In my two previous blog posts I talked about the temporary and permanent “indemnity” benefits you may be entitled to after experiencing a Vermont work injury. If you are the spouse or dependent child of someone who is killed at work, death benefits may also be available, and are relatively self-explanatory. Medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation benefits are the final two types of Vermont workers’ compensation benefits that an injured worker may be entitled to receive after a Vermont work injury.
Medical Benefits. In contrast to the “indemnity” benefits discussed previously, medical benefits are simply based on whether the treatment provided or proposed is reasonable and necessary for your Vermont work injury. Workers’ compensation medical benefits can include everything from an initial trip to the emergency room, to physical therapy, to surgery, to any prescriptions you may need to manage your pain for the rest of your life. As long as the medical treatment and prescriptions are related to your work injury, you are entitled to have them paid for by the insurance company for as long as you need them.
When there is no dispute that your injury was caused by your work in Vermont (or for a Vermont employer), your medical providers will most likely send their medical bills directly to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for payment. In that sense, medical benefits are not paid directly to you, but they allow you to avoid paying for treatment of your Vermont work injury with your own money. When a Vermont work comp claim is disputed by the insurance company, however, you may need to pay for any necessary treatment yourself, or to try and convince your private health insurer to pay for it. Often, this can be very stressful when you are convinced an injury happened at work, but the insurance company doesn’t want to believe it. In the end, you may have to hire a Vermont work comp lawyer to convince your employer’s insurance carrier to pay. As with temporary disability benefits, keep your eye out for a Form 27 from the insurance company — they may be trying to cut off your right to ongoing medical benefits.
Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits. Under certain circumstances, you may also be entitled to assistance in finding a new, more suitable job after your Vermont work injury. Specifically, if your work injury prevents you from returning to the work you were doing before your injury, the insurance company may be responsible for paying for you to work with a vocational rehabilitation (“VR”) counselor to find a new job. As long as you have been out of work for at least 90 days, the insurance company must begin the process of determining whether you’re entitled to VR benefits. If you are, a VR counselor can help you find a new job and/or obtain additional training and education in order to get that new job. This could mean taking a couple classes at a technical school or it could mean obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in a field that interests you. At the end of the day, the goal of providing VR benefits is to get you back to work in a job that can accommodate your work injury, and that pays you similarly to your prior job.