Vocational retraining restores earning capacity in an injured worker. Workers compensation retraining benefits are intended to help the injured worker replace his earning capacity after a work-related injury. The goal of the Wisconsin workers’ compensation law is to rehabilitate the injured worker. Worker’s compensation benefits are not dollar for dollar wage replacement benefits. Worker’s compensation temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits are a percentage wage loss replacement. Many injured workers use TTD and PPD benefits to get back on their feet and return to the workforce within the doctor’s permanent work restrictions. For younger injured workers, the law is designed to encourage retraining.
The first step in retraining is for the injured worker to take the doctor’s permanent work restrictions to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or DVR. At DVR a counselor will interview the injured worker, discuss vocational options, perhaps administer some testing and then make a rehabilitation plan with the injured worker. Rehabilitation plans typically involve two years of schooling but can go to four years or more depending on how much retraining is necessary to restore an injured worker’s earning capacity. For example, a young high school educated construction worker earning $29 an hour, gets seriously injured on the job resulting in a two level lumbar fusion and receives doctor’s restrictions preventing him from lifting over 25 lbs. and from any repetitive bending, twisting or turning. A vocational evaluation determines that the jobs he is now capable of doing pay $15 an hour or less. A DVR plan will be developed with the end goal of retraining the injured worker so he or she is able to earn close to the $29 he made as a construction worker.
Schooling is not for everyone. In the case of a non-scheduled low back or neck injury, loss of earning capacity benefits are another option and many injured workers with a lumbar or cervical injury do not go the retraining route. They prefer to recover the maximum LOEC claim they can and then retrain or rehabilitate their earning capacity on their own.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys get the best results for vocational retraining or rehabilitation by reviewing the doctor’s permanent work restrictions and then having the injured worker see a DVR counselor or private vocational counselor. For a rehabilitation plan to have success, it is important that the worker have an honest interest in retraining and a realistic, achievable vocational goal. A retraining claim includes tuition, books, meals, mileage, and TTD pay while going to school. In some cases, we determine the value of a retraining claim and use the estimate to gain a lump sum settlement for top dollar.