The end of a workers compensation claim is a critical time for many injured workers. The lucky ones are able to return to their pre-injury employment and return to their familiar jobs. The unlucky few who are unable to return to work are all too often lost and confused in a legal storm of confusing mathematical formulas, pressure to settle their workers’ compensation, and uncertainty about what the future holds.
The Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) recently launched the Next Step program to help provide certainty about a future with a new job or a new career.
“These workers are at a loss and we didn’t want them to feel like there’s nothing they can go toward,” said Abbie Hudgens, BWC Administrator. “This program will give them a wonderful opportunity to earn a living at a job they’ve maybe always wanted to do or discover skills they never knew they had.”
The Next Step program allows applicants to find a new career path without having to go through a traditional education program. It shows workers how to utilize the expertise available at the American Job Centers in Tennessee. The centers have trained staff who can assess job skills and help permanently injured persons find suitable employment by partnering with local employers.
The program can also guide individuals interested in obtaining new skills to resources that can possibly cover the full cost of training.
"Applicants can use the Next Step program as a gateway to a long list of resources,” said Robert Davies, director of the Subsequent Injury and Vocational Recovery Fund. “American Job Centers can connect injured workers with federal government financial assistance programs and state scholarship programs such as Tennessee Reconnect."
The Next Step Scholarship is another option for workers injured on the job on or after July 1, 2018. Financial assistance of up to $5,000 per year is available for workers to acquire new job skills at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology, community college or public university.
To qualify for the Next Step Scholarship, the injured worker must have a compensable claim and received permanent disability benefits for not returning to work or for returning to work at a lower wage. BWC must receive the worker’s scholarship application within 90 days of the person’s final permanent disability payment.
Applications for the program can be completed and submitted immediately after a settlement approval. Workers can receive additional information about the Next Step program by contacting the BWC at 800-332-2667.