Rehabilitation for Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

November 18, 2013 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Brain Injury, FREE Book, Virginia workers compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor 

When a worker suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) they face a long recovery process.  There are many different types of rehabilitation programs available to victims of TBI.  The lists below details some of the medical professionals, specialists, care givers and rehab facilities that will likely be involved the injured worker’s rehabilitation and recovery process (Source: http://www.caregiver.org/).

  • Physiatrists – doctors who are experts in rehabilitation medicine who typically oversee the rehabilitation process.
  • Neurologists - doctors who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.
  • Occupational, physical, speech and language therapists – therapists that help the person regain thinking skills, communication skills, physical abilities and behavioral skills.
  • Neuropsychologists - specialized psychologists who focus on thinking skills and behavior problems.
  • Vocational rehabilitation experts – employment coaches who help with regaining job skills. Medical Symbol
  • Acute rehabilitation – an intensive rehabilitation program.
  • Coma treatment centers - provide coma-specific medical care.
  • Transitional living programs – nonmedical residential programs that teach skills for community living.
  • Long-term care and supervised living programs – residential facilities that provide care and rehabilitation to people with TBI who are not able to live independently.
  • Behavior management programs - typically community-based (i.e., not residential) programs that teach self-control and appropriate social behaviors.
  • Day treatment programs – provide rehabilitation during the day so the person can return home at night.

While some of these programs are covered by workers’ compensation, some of them may not be (depending on what the doctor is recommending).  Treatment for brain injuries can be a long and painful process for injured workers and their families; lessen the burden by getting an attorney on your side who knows how to handle these complicated injuries.

If you or someone in your family is dealing with a TBI as the result of a work injury or if you would like more information on the Virginia Workers’ Compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.

 

~Author

Michele Lewane, Esq.

 

17 Things IWLF Will Do Once You Have Hired Us

Once a client has retained my office, they want to know “what’s next?” Well, the answer to that question is a long one. Here is a break down of what goes on in my office once you sign that Retainer Agreement and formally hire IWLF to help you get benefits.

  1. File the Notice of Representation – We notify the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, the insurance adjuster and if applicable, the defense attorney that we are now representing you in your claim.
    workers_comp
  2. Request a Copy of the VWC File – We do this to make sure we are aware of EVERY SINGLE request or submission made to the Commission on your claim. We also use this to check on your Awards (to make sure they are correct or if they need to be amended).
  3. Request Medical Records and/or Bills – The attorney will determine if we need to request any records related to your injury and we request these from the medial providers. If we request medical records and/or bills from a medical provider, it usually takes the providers office about 30 days to get them back to us.
  4. Request Recorded Statements – The attorney will determine if this is needed, and if so a request for a copy of the statement is sent to the insurance adjuster or, if the insurance carrier has hired an attorney, we will send the request to their attorneys.
  5. Request Records from the Nurse Case Manager – If there is a Nurse Case Manager on the claim and if the attorney deems it appropriate, we will send them a letter requesting copies of their notes and anything else in their file.
  6. Request Records from the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor - If there is a Vocational Rehab Counselor on the claim and if the attorney deems it appropriate, we will send them a letter requesting copies of their notes and anything else in their file.
  7. Request Wage Info – If you are receiving or if you are owed any lost wages, we will request wage information from the insurance carrier or the defense attorney to make sure you are being paid wages at the proper amounts.
  8. Send the Welcome Package to the Client – We send a “Welcome Package” to all of our new clients to let them know that we are in the process of opening their file and gathering info, this package will also contain a list of who’s who in our office and the function each person plays on their case.
  9. File the Claim for Benefits or Amend the Claim for Benefits- Some time we will file the Claim for Benefits for the Client, but most of the time this has already been done so the attorney will confirm that the Claim for Benefits is correct or, if needed, identify any changes that need to be made and file an Amended Claim for Benefits with the Commission.
  10. Determine if the Proper Award Orders are in Place – If you have been paid wages the Attorney will want an Award in place for this. The Award is the enforceable document issued by the VWC, simply getting a paycheck while you were off does not mean you are protected!
  11. Determine if Client is eligible for COLA – Depending on when your injury took place, you may be entitled to a Cost of Living Adjustment. If the attorney finds that you are entitled to this increase in pay, we will get the form to you and supply instructions on how to fill it out. Once we get it back from you we will file it with the court and follow up until the owed adjustment is paid.
  12. Determine if Client is eligible for PPD – The attorney will determine if it is appropriate to file for Permanent Partial Disability benefits. If you are, you will be hearing from us to get this appointment set up so you can be evaluated which is called a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).
  13. Determine if we have/need medical causation Once we get some of your listen to your doctormedical records in the office (either from you or from the requests that we sent to your medical providers) the attorney will make sure that the medical records support your position. Sometimes, after the attorney reviews the records, we determine that we need more information (see number 14).
  14. Send Causation Letter(s) to the doctor(s) – If the attorney finds that your case needs more support, we may send a letter or questionnaire to the doctor asking them to very specifically tell us now your current issues are a result of the work injury you sustained. This is very specific language that some doctors may not have used in their notes and this language is one of the key elements the court will look for in determining if you should be awarded benefits.
  15. Send Subpoenas for any records and/or Witnesses – If the insurance carrier or the defense attorneys raise any issues about how you got hurt or if you were wearing your safety gear, etc,, the attorney will determine who it would be appropriate to send these to. Also, if there are other records that need to be gathered (like an employee handbook), the attorney may choose to subpoena these as well.
  16. Request a Continuance or Reschedule a hearing or deposition– Sometimes people hire is a week or even a month before they have a hearing or a deposition scheduled. In some cases, because of the time it takes to gather information, we will ask the court or the defense attorney to reschedule some things to ensure that we have enough time to properly gather and review evidence.
  17. workers comp settlementEvaluate the Claim for settlement or hearing – If you came to us because you want to settle the case, the attorney will review all the documentation and determine, based on the Code of Virginia, how much would be an appropriate settlement and draft a letter to the insurance carrier requesting to open settlement negotiations. If you came to the attorney because of a hearing, the attorney would be reviewing everything to be as certain as possible that we will be successful in court, and if necessary, requesting any further information from you or any of the parties to the case.

 

Obviously, not all of these steps will apply in every single case but this is the general flow of a file in my office. It can be a slow process to get things moving but we have to make sure all the bases are covered so you sleep easy at night and know that we are on top of it! If you have questions about your particular case, please feel free to contact my office. Or, if you are new to the world of workers’ compensation and you would like some more information on how the system works order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.

 

~Author

Michele Lewane, Esq.

 

Caring for Your Cast or Splint After a Work Injury

cast splint broken armCasts and splints are used to immobilize or to support a part of the body to aid in healing.  Casts and splints can also help to reduce muscle spasms, pain and swelling and are typically made of fiberglass or a plaster material.  Your medical provider will decide which material and type of cast or split is suited for your particular needs and custom fit it your body.

It is very important for your healing process to keep your cast or splint in good condition.  I found these tips from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org to help guide you on caring for your splint or cast.

 

Keep your splint or cast dry. Moisture weakens plaster and damp padding next to the skin can cause irritation. Use two layers of plastic or purchase waterproof shields to keep your splint or cast dry while you shower or bathe.

Walking casts. Do not walk on a “walking cast” until it is completely dry and hard. It takes about one hour for fiberglass, and two to three days for plaster to become hard enough to walk on.

Avoid dirt. Keep dirt, sand, and powder away from the inside of your splint or cast.

Padding. Do not pull out the padding from your splint or cast.

Itching. Do not stick objects such as coat hangers inside the splint or cast to scratch itching skin. Do not apply powders or deodorants to itching skin. If itching persists, contact your doctor.

Trimming. Do not break off rough edges of the cast or trim the cast before asking your doctor.

Skin. Inspect the skin around the cast. If your skin becomes red or raw around the cast, contact your doctor.

Inspect the cast regularly. If it becomes cracked or develops soft spots, contact your doctor’s office.

 

If you are having any issues with your cast or splint, it is always best to consult your doctor before attempting to handle it on your own.  Also, if you are working while you are in a cast or splint, make sure to get clear concise instructions from your doctor as to what limitations you are under, you may need to explain to him or her in great detail what is expected of you at work so that your restrictions can be written appropriately.

If you or a loved one have suffered a work related injury, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.

~Author

Michele Lewane, Esq.

 

When You Need Vocational Rehabilitation after Workers Injury in Virginia

When you’ve been injured on the job, you may receive a disability rating that restricts you from being able to return to your work, and in such Workers’ Comp cases, you will likely be assigned a vocational rehabilitation counselor whose main function is to find you suitable employment so that you can get back to work, although not the type of work that you did before. In such cases, it’s advisable to speak with an attorney from a group of work injury lawyers in Richmond, Virginia who will protect your rights throughout the process. 

This kind of legal protection will smooth the process for you, as an injured worker. The main objective of this rehabilitation is to get you a job as quickly as possible so that the insurance company can cut off your Workers’ Comp benefits, because as long as you are out of work, the insurance provider must continue to compensate you.

As a result, these situations often lead to a great deal of conflict between injured workers and Workers’ Comp insurance companies. The best way to mitigate this conflict and to retain the upper hand is to speak with an attorney who will represent you throughout the course of your case.

Contact a Team of Workers’ Comp Lawyers in Richmond, Virginia

When you have difficulties with your work-related injury claim, a Virginia Workers’ Comp attorney can bear some of the burden you’ve been placed under. To get back on your feet, whether it means getting back to work or getting the benefits you deserve, order a copy of our free book, the Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia, and contact a Workers’ Comp attorney at the Injured Workers Law Firm for a no-cost consultation – 1-877-755-7744.

There are very bad and some very good vocational rehabilitation counselors

We tell our clients to completely cooperate with their vocational rehabilitation counselor. The 2 main reasons are they could find you a job you would like and give them no excuse to cut off your check. Unfortunately there are many very bad vocational rehabilitation counselors. I also know some very good ones. The problem is that the insurance company usually hires the ones that will document anything to cut a client’s check off. Yes I have clients (usually older clients) who can no longer do heavy labor and
do not want to be a receptionist or a Wal-Mart greeter even though they can
do the job and they try to resist placement. Please remember their income
has already been cut by 1/3rd so there is no real incentive to stay on
Workers compensation as the insurance company lobbyists have the general public
believe. Also, if you are fired because you were out of work for six months
due to the injury and are released by your Doctor, there are no vocational
benefits-your WC check just stops and you are on your own.

Vocational Rehabilitation is only for those who have permanent physical disabilities due to the accident. But the problem I have is that this is the 1st time any of them has been injured much less had to deal with workers comp and the details and technicalities
of Vocational Rehabilitation.  I have to prepare them for what happens more often than not.

For example, recently, a vocational rehabilitation counselor tried to get my elderly CAN female client a job at a highway rest stop cleaning bathrooms-yes she could do it but very cruel on her emotionally. I have many voc counselors to tell my clients to lie on a job application if it says they have any prior injuries or accidents or to leave it blank. I could tell you numerous
stories of bad voc rehab counselors-I could tell you stories of good ones
too and I am sure the counselors you know are very well intentioned and
serve their clients well. However, Workers Compensation insurance adjusters
and defense attorneys routinely tell me that if we don’t settle (for a low
amount) then they will put my client into voc rehab- this is unfortunately a
valid threat. The voc counselors that they hire know that if they can say
the client didn’t cooperate by not returning a phone call or was late to a
meeting with them a few times, the weekly check is cut off for 6 months or
longer.  To have no income for six months because of an allegation has
literally destroyed many of my clients- the check eventually gets reinstated
but their house is gone, car repossessed and a huge amount of debt which
will take years to get out from under. The damage is too great not to warn
my clients.

The rules in workers compensation in Virginia are very detailed
and unfortunately the purpose/spirit of the law gets lost. But please look
at the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission’s website- the number one
reason for Vocational rehabilitation is to help the insurance company not
have to pay anymore. It is not to help the injured worker find a job with
benefits, career fulfillment; teach new skills or anything to create self
worth and mental stability.  Even though the injured worker has had a major
life changing event, will never be the same and can never be a nurse again,
the voc rehab laws have no compassion and I can’t guarantee any client that
they won’t be cleaning interstate rest stop toilets so the insurance company
can save $300 a week.

ON YOUR FIRST INTERVIEW WITH A VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION COUNSELOR

December 20, 2010 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor 

Always have your lawyer present at your first interview with the vocational rehabilitation specialist.  One of the main purposes of vocational rehabilitation counselors is to wear down the worker and harass the worker to the extent that he or she becomes willing to settle the workers’ compensation claim cheaply.  They create a lot of busy work for the injured employee.  Vocational rehabilitation counselors will, for instance, send workers in search of jobs that they know the workers are not qualified to perform.  They will send them letters saying “I’ve attempted to contact you by phone several times” and, in fact, have not actually contacted you at all by phone.  Hopefully, this first meeting with the lawyer will help discourage the vocation rehabilitation worker from unprofessional activities and make the vocational rehabilitation a little bit easier for the injured employee.

Take These Steps When You Get Hurt On The Job

 

STEP 1 Report any change in your medical condition or employment status to me.
 
STEP 2 Keep all papers you receive from me confidential.  Do not show them to anyone.  Remember, the insurance adjuster may interview your neighbors, friends and co-workers.
 
STEP 3 EVERY time you see your doctor, get a disability slip, send my office a photocopy of it, and keep the original disability slips.
 
STEP 4 DO NOT give a recorded statement, sign any papers or write letters to anyone about your case, especially the insurance adjuster and your employer until you have discussed it with me first.
 
STEP 5 DO NOT discuss your medical condition, employment, employment prospects, personal life or anything else with anyone hired by the insurance carrier until you talk to me first.  This may be a nurse or vocational counselor.
 
STEP 6 DO NOT discuss any aspect of your workers’ compensation case with the insurance adjuster with two exceptions:
a) If you have not received reimbursement for prescriptions or mileage, you should speak directly to the adjustor; and/or
b) If you have not received your check, you should speak directly to the adjuster.  DO NOT call your attorney regarding your checks unless your checks are two weeks late or if the adjuster will not speak with you regarding this information. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act allows us to file for a 20% penalty on all amounts owed to you if your checks are more than two weeks late.
STEP 7 If you are presently receiving or have a claim pending for weekly benefits, be aware that insurance companies often hire investigators to watch and record your daily activities.
 
STEP 8 If you are placed on light duty, DO contact your employer to see if light duty work is available. If they do not have light duty work, DO start looking for light duty work immediately. DO contact at least 10 employers per week, register with the Virginia Employment Commission, and keep a list of all job contacts including: name, address, date, telephone number, and contact person.
 
STEP 9 Call us anytime if you have any questions.


 

I have just been given a permanent partial disability rating and am still receiving my lost wage check. Can I get both?

No. You cannot get both total temporary disability benefits at the same time you receive permanent partial disability benefits.  However, once you return to work, your lost wage check stops and your weekly permanent partial disability check begins.

The Goals of Vocational Rehabilitation in Workers Comp Case

October 5, 2010 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Claims Compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor 

Once the doctor states that you may return to some form of light duty work, the insurance company may begin vocational rehabilitation.  There are two goals of vocational rehabilitation. The first goal is to restore the employee to some form of employment and the second goal is to relieve the employer’s burden of future compensation. The goal is not to find the employee a meaningful job, a convenient job, or a job that he would want.  It is not an opportunity to go to college. It is solely to save the insurance company money.  To me, vocational rehabilitation is not a benefit to the employee but rather a benefit to the insurance company.  It is usually better for employees to find their own employment.

Steps Injured workers should do if you are released to light duty

If you are released to light duty, you must immediately register with the Virginia Employment Commission.  You are also required to look for light duty employment within your doctor’s restrictions.  You will need to file applications for employment with a minimum of two (2) potential employers each week, keeping a written record of the names of the business, the date of contact, and the type of position for which you applied.

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