The Defense Base Act and Vocational Rehabilitation
If you are a seriously injured overseas civilian contractor, then you probably find yourself in a whole new world. You need to make sure you understand that everything you do, can have ramifications on your Defense Base Act case.
Vocational rehabilitation is one of the these areas that you need to understand, before you make any decisions in this regard. I suggest that you read this entire article, before you do anything. There is a lot going on at many different levels in regards to the DBA and vocational rehabilitation.
“I am going to tell you the brutal, frank, truth - no matter what - even if it isn’t what you want to hear.”
Defense Base Act Lawyer - Bill Turley
What Do Injured Overseas Civilian Contractors Need to Know About DBA Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation is a common term used to describe any program that helps an injured worker qualify for a job or change career paths. Most programs aim to place workers as quickly as possible into careers that offer similar wages as their previous employment. Depending on the program, workers can receive occupational assessments, work skills tests and training, career counseling, job placement, and modifications in the worker’s previous job that allows the employee to be rehired.
Again, there is a lot going on here, I suggest that you read this entire article.
In this article I answer questions regarding DBA vocational rehab questions including:
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Who pays for my job retraining?
The Special Fund allows DBA workers to receive vocational rehabilitation free of charge, and some employers or company insurers may also offer similar vocational services.
Can I choose the program?
Since the government absorbs the costs of these programs, you must choose a federally sponsored vocational rehabilitation program in order to enjoy the free benefit.
Are these programs mandatory?
While vocational rehabilitation is voluntary, your employer or insurer can request that a vocational rehabilitation counselor evaluate your injuries and abilities in order to determine what types of jobs you could reasonably perform. If you are found to be employable in a sustainable job, your compensation could be reduced. I will talk more about this later in this article - but this is important.
Can I be forced to participate in vocational rehabilitation?
No. Your participation is Department of Labor vocational rehabilitation voluntary. But, if the DBA insurance company asks that you be evaluated by a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and they determine that you could do some other job, then your weekly compensation benefits could be reduced.
Make sure you see my discussion of all of this at the end of this article. (It's important).
Will I have to give up my disability benefits? ...Can I receive free job training and continue to collect disability while I'm doing it?
You can still receive your disability compensation for the duration of the program, and can collect your total benefits if attending vocational retraining sessions prevents you from working.
Who is eligible for free vocational rehabilitation through the DBA?
These services are available to any DBA employee who has a work injury that prevents him or her from returning to the job held before injury. It will be up to the Office of Workers’ Compensation programs (OWCP) to determine whether or not a worker may benefit from these programs, but usually workers who have some degree of lifelong disability are accepted.
There are many ways a worker can enter into vocational rehabilitation. Once your doctor determines that you will be unable to perform your previous job duties, both you and your previous employer can request an evaluation for retraining services from the OWCP. To learn more about your options after a work injury, look through our free book, DBA Resource Guide.
How do I participate in the Department of Labor OWCP vocational rehabilitation program?
You, your attorney or the insurance carrier can request that the OWCP evaluate you for vocational rehabilitation services. Usually, this will occur after your doctor says that you are unable to return to your usual and customary employment as an overseas civilian contractor.
What do I need to know about vocational rehabilitation and my Defense Base Act case?
If you have a scheduled injury, then getting vocational rehabilitation will not affect your DBA case. If you have an unscheduled injury, then vocational rehabilitation may affect your DBA case. This is because with an unscheduled injury under the Defense Base Act, your permanent disability benefits/ money is based upon a wage loss concept. I suggest that you also read this article on Labor Market Surveys.
If you don't understand the difference between scheduled injuries and unscheduled injuries and about the wage loss concept, I suggest that you make sure you check out the articles I put links in in the previous paragraph and then come back to this discussion.
How does the psychology of being injured fit into all of this?
For many people, going from working and making a living for you and your family to being injured can be trying. Based on what I have seen over the years, if possible, getting back to work helps this whole feeling.
There is a lot to be said about getting back to work.
So here is the issue on several levels. On one level, having to find a new career or a new line of work or even a new job can be stressful, even when you're not injured. If you're still receiving DBA weekly disability benefits, it's much easy.
Let's assume that you are still receiving weekly disability benefits for a moment.
On one level, you have a DBA case and it is based on a wage loss concept (make sure you read this article). On the other hand there is a lot to be said for you getting back to work and being a productive member of society.
It's a trade off. However, you have to understand that you're weekly disability benefits may be reduced based upon your wage earning capacity as demonstrated by your going back to work.
Why should I be working when my DBA case goes to trial?
If you are physically and mentally able to work, when you're Defense Base Act case goes to trial - you should be working. To start with, Judges usually want to help people that are trying to help themselves. So, you working, shows that you're trying to help yourself.
In most cases the DBA insurance company is going to attack your credibility. They are going to say that you're either faking your injury, your disability, you're trying to milk the system or all of the above.
By working, trying to actually get on with your life, you're helping to show that none of this is true about you.
What should I be doing in regards to working?
Again, you need to read the article on Labor Market Surveys. Putting aside all of the evidence of the insurance company having to show specific jobs that you can do, I suggest that you need to show the Judge that you've actually looked for work. If you're not working when you have you're trial, you need to demonstrate that it's either because you can't work (this is very few people); that you have a job, or that you've really been looking to find a job.
Why shouldn't I think that the jobs that I can be hired for are somehow beneath me?
Some people may be inclined to think that they have made really good money before as an overseas civilian contractor (and maybe been in the military before that); and think that they can't do job that pays quite a bit lower. That somehow that is beneath them. I know. This is where the whole psychology of being injured comes in.
While I fully understand that feeling, you need to be working. If the only jobs that you can find to that will hire you are lower paying jobs, that sort of proves the point that you have a substantial loss of wage earning capacity.
You need to be working on several levels. From feeling good about yourself. To helping you interact with your family and friends. After all. It is my guess that most of your friends and/or relatives are working.
Should I also be thinking about settling my Defense Base Act case, or at least the potential of settlement?
Yes. You should also be thinking about settling your DBA case. Not that I haven't given you enough to chew on already, but all of these issues are related. There is a lot going on here. You need to be considering all of it.
What if my benefits have been cut off and I'm not working?
This is a tough position to be in. I get it. Especially if you have a family. If possible (medically and psychologically), you need to be working also. I discussed this earlier in this article.
In addition, you probably have even more pressure economically to be working - because you have no income. So you should read this article: Is it going to hurt my Defense Base Act case if I am working?
You really need to be thinking about helping yourself and your family today. Working is going to help solve a lot of your problems.
What is the bottom line?
You need to be considering all of these things. I realize that this is probably all pretty new to you. That is why you need to hire the best, honest Defense Base Act lawyer that will agree to take your case.
It doesn't have to me my law firm. But, you really need to be considering all of this with a good DBA lawyer.
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