§ 28-33-41. Rehabilitation of injured persons.
(a)(1) The department and the workers' compensation court shall expedite the rehabilitation of and the return to remunerative employment of all employees who are disabled and injured and who are subject to chapters 29 38 of this title.
(2) Rehabilitation means the prompt provision of appropriate services necessary to restore an employee who is occupationally injured or diseased to his or her optimum physical, mental, vocational, and economic usefulness. This may require medical, vocational, and/or reemployment services to restore an employee who is occupationally disabled as nearly as possible to his or her pre-injury status. As a procedure, rehabilitation may include three (3) overlapping and interrelated components:
(i)(A) Medical restorative services. Medical treatment and related services needed to restore the employee who is occupationally disabled to a state of health as near as possible to that which existed prior to the occupational injury or disease. These services may include, but are not limited to, the following: medical, surgical, hospital, nursing services, attendant care, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicines, prostheses, orthoses, other physical rehabilitation services, including psychosocial services, and reasonable travel expenses incurred in procuring the services.
(B)(I) Treatment by spiritual means. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require an employee who, in good faith relies on or is treated by prayer or spiritual means by a duly accredited practitioner of a well-recognized church, to undergo any medical or surgical treatment, and weekly compensation benefits may not be suspended or terminated on the grounds that the employee refuses to accept recommended medical or surgical benefits. The employee shall submit to all physical examinations as required by chapters 29 38 of this title.
(II) However, a private employer, insurer, self-insurer, or group self-insurer may pay or reimburse an employee for any costs associated with treatment by prayer or spiritual means.
(ii) Vocational restorative services. Vocational services needed to return the employee with a disability to his or her pre-injury employment or, if that is not possible, to a state of employability in suitable alternative employment. These services may include, but are not limited to, the following: psychological and vocational evaluations, counseling, and training.
(iii) Reemployment services. Services used to return the employee who is occupationally disabled to suitable, remunerative employment as adjudged by his or her functional and vocational ability at that time.
(b)(1) Any employer or any injured employee with total disability or permanent, partial disability to whom the insurance carrier or certificated employer has paid compensation for a period of three (3) months or more, and to whom compensation is still being paid, or his or her employer or insurer may file a petition with the workers' compensation court requesting approval of a rehabilitation program or may mutually agree to a rehabilitation program. Determinations shall be rendered by the workers' compensation court in accordance with this section and as provided in chapters 29 38 of this title and the rules of practice of the Rhode Island workers' compensation court.
(2) Action shall be taken as in the judgment of the workers' compensation court shall seem practicable and likely to speed the recovery and rehabilitation of injured workers. However, rehabilitative services shall be appropriate to the needs and capabilities of injured workers.
(c) Compensation payments shall not be diminished or terminated while the employee is participating in a rehabilitation program approved by the workers' compensation court or agreed to by the parties. Provided, that compensation payments shall be suspended while an injured employee willfully refuses to participate in a rehabilitation program approved by the workers' compensation court or agreed to by the parties. When the employee has completed an approved rehabilitation program, the rehabilitation provider shall recommend, in the instance of vocational rehabilitation, an earnings capacity, or in the instance of physical rehabilitation provided or prescribed by a physician, a degree of functional impairment, and the employee shall be referred to the court for an earnings capacity adjustment to benefits, unless the employee has returned to gainful employment.
(d) The employer shall bear the expense of rehabilitative services agreed to or ordered pursuant to this section. If those rehabilitative services require residence at or near or travel to a rehabilitative facility, the employer shall pay the employee's reasonable expense for board, lodging, and/or travel. The reasonable cost of transportation on or after July 1, 2016, is the rate equal to the per-mile rate allowed by the Internal Revenue Service for use of a privately owned automobile for business miles driven, as from time to time amended, for a private motor vehicle or the reasonable cost incurred for transportation, from the employee's point of departure, whether from the employee's home or place of employment, and return.
(e) Except for the provisions of this section, the provisions of § 28-33-8 shall remain in full force and effect.
(f) For the purposes of this section, the director shall promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to chapter 35 of title 42 for certifying rehabilitation providers, evaluators, and counselors, and the director shall maintain a registry of those persons so certified. No plan of rehabilitation requiring the services of a rehabilitation counselor shall be approved by the workers' compensation court or agreed to by the parties unless the counselor is certified by the director. Any requests for approval of a rehabilitation plan pending before the director prior to September 1, 2000, will remain at the department for determination. All requests after this date will be heard by the workers' compensation court.
(G.L. 1938, ch. 300, art. 2, § 21; P.L. 1954, ch. 3297, § 1; G.L. 1956, § 28-33-41; P.L. 1969, ch. 132, § 1; P.L. 1978, ch. 194, § 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 32, art. 1, § 6; P.L. 1986, ch. 507, § 7; P.L. 1990, ch. 332, art. 1, § 3; P.L. 1990, ch. 337, § 1; P.L. 1992, ch. 31, § 5; P.L. 1993, ch. 474, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 101, § 4; P.L. 1994, ch. 401, § 5; P.L. 1998, ch. 105, § 2; P.L. 1998, ch. 404, § 2; P.L. 1999, ch. 83, § 64; P.L. 1999, ch. 130, § 64; P.L. 2000, ch. 491, § 4; P.L. 2016, ch. 470, § 2; P.L. 2016, ch. 473, § 2.)