Planning Research Corp. v. Elford, 114 Md. App. 138 (1997), cert. denied, 346 Md. 240 (1997). 

Can I receive vocational rehabilitation compensation at the same time as I receive permanent partial disability compensation?

In Planning Research Corp. v. Elford, the Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded an injured worker with vocational rehabilitation and permanent partial disability benefits, which his employer would pay simultaneously. However, his employer challenged the award, arguing vocational rehabilitation benefits were like temporary total disability payments. Maryland law forbids simultaneous temporary total disability and permanent partial disability payments.

The Court of Special Appeals disagreed with the employer. Vocational rehabilitation services are like temporary total disability payments, but not the same.  These services are to retrain and help injured workers find a new job.  Their employers would pay for these services until the vocational rehabilitation program ends.  In contrast, employers would pay temporary total disability benefits to cover the living expenses of an injured worker during the “healing period” when he or she cannot work.

The court found there was no conflict between vocational rehabilitation and permanent partial disability benefits because the former is for retraining and job placement, the latter compensates for the loss of one’s former capabilities.

After the healing period, workers may have recuperated, but do not have the same level of abilities they once had prior to the injury.  This loss may reduce their future earnings. Permanent partial disability payments will compensate workers for this lasting impairment.  Employers, though, may issue these payments for a specific number of weeks.

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