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What's New for Vocational Counselors

The latest news

Request archived news

Email VocRehabProgram@Lni.wa.gov to request archived What's New postings.

L&I's Private Vocational Schools Collaborative Project

November 21, 2017

From February 2016 through February 2017, L&I partnered with the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, the state agency that licenses private schools, to gain a better understanding of licensing requirements and the complaint investigation process for private schools.

Goals included:

  • Identifying potential deficiencies of training programs.
  • Evaluating issues related to skill attainment and job readiness.
  • Finding opportunities to partner with government agencies and other organizations that work with private schools.

To review L&I's findings and recommendations, see Private Vocational Schools Collaborative Report, November 2017 (822 KB PDF).

What is L&I's Private Vocational Schools Collaborative Project?

The L&I Private Vocational Schools Collaborative works with public and private schools, the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, vocational providers and other stakeholders to ensure quality education for injured workers.

For more information, call Karen Ahrens at 360-902-4529.


Change to Application Requirements for New Firms

November 15, 2017

As some of you have heard, we are officially launching the Vocational Recovery Project a collaborative effort with members of the vocational community to create a culture focused on vocational recovery that engages all parties in preventing work disability while improving return-to-work outcomes.

In the coming weeks, youll learn more about this important partnership to improve the delivery of best practices that support worker engagement and our shared focus on return to work. In addition to identifying best practices, we will be developing, for example, the infrastructure to encourage best practices through education and training tools, ensuring our referral model supports service quality, developing incentives, improving our performance measurement model, and analyzing elements or criteria for vocational providers and firms.

While we pursue this important work with your representatives, its important that we avoid unnecessary changes. For this reason, effective immediately L&I will no longer approve a vocational provider application for a twin firm. A twin firm is a firm that is the same as another firm, in terms of office locations and staff.

If you have questions about this decision, please reach out directly to Richard Wilson, CRC, Private Sector Compliance Program Manager.


Access to telephone interpretation services is expanding

November 13, 2017

All vocational firms in Washington can now use telephone interpretation services when contacting clients with limited English proficiency who are out of state. This service is available only when advising workers with claims covered by L&I not for claims covered by self-insured businesses.

Over-the-phone interpreters are available through CTS Language Link, the company that holds a statewide contract.

Expanded service is based on recent pilot

We started piloting this service in June. Eleven VRCs from eight firms participated. (The VRCs in the pilot had worked most often on out of state cases in the last year.) In September, we expanded the pilot to include all counselors and interns at the participating firms, and we received positive feedback.

How to access CTS Language Link

Questions? You can contact:

  • Darrell Bessey at Darrell.Bessey@Lni.wa.gov
  • Rich Wilson at Rich.Wilson@Lni.wa.gov

  • New billing codes for Option 2 vocational services

    October 20, 2017

    Vocational counseling and job placement services can be provided on both State Fund and self-insured claims when the worker has selected Option 2 under a plan approved on or after July 31, 2015.

    Option 2 vocational counseling and job placement services on State Fund claims can now be billed using your usual billing process. Please stop using the manual process shared with you previously.

    • The new billing codes are:
      • R0399 (Vocational counseling)
      • R0398 (Job placement services)
    • Use referral number 9999999 since the plan development referral will be closed.

    For more information about vocational counseling and job placement services, see:

    Were in the process of adding Information on Option 2 vocational services to:

    • Medical Aid Rules and Fee Schedules (MARFS).
    • Option 2: What You Need to Know brochure (F280-036-000).

    L&I service locations moving, renamed

    October 3, 2017

    The Bremerton service location field office:

    • Is moving to Silverdale October 16, 2017.
    • Will have a new name Silverdale service location.

    The Port Angeles service location field office:

    • Moved to Sequim October 2, 2017.
    • Has a new name Sequim service location.

    See important information about these changes (28 KB PDF).


    Updated ADMX pilot process

    September 28, 2017

    We've updated the ADMX pilot guidelines, templates, and stakeholder engagement resources. Our goal is to create a culture focused on vocational recovery that engages all parties in preventing workplace disability while improving the worker's return-to-work opportunities. Please use the following updated resources:


    VRC access to Claim and Account Knowledge Base

    September 20, 2017

    VRCs can now use the online Claim and Account Knowledge Base to find L&Is vocational policies and other information. Weve added the directions on how to access this online reference to the Laws, rules, and policies page (formerly called About Referrals).


    Fall Vocational Conference - Activity Coaching Integration and Collaboration Presentation Slides

    September 14, 2017

    Here is the presentation (1 MB PDF) with contact information for those of you who requested the slides.

    Remember: If you obtain an attending providers referral for this intervention, please fax it directly to 360-902-5035 or call 360-902-6261.


    Maximum vocational retraining amount effective July 1, 2017

    July 7, 2017

    The maximum vocational retraining amount is reviewed annually and adjusted as needed according to the statute governing vocational rehabilitation services. For plans approved July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, the maximum vocational retraining amount is $17,885.


    Computer Purchases for Retraining Plans: Things to Consider

    June 22, 2017

    Many of the proposed retraining plans include a request for a computer. The Vocational Service Specialist team has outlined some considerations for these requests.

    1. Is a computer required by the retraining program?
      • If so, ask the school to provide minimum requirements.
      • If not, L&I will consider a computer purchase if the worker cannot use a school lab to submit homework online.
    2. Talk with the worker about L&I requirements.
      • Prior approval is required.
      • Workers cannot pay the difference between a required computer and a desired one. For example, if the desired computer costs $2,000 and only $750 is approved, the worker cannot pay the difference.
    3. Does the worker need internet access in the home?
      • L&I will only reimburse for internet service if the worker doesnt currently have the service. (A set up bill will be required after the plan has been approved.)
    4. Reminders:
      • If special/ergonomic equipment is needed, the equipment/software can be requested as a Pre-Job Accommodation provided it is related to the industrial injury. (Examples: Dragon NaturallySpeaking, wave keyboard, ergo mouse, etc.)
      • Most internet providers offer FREE antivirus software.
      • Call your unit VSS during plan development if you have any questions.

    CAC access to all claims for a worker

    May 1, 2017

    A VRC with an open referral can access all prior claims for that worker in the Claim & Account Center. Access includes any CAC page, including the imaged file, for all the workers other open and closed claims. VRCs should not call the department to request time-limited access to prior claims; such requests create unnecessary work and cause delays.

    Weve updated the Review a Claim webpage to include instructions on how to use CAC to view a workers other claims.


    Reminder: SNA3 Not able to work or participate in vocational rehabilitation due to unaccepted conditions

    April 13, 2017

    Documentation may support that unaccepted conditions arising from unrelated events (post-injury motor vehicle accident, a post-injury illness, a post-injury progression of a pre-existing condition, or non-cooperation) prevent a worker from participating in vocational services (SNA3).

    To support a vocational outcome SNA3, please provide the following information, regardless of the phase of vocational services:

    1. Documentation of the occupational possibility the worker could benefit from were it not for the unrelated conditions or barriers.
    2. A medically-approved job goal.
    3. The methodology for acquiring the skills.
    4. A labor market survey demonstrating the job goal exists.

    Early AWA Referrals: A Sea Change

    April 10, 2017

    In partnership with you, our early AWA referrals are improving vocational outcomes and reducing long-term disability.

    The charts below tell the story.

    What weve done

    AWA referrals are going out earlier than ever before.

    Since December 2013, the days of time-loss benefits paid before the first AWA referral have plummeted- from 245 to 84! Line graph shows the Median Time-loss days paid at 1st AWA Referral beginning in January 2003 at about 200 days fluctuating down before peaking in November 2008 at about 275. The days stayed up there until a marked downward trend in July 2013 that has continued to the current state of below 100.

    Since July of 2016 claim managers have:

    • Kept AWA referrals going out around our 90-day goal.
    • Sent out an average of 550 first AWAs every month, a rate not seen in 7 years!
    What youve done

    As a result of your hard work, outcomes are the best weve ever seen:

    • Return to Work and Able to Work Job of Injury outcomes have never been higher.
    • Able to Work Transferrable Skills outcomes have never been lower.
    Line graph shows the First AWA referral made with less than 90 days of time-loss (12 month moving average) beginning in January 2004 measuring the Return to Work, Able to Work Job of Injury and Able to Work Transferable Skills statistics. Return to Work starts at 20%, Able to work job of injury and Able to work Transferable skills both begin at 15%. All three fluctuate until the new process is put in place in January 2014 when the Able to Work Transferable Skills trends downward to about 8% in January 2017. Return to Work and Able to Work Job of Injury both trend upwards to over 30% in January 2017.

    Thank you for providing better outcomes for workers and employers! Our goal is to continue working with you to maintain these improvements, prevent long-term disability, and help our workers heal and return to work.


    L&I has several opportunities for Vocational Services Specialists, located in Tumwater and Mt. Vernon

    March 29, 2017

    Come work for L&I and fulfill your dream of having a work-life balance!

    • No more billable hours!
    • A consistent paycheck!
    • Evenings and weekends free again!

    Additional benefits:

    • Opportunities for continuing education units.
    • An active tuition reimbursement program for continuing education.
    • Flexible work schedule opportunities, including teleworking.
    • Medical, dental, and vision benefits.
    • Paid holidays, vacation, and sick leave.

    Opportunities available

    L&I Vocational Services Specialist, Return-to-Work (GovernmentJobs.com) Located in Tumwater: This Vocational Services Specialist supports the agency claims units. You'll use your professional and technical vocational services expertise and partnerships to ensure injured workers return to work as quickly and safely as possible. Assist workers in receiving the right services at the right time. Become a part of an amazing team who supports L&I's cutting-edge Return-to-Work (RTW) program.

    Questions or to learn more about L&I and our opportunities contact Phyllis Gallegos at 360-902-4903 or by email at Phyllis.Gallegos@Lni.wa.gov.


    VRCs Continue to Exceed Standard Work Expectations

    March 14, 2017

    Back in December we reported that the vocational community was doing an excellent job meeting the VRC Standard Work guidelines. Were very happy to say that a quarter later the VRCs continue to exceed those expectations.

    Based on information the VRCs are documenting in their progress reports:

    • The initial vocational intake is being performed in an average of 13 days.
    • The job analyses are being sent to the appropriate providers in an average of 23 days.
    • The providers are reviewing those job analyses in an average of 38 days.

    These are all still well within the 15, 30, and 42-day time frames we were hoping for!

    Please continue to:

    • Fill in these fields in the Ability to Work Assessment progress report based on the first time you send the job of injury Job Analysis to the appropriate provider.
    • Keep reporting the barriers you are encountering so we can help you get these referrals resolved and the workers back to work.

    This further demonstrates the value of our shared efforts to reduce delays in our system.

    Thank you and please keep up the great work!


    Partnering with Third Party Representatives (TPAs)/Retro and What You Should Know

    February 21, 2017

    L&I is working to partner with the TPAs and Retro groups when it comes to facilitating return to work for their aligned employers. Check out this PDF (320 KB PDF) to learn more.


    Vocational referral closure upon Option 2 election actions needed

    April 14, 2016

    Effective today, the following new procedure will be used when closing a vocational referral upon Option 2 election.

    The Vocational Services Specialist (VSS) will:

    • Determine whether the Option 2 election is timely.
    • If elected timely, enter the Option 2 information closing the vocational referral.
    • Call the vocational provider and inform them that:
      • Option 2 was elected.
      • The vocational referral is now closed.
      • They have 14 days to submit closure.

    The vocational provider should have a conversation with the worker about Option 2, including reminding the worker that the:

    • Vocational award will be reduced by any time-loss received since the beginning of the Option 1 retraining plan.
    • Option 2 training fund will be reduced by the amount expended for Option 1, including costs incurred if the worker fails to withdraw from courses.

    The vocational provider will then submit a vocational closure with the following information:

    • What was the approved retraining goal?
    • Did the worker start the retraining before electing Option 2?
    • If the worker started the retraining, what date did they start?
    • Outline discussion with worker about their Option 2 intent. Did they withdraw from courses? Outline any skills gained.

    Note: The VRC does not need to submit a recommended vocational closure code as the vocational referral closes when the Vocational Services Specialist enters the Option 2 outcome.

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