Watch Out: Vocational Interviews and Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation

Greg Boles
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Partner at The Boles Firm | Experience Matters

At some point the insurance company may request that you undergo a vocational interview.  They're not trying to find you a job that you can do. The vocational expert has been asked by the insurance company to go into court and help them reduce or eliminate your workers' compensation benefits. Anything you say to that vocational expert is going to be used against you.  If you're asked to undergo a vocational interview, you need to talk to a lawyer immediately.

If you want to learn more about undergoing a vocational interview at the request of a Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance company, read Chapter 11 of The Wounded Worker: Inside the Pennsylvania Workers’  Comp Maze, which you can download by responding to the offer on this page. If you wish a free paper copy, call 877-959-1811.  

Although I recommend that you read the short chapter in my book in its entirety, I'll give you a thumbnail sketch of what to expect in a vocational interview. 

The insurance company has the right to establish that there is work generally available that is consistent with your age, education, vocational experience, and residual functional capability.  In determining your physical capabilities, the insurance company need only take into account the conditions that are related to your work injury. 

The vocational interview will focus on your vocational background, with the expert asking questions about nearly every position you've ever held. The expert may also ask you in detail about the work you feel you are physically capable of performing.  Make sure you consider that issue carefully and review it with your attorney, if you have one.


Once the vocational expert has interviewed you, the expert will determine whether you have any transferrable skills that could be used in another field of work.  


After performing a transferrable skills analysis, the expert will survey the area near your home to see if there are open and available positions that are vocationally and physically appropriate for you.  Though it is not necessary that the jobs be referred to you, in general you should ask the vocational expert to send you notice of any available jobs and you should apply for those positions.  Whether you are hired may be considered by the Workers' Compensation Judge in determining whether work is genuinely open and available.  

Keep in mind that vocational experts often exaggerate how light many of the jobs are.  If you attend an interview, ask the potential employer about the physical requirements of the job.  If the physical requirements of the job are significantly greater than as they were described by the vocational expert, this will help you in any case that the insurance company files. 


I recommend that you read Chapter 11 in greater detail, but you will be asked to present testimony concerning the nature of your injury and the way that it interferes with your ability to sleep, concentrate, lift, bend, twist, and perform a myriad of physical and mental tasks.  You will be asked if you applied for the positions in question, and you will want to present evidence that the jobs in question are not physically or vocationally appropriate, if that is accurate.  

For the definitive guide to making your way through the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system, order a free paper copy of The Wounded Worker: Inside the Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Maze by calling 877-959-1811 or download a free e-copy by clicking “View Details” on the Order form to the left. For more detailed answers to your questions, consult the Frequently Asked Questions bar to the left or download a copy of The Consumer’s Guide to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation.