Helping workers return to work

Your skills as a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) are crucial to your client’s success in returning to work. When you engage with the worker, employer, and attending provider to help the employer identify transitional or light-duty work within the worker’s medical restrictions, you help both the worker and the employer. When the worker returns to work early:

  • The worker stays activated and avoids unnecessary work disability.
  • The employer may keep its valued employee and avoid costly effects of a long-term, compensable claim.

L&I has powerful tools to assist workers and employers, including funds for job modification (see tab above), pre-job accommodation (see tab above), and return-to-work incentive programs.

L&I’s return-to-work incentive programs

Stay at Work Program

L&I’s Stay at Work Program can reimburse the employer of injury for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for workers while they heal.

As a VRC, you can help the employer to:

  • Identify modifications to the job of injury or create transitional or light-duty work.
  • Request the attending provider’s approval of the work.
  • Understand how to apply for the Stay at Work benefits.
  • Connect with Stay at Work Program adjudicators or outreach staff.

Preferred Worker Program

We may certify a worker with permanent medical restrictions as a "preferred worker." This certification enables the employer of injury—or a new employer—to receive financial incentives when they hire the worker for a medically-approved, long-term job.

As a VRC, you can talk to the worker about the benefits of the Preferred Worker Program and how it can be used to help secure employment. Discussing these benefits is a great way to engage your eligible client and keep the focus on return to work.

Reminder

Send all Preferred Worker Program Part A application requests Preferred Worker Request Form (F280-060-000) to us as soon as your client meets eligibility requirements. A worker may be eligible for preferred worker certification if:

  • They have an open State Fund claim with us, and
  • Their workplace injury or illness resulted in a permanent loss of physical or mental function which may be a substantial barrier to employment, and from which further medical improvement is not expected, and
  • Their medical provider has permanently restricted them from returning to their job of injury based on medical findings.

Questions? Call 1-800-845-2634 or email VocRehabProgram@Lni.wa.gov

Resources

Publications

Forms

Job Modifications

L&I has funding to help employers modify a job to allow an employee to return to work after a work injury.

This benefit is for workers who have an employer. If there is no employer, see the Pre-Job Accommodations tab on this page.

The Job Modification Benefit:

  • Is available to the employer of injury or a new employer.
  • Can be for a temporary or permanent job.
  • Covers costs for equipment, tools, and changes to the worksite.
  • May be up to $5,000 per job or job site.
  • Does not directly affect an employer’s rates.

Eligibility

Workers may receive benefits when:

  • Their claim is open and covered by L&I or a self-insured employer.
  • They have temporary or permanent restrictions from the accepted claim condition.
  • They need the modification to return to the job of injury or a new job.

And one of the following applies to the worker:

  • They are off work and paid time-loss compensation benefits.
  • They received loss of earning power benefits.
  • They are paid wages by employer instead of time-loss compensation benefits by L&I.

How to Apply

Need help finding ideas to modify the job?

  • Reach out to the Job Accommodation Network.
  • Request a job modification consultation by contacting the worker's claim manager.

Find a consultant or vendor

To locate a consultant or vendor, use our Vendor Services Lookup Tool.

Reimbursement

The employer may be reimbursed if an L&I vendor is not used:

Equipment Returns

If the employer paid for part of the modification or if the equipment is affixed to the work site, the employer may retain the equipment regardless if the worker returned to work successfully.

Return all other equipment from failed modifications promptly to the nearest L&I service location. If unable, contact the claim manager.

Resources

Forms and Publications

Helpful Links

Laws and Rules

  • WAC 296-19A-010(9-10): Definitions
  • WAC 296-19A-180: When may the department authorize job modifications?
  • WAC 296-19A-190: How much is available for job modification assistance?
  • WAC 296-19A-200: How does an employer apply for job modification assistance?
  • RCW 51.32.095(6): Vocational rehabilitation services — Benefits — Priorities — Allowable costs — Performance criteria.
  • RCW 51.32.250: Payment of job modification costs.
Pre-Job Accommodations

L&I has funding to make it possible for a worker with an open claim to perform the essential functions of a job and/or participate in an approved retraining plan.

This benefit is for workers who do not have an employer. If there is an employer, see the Job Modifications tab on this page.

The Pre-Job Accommodation Benefit:

  • Covers costs for equipment, tools, changes to the worksite.
  • May be up to $5,000 per claim.

Workers may receive benefits when:

  • Their claim is open and covered by L&I.
  • They have restrictions imposed by the industrial condition preventing them from:
    • Participating in an approved training plan, and/or
    • Performing the essential functions of a job consistent with recommendations of a vocational assessment or nearly completed plan.

Apply for pre-job accommodation benefits

  • For claims covered by L&I: Fax the Pre-Job Accommodation Assistance Application (F245-350−000) form to the claim file at 360-902-4567.
  • For workers covered by a self-insured employer, contact employer or its representative directly (this benefit is not available through L&I).

Equipment returns

If a retraining plan fails, or if Option 2 was selected, promptly return unused equipment to the nearest L&I service location. If unable, contact the claim manager.

Need help finding ideas to modify the job?

  • Reach out to the Job Accommodation Network
  • Request a pre-job accommodation consultation by contacting the assigned claim manager.

Find a consultant or vendor

To locate a consultant or vendor, use our Vendor Services Lookup Tool.

Resources

Forms and Publications

Helpful Links

Laws and Rules

  • WAC 296-19A-010(9-10): Definitions
  • WAC 296-19A-191: When may the department authorize prejob accommodations?
  • WAC 296-19A-192: How much is available for prejob accommodations?
  • RCW 51.32.095(6): Vocational rehabilitation services — Benefits — Priorities — Allowable costs — Performance criteria.