Next Step Program

A vocational rehabilitation fund designed to assist qualified injured workers in obtaining training to re-enter the workforce

A permanent impairment from a workers' compensation injury can be a major roadblock. Some impairments could even prevent returning to the pre-injury job. With funds from this program, qualified applicants can learn new job skills for a career path.

The Next Step Program connects permanently disabled injured workers with a public institution and monetary resources to acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to return to meaningful employment.

How it works

  • Have a compensable workers' compensation claim that occurred on or after July 1, 2018.
  • Have a permanent injury with an impairment rating.
  • Receive a disability award for not returning to work or returning to work at a lower pay.
  • Apply within 90 days of receipt of your final disability payment.
  • Select a job in demand.
  • Train within your abilities.

Applications are due no later than 90 days after the final payment date for all permanent partial disability benefits.

Download Application  (Español)

A program representative will either call or talk to you in-person to determine if the program requirements are met.

You'll be assessed for your skills and jobs that fit your interests. Find your local American Job Center.

After you get our letter, register for classes. Funds will be sent to your educational institution after we confirm your class registration.

Award Amount

The award is a last-dollar scholarship that applies to the cost of tuition and mandatory fees. A student could be awarded up to $5,000 per year. The max amount that a single student can receive is $20,000 for all eligible years. The total award budgeted for this program is $500,000 per year.


Any public post-secondary institution located in Tennessee and designated by T. C. A.  § 50-6-208(j) or any business contracted with the State of Tennessee to provide vocational training, vocational assessment, job analysis, employment training, or general educational services.

For example: Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, Community Colleges (Motlow, Chattanooga State, Southwest TN), University of Memphis, University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University, etc.

Yes. You must reapply yearly by submitting a "Request for Vocational Recovery Assistance Renewal" at least 2 months prior to the end of the fiscal year in which benefits were previously administered.

Renewal of vocational recovery assistance may not be granted if the Funds lack adequate excess reserves pursuant to 50-6-208(j)(4); the employee no longer meets eligibility requirements pursuant to rule 0800-2-227-.04; if a terminating event occurs pursuant to rule 0800-2-27-.10 or if that Administrator, in consultation with the Fund Allocation Committee denies the assistance request.

It depends on the refund policy of your school.

No, not if you fill out a "Request for Leave of Absence" and it is approved by the program prior to the beginning of your leave.

To be eligible for a personal or medical leave of absence, the employee must submit a "Request for Leave of Absence" to the Program within 15 days of the withdrawal from the eligible educational institution. 

The Program may grant a medical or personal leave of absence from continuous enrollment at an eligible educational institution as long as all other applicable eligibility criteria are met. Allowable medical or personal reasons may include illness of the student; illness or death of an immediate family member; extreme financial hardship of the student or student's immediate family; fulfillment of required military service; or other extraordinary circumstances beyond the student's control where attendance by the student creates a substantial hardship.

An employee may not receive more 1 personal or medical leave of absence.

  • Failure to maintain any eligibility requirement.
  • Failure to re-apply for benefits timely.
  • Failure to maintain continuous enrollment without an approved personal or medical leave of absence.
  • Failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • Failure to communicate with the program.

The scholarship stops after attaining the degree or certificate. However, the same employee can re-apply for the scholarship for another degree or certificate.

This Page Last Updated: September 29, 2023 at 8:29 AM