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287.148. Loss of suitable, gainful employment, how determined - severe injury, defined - plan, duration, costs allowed. -1. Within one hundred and twenty days of the date of the injury, the employer shall determine whether the injured worker has sustained an injury that results in a loss of suitable, gainful employment. If the employer can determine that a loss of suitable, gainful employment has occurred, the employer may retain the services of a rehabilitation practitioner or a rehabilitation provider. A written determination of this finding shall be sent to the division of workers' compensation with copies to the employer, insurer, employee and their representatives on forms approved by the division. In the event that a determination cannot be established, within the one hundred and twenty days of the date of injury, due to the extent of the injury, the employer shall, as regulated by the division of workers' compensation, continue to review the status of the injured employee at appropriate intervals to determine his loss of suitable, gainful employment. If a rehabilitation practitioner or provider is retained by the employer, the rehabilitation practitioner or provider shall, within ninety days:
(1) Conduct an initial consultation with the injured employee, the employer and all treating physicians; and
(2) Perform a vocational rehabilitation assessment which shall include a plan if rehabilitation services are deemed to be required. A copy of the vocational rehabilitation plan shall be sent to the employer, insurer, employee, their representatives, the treating physicians and to the division.
2. The employer may retain a rehabilitation practitioner or provider who shall perform the services stated in subdivisions (1) and (2) of subsection 1 of this section, in the event of an injury of sufficient severity as determined by the treating physician, which interferes with occupational functioning that involves:
(1) The severe mangling, crushing, amputation or nerve impairment of a major extremity;
(2) A traumatic injury to the spinal cord that has caused or may cause paralysis or severe restriction of movement;
(3) Severe burns;
(4) A serious head injury with neurological or neuropsychological involvement; or
(5) Loss of sight in one or both eyes or loss of communication skills to include loss of hearing in both ears or loss of speech, or both.
3. The director shall immediately notify the employer that an injured employee may require the services of a rehabilitation practitioner or rehabilitation provider if he receives a surgeon's report and other medical reports supplied by the employer or employer's insurer that details an injury of sufficient severity as described in this section.
4. The initial period of a plan may not exceed a period of twenty-six weeks, but only the employer may extend the period of the plan for an additional twenty-six-week period. Any extension shall be consistent with the initial plan and limited to no greater goal than restoration of the employee to suitable, gainful employment. The maximum costs for implementing the vocational testing, vocational rehabilitation plan, or subsequent tuition or retraining shall not exceed five thousand dollars, exclusive of the costs of medical treatment, medical evaluation and fees paid to the vocational rehabilitation provider or practitioner, without the approval of the division.
5. If rehabilitation services require residence at or near the facility, institution or practitioner's office and away from the employee's customary residence, reasonable and necessary costs of board, lodging and travel shall be borne by the employer or insurer. Rehabilitation services shall be performed by practitioners and providers approved by the director within this state when such facilities or practitioners are reasonably available, or elsewhere when approved by the director.
(L. 1990 S.B. 751)