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, pre-job accommodation, 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.


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.