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Vocational Rehabilitation Brings Houston Man New Work Opportunity After Disabling Spinal Cord Injury Cuts Career Short

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  • Vocational Rehabilitation Brings Houston Man New Work Opportunity After Disabling Spinal Cord Injury Cuts Career Short

    Vocational Rehabilitation Brings Houston Man New Work Opportunity After Disabling Spinal Cord Injury Cuts Career Short
    Tuesday September 9, 7:01 am ET
    Success Story Reinforces National Rehabilitation Awareness Week Sept. 14-20 and Work of Scranton, Pa. National Rehabilitation Foundation

    HOUSTON, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Michael Parker, 45, was a Houston telephone installer until the evening he decided to walk home from work and accidentally fell from an embankment, tumbling 30 feet and landing unconscious. The trauma caused two crushed vertebrae and 13 broken bones, and left Parker without the use of his legs and unable to return to his job. The story of his climb back to employment and financial independence is an example of the results possible through vocational rehabilitation, a profession that began in 1920 with the passing of the National Rehabilitation Act. Vocational rehabilitation was developed originally to assist injured American veterans in finding employment after returning with war injuries, and is being celebrated nationally as part of National Rehabilitation Awareness Week Sept. 14-20.
    From the beginning of his disability, Parker was determined to work again, reminding everyone that, "This will get better, because it can't get much worse." The worst, according to Parker, was spending two months in a hospital bed set up in his dining room, waiting to heal after surgery before finishing the second stage of rehabilitation at a Texas medical center.

    As a breadwinner, Parker needed to help take care of his family's financial needs. Rose Marie Antonucci, vocational rehabilitation specialist with CIGNA Group Insurance, evaluated Parker's case as part of his disability benefits coverage. Parker had been out of work recovering from his injury for a year and a half and was about to enroll in a computer class at a local community college. The two began exploring retraining that could help Parker return to a productive life. Parker had already contacted the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, who approved a plan for Parker to pursue his associate's degree in computer training. Antonucci was in frequent contact with the Texas Rehabilitation Commission and worked with this public agency to pay for a portion of Parker's tuition, books and supplies like a graphic calculator for algebra. Halfway through his degree program, Parker transferred to another college to expedite a prompt graduation date and seek additional courses.

    "Michael was one of the most highly motivated people we've ever worked with," according to Linda Robinson of the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, who helped negotiate the rehab agreement with Parker. As part of the arrangement, CIGNA Group Insurance agreed to continue long-term disability benefits through the duration of the degree and for three months after graduation, giving Parker peace of mind to focus on his studies and search for work with job placement assistance from CIGNA.

    "Parker's drive to succeed was remarkable. In my 25 years in vocational rehabilitation, I would say he was one of the most motivated individuals I ever worked with," said Antonucci, who is based in CIGNA's Pittsburgh Disability Claim Office. "He inspired us all, and it was a pleasure to be able to help him."

    Parker has found a job in the call center of an Internet service provider, providing help desk technical assistance to customers. He began a transitional training period and became a permanent part-time employee in January 2003.

    "I always believed you have to take control of your own future, regardless of the circumstances you're given," Parker said. "I will not let my disability keep me down. Just because my legs don't work doesn't mean my mind doesn't."

    What is rehabilitation and National Rehabilitation Awareness Week?

    Rehabilitation is a medical specialty that helps restore people to health and productive lives after potentially disabling disease or injury. Most Americans will require at least one rehabilitative service in their lives, according to the National Rehabilitation Foundation. Rehabilitation often centers on a team approach by physicians specializing in rehabilitation, physical, occupational, respiratory and recreational therapists, speech and language pathologists, rehabilitation nurses, psychologists, vocational counselors and other professionals. For every $1 spent on rehab care, it is estimated that $11 is saved on long-term disability costs, according to the National Rehabilitation Foundation.

    Vocational rehabilitation is the process of developing return to work options for someone, using his or her skills and functional capabilities. CIGNA's vocational rehabilitation counselors have master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling and are nationally certified by the Commission of Certified Rehabilitation Counselors. "CIGNA's voc rehab professionals are leaders in their field," said Mark Marsters, senior vice president, CIGNA Disability Management Solutions. "They exemplify the expert resources who are available throughout the disability claim organization for our customers."

    Since 1990, thousands of rehabilitation providers and agencies have joined together in the third week of September to share the message that rehabilitation offers hope, achievement and success. In 1997, the observance began to be celebrated under the banner of the newly established National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation based in Scranton, Pa. The Foundation's mission is to educate people about the benefits of rehabilitation, develop programs that increase opportunities for the nearly 50 million Americans with disabilities, and help those who are disabled live up to their fullest potential. For more information, call 800-943-NRAF or 570-341-4637 or visit the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation website at

    About CIGNA

    CIGNA Corporation (NYSE: CI - News) is located at One Liberty Place, 1650 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19192. Its telephone number is 215.761.1000.

    CIGNA Corporation (NYSE: CI - News) is headquartered in Philadelphia, and its subsidiaries constitute one of the largest publicly owned employee benefits organizations in the United States. Its subsidiaries are major providers of employee benefits offered through the workplace, including health care products and services; group life, accident and disability insurance; retirement products and services; and investment management. As of June 30, 2003, CIGNA Corporation had consolidated assets of $91.3 billion and shareholders' equity of $4.2 billion. Full-year 2002 revenues totaled $19.3 billion. Web site:

    Source: CIGNA Group Insurance

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  • #2
    Vocational rehab. provides work training and job placement services. Not to be confused with the type of rehab. that involves exercise/physical therapy. I'm going to copy this to the SCI News forum.


    • #3
      Interesting, the Pittsburgh office of Cigna also handles my ltd claim.

      Same case manager as well.

      Weird. What are the odds?