7-12-2011; The Need to Complete Illinois’ 120-Day Rehabilitation Plans—thoughts from Roberta Bandes at Encore Unlimited

Workers’ compensation rehabilitation counselors in Illinois need to bring a high level of communication and creativity whenever assisting individuals in the vocational process. The complexities of the Illinois workers compensation law and economic climate make vocational planning challenging. The counselors at Encore Unlimited work with individuals and employers with real issues and real needs. A well-trained vocational counselor (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor) will be able to analyze an injured workers’ situation in order to develop and implement a vocational action plan for file resolution.

A fundamental aspect in the training of Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC) is development of Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plans. It is essential these plans are customized to each unique individual and return to work situation. Many rehabilitation companies provide “cookie cutter” approaches to vocational services versus an individualized approach.

The Illinois Rehabilitation Plan is required to be completed when injured workers are off of work for 120 days and are not reasonably expected to return to full duty work. This is the employers’ responsibility.

Unfortunately, most rehabilitation plans are not written until the injured worker obtains maximum medical resolution, the employer cannot accommodate the work restrictions and a settlement was not achieved. The injured worker is then referred for vocational rehabilitation. The injured worker at that time is often

·         Focused on their poor recovery,

·         Angry with their employer for not returning them to work and

·         Thinking about filing for Social Security Disability; instead of making plans to return to work.

By not having a defined rehabilitation plan early in the process, it can result in no return to work, an increased risk of an ADA suit or retaliatory discharge suit and may result in a larger future settlement.

At Encore Unlimited, vocational counselors will work with the employer and injured worker to complete the plan and maintain it throughout the medical recovery process. The primary goal of the rehabilitation plan is to maintain the focus on return to work and insure all parties share this singular focus. In most cases this should be a return to work with the date of injury employer to their regular duty, a position with reasonable accommodations, or another position based upon their skills and training. If this is not possible then the counselor will assist the injured worker in obtaining a medically appropriate new position.

To establish the plan, the following should be completed:

·         Interview of the injured worker.

·         Thorough assessment of their past skills and education.

·         Assessment of current interest and aptitudes.

·         Determine need for completion of GED or ESL study.

·         Clarification of computer skills

In order to maximize your return to work outcomes, improve the return to work focus early on in the process and reduce future settlements by utilizing the Illinois 120-day rule for a rehabilitation plan.

This article was written by Roberta Bandes who is a CRC and knows the IL WC system very well. We thank her for her thoughts. You can reach her directly at rbandes@encoreunlimited.com.