Shore – Based Injuries Vocational Rehabilitation

Enacted in 1927, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) addresses shore-based injuries. Administered by the Department of Labor’s Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC), the law has undergone several updates to account for rapidly changing workplace conditions, especially the technological changes that have transformed the industry over the past 50 years

The LHWCA includes several provisions that help dock-based workers deal with on the job accidents and employer negligence. Federal regulations stipulate the payment of compensation for lost wages, the providing of medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services that severely injured employees use to redevelop skills for the same job or develop skills for a different occupation.

Getting Back to Work

The primary goal of vocational rehabilitation is to mitigate worker disabilities caused by on the job injuries. Affected harbor workers undergo extensive training to learn new skills or relearn skills required for the same position. Therapy guides affected employees down the path to self-supporting themselves and their families. Returning a dock-based employee to work reduces or eliminates the need to pay workers’ compensation. Therapy restores the self-esteem that comes from contributing to the economic health of families throughout the United States.


Available services include an assessment that provides information on the occupations best suited for a working with a candidate. Aptitude and skills testing typically comprise part of the vocational assessment. You can expect to receive professional counseling in pursuit of your return to employment and psychological counseling to help you regain the confidence to perform every job responsibility. Vocational therapy also encompasses job skill development, modification of the skills required by a previous position, job placement, and limited ongoing training. Each case presents unique needs; what works for one injured shore-based professional might not work for a peer who works at the same dock.


As a vital part of the Department of Labor, the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation establishes the eligibility requirements for participants to enter an occupational growth program. The DLHWC determines whether the injury has caused a permanent or temporary disability. Case workers start by reviewing medical records to see if a health care provider believes there is some chance of regaining previous job skills. Working in a maritime job is a grueling position that creates myriad opportunities for accidents and acts of negligence. Highly trained counselors perform much of the evaluation not only to assess eligibility but also to determine the likelihood of a full recovery.

How to Start a Program

The first thing to do for getting the ball rolling involves having your attorney, employer or insurance company footing the bill to request an evaluation to determine eligibility for vocational rehab services. Requesting an evaluation typically happens after a medical care provider has made a diagnosis, as well as given the green light that you are fit to participate in a physical enhancement regimen. Ask your employer to request an evaluation and if the employer balks, contact an attorney to embark on the often long road to recapture your previous occupational skills.

Paying for Medical Care

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) runs a special fund that provides all of the rehabilitation finances an injured worker needs, at no cost to the employee. In some cases, employers or employer insurance companies pay for the services, although neither is legally liable to pay. Some companies do not want to lose the expertise of highly skilled members of their teams. Training another person who might not make the cut can cost more than fulfilling the financial obligation needed for services. If you participate in an OWCP sanctioned program, you might qualify for full disability during the time you spend getting back on professional track.

Navigating the multiple layers of federal and state personal injury laws requires the legal expertise of a licensed attorney who has experience working on cases that involve the redevelopment of job skills.

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