A hot topic at many workers’ compensation hearing locations is permanency: When will it become ripe? What evidence needs to be produced by the parties? How can we ensure the law judge will make a reasonable decision regarding loss of wage earning capacity? This is when the use of vocational reports comes into play.
In simple terms, loss of wage earning capacity (LOWEC) is the reduction in an injured workers’ earning power due to a work related injury or disease. LOWEC is determined by the law judge after the injured worker testifies regarding his or her vocational and transferable skills and taking the medical impairment into consideration. The injured worker is required to complete a VDF-1 form, briefly summarizing their educational and vocational history. At best, this form scratches the surface of assessing what an injured worker’s earning power truly is. The form is brief, asking the injured worker to indicate their highest level of education, past work experience and what those job duties were, military experience if any, and their ability to read, write, and speak the English language.
A vocational report is an assessment done by an unbiased third party that will provide analysis and review of an injured worker’s vocational skills, past work experience, education, and transferable skills. Our main objective should always be to prove that the injured worker has a strong chance at being re-trained and would therefore be able to re-enter the work force. Using a vocational report will allow us to introduce credible evidence regarding an injured worker’s earning power. Additionally, the vocational report can include jobs for the injured worker that fit their restrictions and skills. Presenting the injured worker with a list of potential jobs will provide credible, reliable evidence to the law judge that the injured worker has earning power. The more evidence that can be presented to the law judge, the greater chance that there will be a finding that the claimant can be re-trained and re-enter the work force, thus lessening your exposure on the case.