When you are injured at work, and are unable to work, you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Workers' compensation benefits are available under Wisconsin law on a no fault basis, meaning you do not have to show that your employer was negligent, and you can generally claim benefits even if you were injured due to your own mistake. While you are out of work for your job-related injury or illness, workers' compensation benefits will cover related medical expenses and provide partial wage replacement until you recover and return to work.
But, what if you never fully recover from a work injury?
You can be compensated for the loss of use of a body part, or other lasting effects of an injury, receiving more compensation (the more severe the impairment); if the impairment is so severe that you are unable to return to any stable job in any capacity, you can pursue a claim for lifetime workers' compensation benefits - depending on the body part injured. If your impairment prevents you from returning to your former position, but would not keep you from securing some type of gainful employment, you may be eligible for vocational retraining benefits.
You can collect benefits while going back to school
Once you recover to the extent you are going to after a work injury (called the "healing plateau" in Wisconsin), your employer should rehire you and accommodate you work restrictions to the extent possible. Sometimes, however, the nature of certain positions makes it impossible to rehire you in the same capacity you were working before the injury.
If your employer cannot bring you back to work under your permanent work restrictions, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of earning capacity (depending on the body part injury - generally only for head, neck, back, and spine claims). For all types of work injuries, if you cannot return to your injury employer after work restrictions, you may be able to go back to school, as part of your worker's compensation benefits, to regain the ability to enter the workforce. A vocational counselor from the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation will help you decide what type of job retraining would be best for you and where you should go to school. While in vocational retraining, you will continue to receive weekly workers' compensation benefits (2/3 of your weekly wage), and compensation for meals, parking, books, mileage and tuition.
Training for a new job can be a great opportunity
Job retraining is not for everyone, but, providing an opportunity to injured workers who are motivated to go back to school is very beneficial for everyone involved. For Wisconsin employers and workers compensation insurers, it means weaning workers off of payments as they become self sufficient. For the economy as a whole, it is better to have more people working in jobs requiring specialized skills and education provided by vocational retraining.
For the individual worker, the chance to retrain for a new job gives injured workers a forum for personal development and growth. It empowers injured workers to pursue a new career, and the meaningful sense of fulfillment that comes with a productive life. This policy is especially true for younger injured workers - for which special rules apply. If you are interested in learning more about vocational retraining and workers' compensation in general, get in touch with a Wisconsin workers' compensation attorney today. Your attorney can help ensure you qualify for benefits, facilitate your entry into a qualifying job retraining program, and get you the full benefits you deserve.