Defining Physical Limitations
Assessing an individual’s post-injury rehabilitation potential, employability, expected earnings and earning capacity, requires careful analysis of multiple variables. The critical factors considered when conducting a vocational assessment typically include: the individual’s work history, their age, their transferable skills, the highest educational attainment, vocational test results, and physician-assigned physical restrictions. Vocational experts refer to this constellation of data as a vocational profile.
Once an individual is released to return to work post-injury, documented physical restrictions often drive the vocational assessment process as they guide the type of future work an individual can safely perform post-injury. Although physical impairment ratings are often calculated for injured evaluees, these ratings do not directly translate to functional limitations or quantify lost earning capacity in a substantive way.
Although a review of medical records may refer to physical restrictions in general terms such as “light duty work” or “modified work status,” specific information regarding physical and postural limitations are often essential to a thorough vocational analysis. Specific limitations can be outlined by a physician; however, a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) could also more clearly define restrictions. Results of the FCE often include statements regarding validity of the individual’s efforts, and usually clearly identify a Department of Labor physical demand level required for technical discussion of future occupations. An FCE often informs the physician’s opinion regarding physical restrictions and abilities which provides for a more specific discussion of post-injury expected earnings and earning capacity.
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Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP
Lacy Sapp, MHS, CRC, LPC, LRC, CLCP