner who is known statewide for his success in handling workers' compensation claims. He is a Board-Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation. Learn more
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Chip Permar is one of the founding and managing partners of Oxner + Permar, PLLC. He is a Board-Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation. Learn more
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