A severe work injury—like a spinal injury or one that affects multiple body parts—may keep you from returning to work or prevent you from making the same money you did before the injury.
If that’s even a possibility, you’ve got to protect your rights to financial and medical benefits, such as permanent and total disability or wage loss, that are provided by workers’ comp. As you might expect, workers’ comp insurance companies fight these cases hard. Your lawyer may send you to a vocational consultant, an expert who can assess your ability to return to work and earn the same money.
The process used to create the vocational consultant’s report is called a vocational evaluation. Here’s how they work.
What to Expect During Your Vocational Evaluation
- Behind the scenes. The vocational consultant should review your medical records to get an idea of your injury, its treatment, and your current condition. Ideally, you don’t go for an evaluation until you’re at maximum medical improvement—and have even possibly been given a permanent impairment rating by your doctor.
- Your work history. To gauge what jobs you qualify for, the vocational consultant needs to know where you’ve worked, when, for how long, and what you did.
FREE POINTER: Think about this and write it down beforehand so you don’t have to remember years of past jobs at your meeting—while the consultant waits. We give our clients a chart to do this, right after hiring us, so it’s already done.
- Your education and training. This impacts the jobs you qualify for. Training can include things you’ve earned like commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), other licenses, and certifications.
- Work skills. One of the most important is computer skills, but the consultant should cover any skills you’ve developed, from running a cash register to operating complex machines.
- Your description of the injury and treatment. You can provide information records just can’t about what it felt like and what worked and didn’t work in treatment.
- Your description of your condition and physical limitations. While you may have already gotten a functional capacity evaluation [FCE], you can put a human face on how you feel and how it affects your life. Since this is often the most important part of your case, our clients get a tool to help them describe pain and restrictions in meaningful detail.
- Testing. Expect to be tested in basic math, spelling, and language skills. This could be in the form of the Wide Range Achievement Test.
A good vocational consultant generates a thorough report, which includes all the factors above plus specialized analysis to describe:
- A summary of your work skills, strengths or aptitude, and weaknesses.
- The work fields you’re suited to.
- Your physical demand work level. Often a determinative factor in the report, this conclusion is based on standards developed by the United States Department of Labor. The consultant should compare your limits to those standards.
Note: Often FCEs do this, but the consultant should do his own. We’ve had a case where the vocational consultant concluded our client could do less than what the FCE said.
- Conclusion. The report takes all aspects of the evaluation into account to reach a conclusion of what your work future looks like. It should describe the general occupational fields you qualify for and a range of how much you should expect to make.
So You’ve Got the Report. Now, What Do You Do With It?
You’ve got to have a skilled workers’ comp attorney you can trust to perform an independent review of the report, share it with you, and develop the best strategy for your settlement.
If you’re wondering whether you might need a vocational evaluation in your case, you need answers from someone who’s on your side. Our firm works to protect and provide for folks like you. Fill out our Get Help Now form at the top of this page or call 888-230-1841 for a free, no-pressure strategy session to give you peace of mind. You can also download our book The Hurt Worker's Toolkit to get valuable information to help you.