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Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists – Time to Get Them Back to Work

We were intrigued to read an opinion piece calling for the return of the vocational rehabilitation specialist (VRS) to long term disability claims management. The article outlined the role that VRS’ held in long term disability insurance claims in the past. Once, the VRS played a large part in working with physicians and claims experts as “part of a multidisciplinary team” focused on managing the duration of the claim and getting a disabled individual back to work.

According to the article, today the VRS is way low on the totem pole, with far fewer numbers of VRS involved in the claims decisions. The severely diminished role of the VRS means that insurance company doctors and claims adjusters do not fully understand how the disabilities impact on the claimant’s ability to perform the duties of their occupations.

Today, the claims process relies on a different model, where nurses and physicians are the ones making decisions, with little or no input from any vocational rehabilitation experts.

While we don’t generally agree with insurance company representatives, we like this one. He notes that the definitions in the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupations Titles have not been revised in about 50 years, causing a disconnect in how claimant’s are evaluated, assessed and how their return-to-work outcomes can be accurately determined.

The writer believes that U.S. disability providers are enhancing the VRS role, and that would be a welcome change in the disability claims process.

Here are a few other things we would like to see:

An update to the Department of Labor’s Definition of Occupational Titles. This is long overdue, even by federal standards.

Truly independent assessments by doctors, nurses, VRSs and third party administrative companies who were not deep in the pockets of the insurance companies.

Fair and reasonable treatment of claimants, where the first response is not adversarial, but instead, helpful with an eye to a long-standing solution for the claimant, whether that is a monthly check or realistic medical and therapeutic help that will return some quality to their life, whether they can work or not.

We know none of these are likely. But we can always dream, can’t we?

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