What does a Vocational Interview mean in Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp?

Many injured workers get a notice of a vocational interview while on workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. So, why exactly is the workers’ compensation insurance carrier scheduling you for a vocational interview?

A vocation interview is usually scheduled after the injured worker attends an Independent Medical Examination. This IME doctor finds that you are not fully recovered from the work injury, but that you have some type of work restrictions and that you cannot return to your pre-injury job. This also takes place when the employer does not have work within your work restrictions. Let’s be clear — the purpose of the vocational interview is to suspend or reduce your workers’ compensation wage loss benefits due to other work availability.

What is the legal standard?

The changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act and subsequent case law have not been injured worker friendly. The legal standard is simply for the vocational interview and subsequent earning power assessment to show that suitable employment is generally available to you in your geographic area. It does not matter if you have done that type of work before or even want to do that type of work. The vocational expert hired by the insurance carrier gathers information on jobs open in your area.

This legal maneuver makes it easier for the insurance carrier to suspend or reduce your wage-loss benefits. If a Workers’ Compensation Judge decides that suitable work is open and available to you, then the Judge can stop or reduce benefits. It does not matter whether you want that type of work, whether you apply for that type of work or open jobs, it simply matters that suitable work is generally available within your work restrictions. This is a significant threat to your workers compensation wage loss benefits.

What will happen after the vocational interview?

After the vocational interview is completed, the vocational expert will issue an earning power assessment and labor market survey. Once those reports are issued showing generally suitable work within your work restrictions, the insurance carrier will file a Suspension/Modification Petition to reduce or stop your wage loss benefits. Let’s use an example. Let’s assume your average weekly wage is $1000 per week. Let’s then assume that the labor market survey has identified generally suitable work that you can do at $600 per week. A Petition will be filed to reduce your benefits to 2/3 of $400 per week, the difference between your wages and the suitable work. This would represent a significant reduction in your benefits.

Is all hope lost?

No. There are ways to fight the Suspension/Modification Petition and the Labor Market Survey. One way is to have your own vocational expert eliminate the jobs identified or are outside your work restrictions. You can attack that with a report and testimony of your own vocational expert and/or your treating doctor. Many times these reports are based on the IME doctor restrictions and not the restrictions issued by your treating doctor. Your own testimony will also be valuable on why you feel you cannot perform those identified jobs. As you can see, this can get quite complex with multiple hearings, multiple depositions, and multiple legal arguments.

So what do you do?

Simple. Call Mooney Law today for an absolutely free consultation. We are prove, trusted, and experienced in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation  litigation with decades of experience. We stand ready to help fight for and protect your workers compensation benefits. Call us today at 717-200-HELP or 717-632-4656. You can also email us and request a free consultation at info@mooney4law.com. Finally, you can visit our website at Mooney4Law.com and complete the Schedule a Consultation form.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.