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Virginia Vocational Rehab And Light Duty Work – The Pitfalls & How To Avoid Them


Being awarded workers’ compensation in Virginia isn’t all about receiving disability payments. Once your doctor releases you for light duty work, you will have to deal with either Vocational Rehabilitation (aka: voc rehab) or marketing your residual work capacity. What do these mean?  Here’s an overview of Virginia voc rehab, light duty work obligations, and what you should expect when dealing with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation services include:

  • Vocational evaluation (assessing the employee’s capacity to work)
  • Job counseling or coaching
  • Job placement
  • On-the-job training
  • Education and re-training.

In Virginia, vocational rehabilitation is provided by certified providers, typically a vocational rehabilitation counselor. After you are cleared for light duty work, a counselor may contact you about your initial appointment with them.

Why You May Need A Lawyer During Vocational Rehab in Virginia

On paper, vocational rehab seems helpful for you to get back to work. But the reality is that it is often a pitfall for workers’ compensation recipients.

Over our decades of service, we’ve seen how workers’ comp insurance companies take advantage of this process. Vocational rehab calls for the injured worker’s cooperation and adherence to guidelines. If an employee is seen as uncooperative, the insurance carrier will use this to stop their weekly pay entirely.

In reality, the vocational rehab counselor is hired by the insurance company itself. Our firm has seen too often how these providers care more about the worker’s non-compliance than helping them find a job.

If you are on an Open Award, you’ll want to be particularly cautious. An Open Award means you are receiving payments for an indefinite and continuing period. Vocational rehab is usually given while you are under Open Award and it means your employer does not have light duty work for you. Still, these payments can be terminated abruptly. All it takes is some hint of your ‘non-cooperation’ during voc rehab and the insurer or employer could use this to file an Application to Terminate Benefits.

Protect your rights by contacting a Virginia workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer can help ensure that you are compliant with vocational rehabilitation and that you don’t make damaging mistakes. Voc rehab is much more complicated than people realize. Choose an attorney who’s knowledgeable with the law and has first-hand experience in this area.

Marketing Your Residual Work Capacity

What if you’re not on an Open Award, and your employer has no light duty work available for you? In order to be entitled to benefits, workers in this situation are obligated to “market” their residual work capacity – that is, actively look for a job.

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has guidelines for you to follow in your job search. These include:

  • Showing evidence of reasonable effort. You must:
    • register with the Virginia Employment Commission
    • contact at least five potential employers per week, and
    • ask your pre-injury employer about available light duty jobs (if appropriate).

“Evidence of reasonable effort” is a combination of these three, not just any one of them.

  • Providing a job search record. Keep a record of the names and locations of employers you contacted, the date of your contact, the method of contact (in person, by phone, on the internet, and so on), and the outcome of the contact.
  • Attempting to maximize earnings. If you take up a job that pays less than your pre-injury employment, you must continue your search for a higher-earning job.

Injured employees often tell us, “I don’t know what other job I can do” or “No one will hire me.” This is always painful to hear, especially since we’ve seen firsthand the many physical restrictions after a workplace injury. It is hard to find a job when you have a lifting restriction of 10 lbs and a back injury.

Don’t give up your job search just because you don’t think anyone else will hire you. For you to be entitled to workers comp benefits, it doesn’t matter whether you get hired or not. The crucial thing is to show the Deputy Commissioner that you have made a good faith effort to look for work.

At the Slominski Law, we work closely with each of our injured clients so they are able to comply with job search guidelines, allowing their workers’ compensation to continue. The reality for injured Virginia workers is difficult enough – they deserve an attorney who listens to them and knows the law.

Contact Slominski Law

Your consultation with us at Slominski Law is free. We are ready to provide you with sound legal guidance on your light duty work situation. Call our Lynchburg office at (434) 205-9864, or our Roanoke office at (540) 858-8603.