At issue in a recent appeal before the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board was whether an employee was entitled to benefits for being partially and totally disabled while undergoing vocational rehabilitation training. The workers’ compensation insurer in this case appealed a decision that denied its complaint to modify or discontinue the employee’s section 34 benefits. The insurer had been ordered to continue paying those benefits until their statutory exhaustion and then pay section 34A benefits.
In analyzing the judge’s decision, the Board assessed the policy of vocational retraining. The Board, citing Massachusetts law, made clear that vocational rehabilitation serves the purpose of working to return injured employees to jobs that pay “as near as possible” to their pre-injury wage. In order to serve this purpose, the Department should encourage and facilitate agreements between injured employees and insurers to use vocational rehabilitation services so that employees can return to suitable employment.