What's New for Vocational Counselors

The latest news

Spokane Private School Closure.

October 6, 2015

Interface College of Spokane has announced plans to cease operations. The school stopped enrolling new students as of 9/21/15.

According to the school, current students have potential options. They can finish out the current semester, which for some of them will complete their degree or certification. Students may be able to transfer to another school. Carrington College will be accommodating any student transferring for one of the medical programs. Interface is also working with other area schools to set up transfer relationships.

VRCs should not submit retraining plans for Interface College. If a VRC has a client currently attending Interface, please work with the client and the school to determine the best option for the client. Additional information will be posted here as it becomes available.

Plan Transportation Cost Encumbrance form is updated.

September 24, 2015

There is a new, one-page version of the Plan Transportation Cost Encumbrance form (F245-375-000).

For information on completing the form, please refer to the procedure changes in the August 1 travel expense rule change Whats New? posting.

Private career schools reminder.

September 2, 2015

Labor and Industries is required by statute (RCW 51.32.099) to use only training providers (schools) that are licensed, accredited, or exempt from licensure and approved by L&I, for worker retraining.

The majority of private career schools in Washington State are regulated by the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB). Private career schools licensed by WTECB are required to renew their private vocational school licenses on an annual basis and ensure that all program and course offerings are current and up-to-date. VRCs can check the WTECB web site to determine if a private school is licensed.

To help ensure that workers are attending approved programs from approved schools, when you submit an in-state retraining plan with a licensed private school you must include a copy of the section of the schools WTECB-approved course catalog that pertains to the proposed program. The program identified in the plan must match the program in the approved catalog.

Please note that if a schools program is on the "Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL), also administered by the Workforce Board, then that school may be used, provided the plan matches the program(s) listed on the ETPL web site.

If you have questions please consult with your VSS.

Clarification on date fields in AWA progress reports

August 26, 2015

If the Vocational Counselor determines it is appropriate to send the Job Analyses to another provider (SIMP, IME, FCE, or Work Hardening provider, etc.) BEFORE they send it to the Attending Physician, please capture the date the JAs are send to that provider in the Date JA to Attending Provider field on the AWA progress report.

Similarly, please capture the date that provider responds to the JAs in the Date of Attending Provider Review of JA field.

This allows the VRC to use their judgement on who needs to comment on the JA at that point in the claim and the Claim Manager can see that that the referral is progressing as expected.

We plan to change the language on the AWA Progress Report to read Date JA Sent to Appropriate Provider and Date of Provider Review of JA in the near future.

Thank you very much for all of your efforts to reduce delays in our system.

Important reminders about interpretation and translation services

August 19, 2015

When an injured worker is receiving vocational services it is the responsibility of the healthcare or vocational provider to determine whether effective communication is occurring and to select an interpreter if one is needed. This is true even if the worker is represented.


If a VRC conducts an intake meeting with the injured worker at the workers attorneys office, the VRC should not expect that the attorney will provide an interpreter for oral communication. The VRC needs to ensure that an interpreter is available if one is needed.

Oral vs written communication

L&I pays for oral interpretive services during a vocational referral if they are needed and if the interpreter is qualified per L&I policy. Please note that interpretation services convey oral communications only, while translation services are in written format. Written translation services are not provided to workers that are represented by an attorney.

7/20/15 VTSG meeting announcements and agenda highlights

August 11, 2015

On 7/20/15, the Vocational Technical Stakeholders Group (VTSG) met in Tukwila. You can view the meeting announcements and agenda highlights here.

August 1 travel expense rule change

August 4, 2015

Beginning August 1, 2015, all mileage incurred by workers for retraining purposes will be payable. This means the first and last 15 miles will no longer be deducted. Please note the following procedure changes, effective August 1, 2015.

Annual training benefit

August 3, 2015

The annual training benefit for vocational plans has changed.

Here is the maximum retraining benefit by plan approval date:

Plan Approval Date Maximum Training Benefit
July 31, 2015 and after $17,500.00
July 1, 2015 through July 30, 2015 $16,719.16
June 30, 2015 and before $17,599.11

Accountability Agreement

August 3, 2015

For plans approved on and after July 31, 2015, use the new 7-2015 version of the Accountability Agreement. It provides updated information about Option 2 benefits to reflect the legislative changes in Substitute House Bill 1496. It also removes the training fund amount so there will be no need to update the form every year on July 1st.

For all plan modifications, on any plan, use the new Option 1 Plan Modification Accountability Agreement.

Highlights of Option 2 changes

August 3, 2015

  • The changes apply to workers with plans approved on or after July 31, 2015.
  • Workers receive an award equal to nine months of time-loss rather than six.
  • Workers can use up to 10 percent of Option 2 training funds for vocational assistance such as interviewing skills and resume development.
  • Gives Option 1 participants the ability to choose Option 2 through the first academic quarter or three months training.
  • If the worker chooses Option 2 after starting Option 1, the following will occur:
    • The training benefit will be reduced by the amount of tuition and related fees expended during the Option 1 retraining.
    • The nine-month vocational award will be reduced by any time-loss the worker received since beginning the Option 1 retraining plan.

The department has begun rulemaking to address the Option 2 changes. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide input. Further clarification will be provided as the rulemaking and stakeholdering process unfolds.

Forms and publications that discuss Option 2 are being updated. We will notify you via Whats New when they are published.

Program updates

July 22, 2015

The Preferred Worker Program will soon offer increased benefits to the employer of record and new employers starting January, 2016. We are currently in the process of implementing the language in Substitute House Bill 1496. You can learn more about this legislation here.

The Washington Stay at Work Program (WSAW) will continue to offer the same level of benefits. No changes are currently planned for the WSAW program.

Keep your client in the loop

July 21, 2015

In the interest of promoting responsible communication, L&I has developed ethics-based messages for the VRC community and for employers, third party administrators, and claim staff who hire VRCs. Feel free to share this information wherever it may be helpful.

FCE Project: A new pilot is underway to create clear uniform results and reduce delays

July 8, 2015

The Vendor Services Lookup tool is now displaying FCE providers located in WA, OR and ID.

A new pilot is underway to create clear uniform results and reduce delays.

Vocational Providers have an essential role in these improvements.

  • In collaboration with the attending provider, select an FCE provider that is in close proximity to the worker, is able to provide the evaluation within 21 days, and has the necessary specialty.
  • Call the claim manager to request approval for the FCE with supporting information.
  • Prior to the FCE, send the essential JAs to the clinic.
  • After the evaluation, send JAs with the FCE results to the AP and ask for RTW decisions.
  • If you develop future job analyses after the evaluation, use the results of the test to determine if there is a job match.

Starting in June, selected therapy stakeholder group members are testing out new forms and processes. This includes an updated capacity summary form aligned with the activity prescription form and a standard report summary format. In addition, we have asked our pilot group to test out some procedural changes.

  • Putting results on the report summary (not on the JA signature page/summary)
  • No longer categorizing an individual into a physical demand level
  • Not filling out the capacities form if the evaluator determines low effort results
  • Not asking the attending physician for concurrence

See our project website to learn more.

Make sure that resumes get imaged to the claim file

July 6, 2015

L&I strongly supports the development of resumes for injured workers. VRCs are encouraged to help their clients develop a resume as part of a broader discussion of return to work, and the resources available, including WorkSource, Re-employment Specialists, and the L&I VSS staff located at WorkSource.

We ask that the VRC who performs the resume service submit a copy to the claim file using the new Resume Cover Sheet. For additional information please review the Vocational Payment Policies in the 2015 L&I Medical Aid Rules and Fee Schedules.

The Plan Approval Template Quiz is now available for 1 CEU

May 18, 2015

VRCs can now watch the four short training videos on the new Plan Approval Template and take the online quiz to obtain 1 CEU.  The Plan Approval Template is located on the Plan Development webpage and is designed to reduce delays by making it easier for

  • VRCs to submit the right information, and
  • L&I vocational specialists (VSSs) to find the information they need.

The Department worked with volunteers from private sector, the Vocational Technical Stakeholders Group (VTSG), and VSS staff to design the new report. The encumbrance forms were also revised except for the Plan Transportation Cost Encumbrance (F245-375-000) which will remain the same for now.

The New Plan Approval Request Report is required for all state fund cases and will be effective May 28, 2015.  If you have questions, contact your assigned VSS or use the Plan Approval Request Mailbox: PlanApprovalRequest@LNI.WA.GOV

Changes to the Cost Encumbrance Form

The new cost encumbrance form replaces codes R0340 (books) and RO315 (equipment) with one code: RO312 that will cover Books, Supplies and Equipment. VRCs are still required to enter separate amounts for each of these three categories on the cost encumbrance form. This change will:

  • Reduce the need for VRCs to submit multiple plan modifications.
  • Simplify the number of codes for vendors.
  • Make it easier for the department to move training funds on previously approved plans.

To avoid potential problems, please alert vendors so they are aware of this change when they bill for new vocational plans. For plans that were already approved using the old cost encumbrance form, vendors should bill using the codes listed on the form for that plan. In most cases, this change will not require a plan modification.

Career opportunity: A chance to make a difference

May 6, 2015

There are big things happening at L&I! We are launching new return to work initiatives and shaping enhanced services to achieve our agency goals of helping injured workers heal and return-to-work while making it easier to do business with L&I.

As a Vocational Service Specialist (VSS) on the claims floor, you will be part of a multi-disciplinary team assisting employers and injured workers in returning to work. Your team will include claim managers, field representatives, occupational nurse consultants, and account managers. You will contribute to innovative approaches to return to work that ensure timely and effective decisions through collaborative partnerships with injured workers, employers, private vocational providers, and medical providers.

L&I is evolving to a culture that focuses on achieving return to work outcomes and we need vocational professionals to contribute their skills and ideas to our success. We are expanding our team and invite you to learn more about Vocational Service Specialist (VSS) openings at our Tumwater headquarters. Please contact us if you would like to have an informal conversation about this exciting opportunity, or apply directly.

Vocational employment opportunities

May 6, 2015

This is your chance to join L&I and help injured workers heal and return to work. Become a part of one of our amazing teams who support L&Is cutting-edge Return to Work (ERTW) programs. We currently have openings in the Early Return-to-Work and WorkSource programs, and the Vocational Dispute Resolution Office. We also have openings in our vocational unit that supports our claims operation (see separate posting on this page).

We have jobs available in Seattle/Bellevue, Mt Vernon, Everett, Tacoma and Tumwater. Please contact us if you would like to have an informal conversation and learn more about these exciting opportunities, or apply directly.

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