The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 641. Vocational rehabilitation
(a) When as a result of an injury covered by this chapter, an employee is unable to perform work for which the employee has previous training or experience, the employee shall be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, including retraining and job placement, as may be reasonably necessary to restore the employee to suitable employment. Vocational rehabilitation services shall be provided as follows:
(1) The employer shall designate a vocational rehabilitation provider from a list provided by the Commissioner to initially provide services. Thereafter, absent good cause, the employee may have only one opportunity to select another vocational rehabilitation provider from a list provided by the Commissioner upon giving the employer written notice of the employee's reasons for dissatisfaction with the designated provider and the name and address of the provider selected by the employee.
(2) The Department shall provide an injured worker with a form that includes information and employee rights. The form shall clearly and simply explain the worker's rights, including the choice of provider, the right to challenge a determination, and reimbursement for related expenses. The worker shall sign the form and return it to the Department.
(3) The Commissioner shall adopt rules to ensure that a worker who requests services or who has been out of work for more than 90 days is timely and cost-effectively screened for benefits under this section. The rules shall:
(A) Provide that all vocational rehabilitation work, except for initial screenings, be performed by a Vermont-certified vocational rehabilitation counselor, including counselors currently certified pursuant to the rules of the Department. Initial screenings shall be performed by an individual with sufficient knowledge or experience to perform adequately the vocational rehabilitation screening functions.
(B) Provide for an initial screening to determine whether a full assessment is appropriate. An injured worker who is determined to be eligible for a full assessment shall be timely assessed and offered appropriate vocational rehabilitation services.
(C) Provide a mechanism for a periodic and timely screening of injured workers who are initially found not to be ready or eligible for a full assessment to determine whether a full assessment has become appropriate.
(D) Protect against potential conflicts of interest in the assignment and performance of initial screenings.
(E) Ensure the injured worker has a choice of a vocational rehabilitation counselor.
(4) If services are not voluntarily offered and accepted by the employee, the Commissioner, if necessary through informal hearing, may refer the employee to a qualified physician or appropriate facility for evaluation of the practicability of, need for, and kind of service, treatment, or training necessary and appropriate to render the employee fit for a remunerative occupation. Upon receipt of findings and after affording the parties an opportunity to be heard, the Commissioner may order that the services and treatment recommended, or such other rehabilitation treatment or service the Commissioner may deem necessary be provided at the expense of the employer. When vocational rehabilitation requires residence at or near a facility or institution, away from the employee's customary residence, the reasonable cost of board, lodging, or travel, or both, shall be paid for by the employer. In addition, the employer shall pay reasonable costs of books, tools, or other basic materials required in such rehabilitation process. Refusal to accept vocational rehabilitation pursuant to an order of the Commissioner may result in loss of compensation for each week of the refusal, if the Commissioner so directs.
(5) The Commissioner may set by rule reasonable reimbursement rates for vocational rehabilitation benefits and services, provided access to vocational rehabilitation services is not diminished, and reasonable choices and access to benefits and services are maintained. The fee schedule shall require the individual vocational rehabilitation counselor who provides services to review, initial, and certify the accuracy of the billing.
(b) Any person offering to provide vocational rehabilitation services to workers' compensation recipients shall register with the Department and shall possess appropriate qualification as established by the Department by rule. The Commissioner may determine that a vocational rehabilitation service provider lacks the appropriate qualifications if the provider fails to comply with the educational and training requirements established by the Commissioner and may revoke the provider's registration.
(c) Any vocational rehabilitation plan for a claimant presented to the employer shall be deemed valid if the employer was provided an opportunity to participate in the development of the plan and has made no objections or changes within 21 days after submission. A vocational rehabilitation counselor shall provide the employer with a written invitation to participate in plan development, including the date, time, and place to provide an opportunity to participate in the development of the plan, with a copy to the Department. The participation in the development of the plan may be conducted by telephone. The written notice shall be evidence of the opportunity to participate in plan development and shall be appended to the proposed plan.
(d) The Commissioner may adopt rules necessary to carry out the purpose of this section.
(e)(1) In support of the State's fundamental interest in ensuring the well-being of employees and employers, it is the intent of the General Assembly that, following a workplace accident, an employee return to work as soon as possible but remain cognizant of the limitations imposed by his or her medical condition.
(2) The Commissioner shall adopt rules promoting development and implementation of cost-effective, early return-to-work programs. (Amended 1973, No. 64, § 2; 1975, No. 177 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1981, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 1993, No. 225 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 1997, No. 140 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1999, No. 97 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2003, No. 132 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. May 26, 2004; 2005, No. 212 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. May 29, 2006; 2007, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 14; 2009, No. 33, § 43; 2011, No. 50, § 2; 2011, No. 133 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2013, No. 199 (Adj. Sess.), § 53, eff. June 24, 2014.)