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Court Finds Two-Year Degree Program Reasonable for Injured Worker

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2017 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Often in Georgia workers’ compensation cases, workers are focused on replacing their income while they are injured. However, workers may forget that they may be also entitled to rehabilitation services. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court recently approved a two-year training program for an injured worker to pursue a new career.

The employee injured his arm at work, and the court later ruled that the employee was entitled to a vocational rehabilitation evaluation. The employee and the employer agreed on a vocational rehabilitation counselor, who created a rehabilitation plan for the employee. In the employee’s case, he could not return to the same employer because the employer did not have suitable work available for him with his injury, and there were no viable opportunities of similar pay with other employers.

The rehabilitation counselor recommended that the employee participate in formal training that would lead to employment in another career field. She suggested that he obtain a two-year associate’s degree in agriculture at a community college, based on his interest in agriculture. However, the court’s vocational rehabilitation specialist disagreed with the plan. The specialist believed the formal training was not necessary or appropriate. The specialist reasoned that there were job openings of similar pay to what he would make after the training program and that formal training was not necessary. The counselor explained that the employee’s goal was to be a supervisor or manager, and typically training is required for those positions. The employer petitioned the court to eliminate the treatment, and the employee petitioned the court to approve it.

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to approve the treatment. The court reasoned that the plan supported the goal in the statute to return an injured employee to “suitable employment.” It found that suitable employment is “employment which is compatible with the employee’s pre-injury occupation, age, education, and aptitude.” It determined that the training plan supported that goal and was reasonably necessary to restore the worker to suitable employment.

Rehabilitation Benefits Under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act

In Georgia, if an employee suffers a catastrophic injury at work, the employee may be entitled to receive rehabilitation benefits in addition to medical benefits. Under those circumstances, they are provided if they are “reasonably necessary” for the employee. The goal of rehabilitation services is to restore the employee to maximum physical function and to restore the employee to suitable employment. Rehabilitation services may include a vocational assessment, counseling, vocational training, and even college education.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you were injured in a Georgia workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation, including income benefits and even rehabilitation services. At the Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., our attorneys have decades of collective experience handling workers’ compensation claims. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys are former insurance defense attorneys, which means that we understand the other side’s tactics. We provide clients with quality legal representation and responsive client service. For a free consultation, call us at 404-920-4708 or contact us through our online form.