What's New for Vocational Counselors

The latest news


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.


Private career schools update

May 5, 2015

Recently L&I published requirements for VRCs when submitting a retraining plan with a private school. We are updating the requirements to the following: Rather than submit an entire school catalog, VRCs need only submit that section of the catalog that pertains to the proposed program. All other requirements remain in place.


The new plan approval template is ready

April 28, 2015

The new Plan Approval Request Report located on the Plan Development webpage 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.

To assist vocational providers in completing the Plan Approval Request Report and new encumbrance forms, there are four short training videos. The New plan approval Request Report is required for all state fund cases and will be effective 30 days from todays date.

We are currently obtaining a CEU to watch the videos and take a quiz on completing the Plan Approval Request. Watch Whats New by May 15th to obtain one continuing education credit.

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, and
  • 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.


We're renaming the PCE!

April 9, 2015

As part of a capacity evaluation improvement project that began last year, we are updating our terminology to Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). Learn more about the name change, work done by the Therapy Stakeholder Group, a new Worker Fact Sheet and other changes at our project website. You can also review and provide feedback on draft proposals as they become available. Currently we are seeking comments on the draft Capacities Summary form and Report Summary Template.


VSS WorkSource regional partnership newsletter

March 4, 2015

Want to know whats happening at WorkSource? Call or email our WS VSSs and ask to be added to their distribution list. You will receive the latest WS L&I Partnership Newsletter noting events, labor market information, and current job openings.


Objective approach to labor market survey

March 2, 2015

Vocational representatives from the Washington Self-Insured Employers Association (WSIA) approached L&I to discuss how to make labor market surveys more objective, how to ensure a more consistent product and how to make them easier to administer. With this goal in mind, the vocational representatives worked with a number of other vocational providers in the community to develop an alternative approach to labor market surveys. A description of this work can be found in this document.

The alternative approach relies heavily on objective labor market data from Federal, State and County resources, while still validating information with specific employers when necessary, for example when the JA doesnt match the physical requirements of the objective labor market data.

L&I believes that all parties can benefit from a more objective approach to labor market surveys. The alternative option presented to L&I appears to provide this objectivity, while reducing burden on employers and VRCs.


Private career schools

February 11, 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, effective immediately when you submit an in-state retraining plan with a licensed private school you must include a copy of the schools WTECB-approved course catalog. The program identified in the plan must match a 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.


AWA standard work reduces delays

February 3, 2015

About a year and half ago L&I partnered with the vocational community to develop VRC standard work. Many VRCs have adopted these standards as best practices to help injured workers heal and return to work. We believe this is having a positive effect. AWA progress reports now carry fields where the dates for these activities are entered by the VRC.

  • Please make sure you fill in these fields. As of December 2014 the dates entered on the progress reports are being collected in the L&I data warehouse. This will give us the opportunity to further align vocational services with the agency goal of helping the injured workers heal and return to work.
  • Please note that even with all of the barriers that the vocational community is documenting, you are meeting the deadlines about 70% of the time!
  • Please keep reporting the barriers you are encountering so the department can help you get these referrals resolved and the injured workers back to work.

Thank you for your efforts to reduce delays in our system!


Resume services

January 29, 2015

As a reminder, Labor and Industries may reimburse vocational providers for providing resume assistance on their open vocational referrals. We believe that this will contribute to the agency goal of helping injured workers heal and return to work. For additional information please see the Vocational Payment Policies in the 2014 L&I Medical Aid Rules and Fee Schedules.


Cell phones

January 29, 2015

Labor and Industries allows individual VRCs the alternative of listing their cell phone numbers on the ORION vocational referral screen. The goal is to increase effective communication between VRCs and claim staff and contribute to 2 of our agency goals, helping injured workers heal and return to work and making it easy to do business with L&I. Use the VRC Primary Contact Form for the specific purpose of updating VRC phone numbers. The form was sent to all firm managers last year. If you need a copy, or have any questions, please contact Rheo Aieta at 360-902-5447.

End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

  © Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.