By Brian Holmes, Director, Mediation and Ombudsman Services of Tennessee, Nashville
The Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation recently launched the Next Step Program. This new program assists injured workers who are unable to return to their pre-injury employment. Many receive their workers’ compensation benefits and are unsure how they will support their families in the future. The Next Step Program provides these injured workers a means to return to meaningful and productive employment.
Many Next Step applicants could find new employment without engaging a formal education program. For those who don’t want to go back to school, the program will utilize the expertise of the American Job Centers throughout Tennessee. These job centers assess job skills and help permanently injured persons find suitable employment by partnering with local employers.
Those who are interested in obtaining new skills can tap into other resources to cover the full cost of training. Robert Davies, Director of the Subsequent Injury and Vocational Recovery Fund, says, “Applicants can use the Next Step Program as a gateway into even more resources like the American Job Centers, who connect injured workers with federal government financial assistance programs and state scholarship programs such as TN Reconnect.”
The Next Step Scholarship is available to workers injured on the job on or after July 1, 2018. Up to $5,000.00 per year in financial assistance is available to obtain new job skills through a Tennessee college of applied technology, community college, or public university. To qualify, the injured worker must have a compensable claim and have received permanent disability benefits for not returning to work or for returning to work at lower wages. The Bureau must receive an application within 90 days of the injured worker’s receipt of his or her final permanent disability payment.
Applications for the program can be completed and submitted immediately after a settlement approval. Brochures are now available at all Bureau of Workers’ Compensation offices. For more information, call the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation at 800-332-2667 or send me an email.