Latest News for Vocational Providers

May 2022

Reminder: Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee public meeting May 26

Update - Stand-alone job analysis referrals and code

April 2022

Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

New stand-alone job analysis referral closing report and codes

Early Return to Work Consultation for employers with open vocational recovery referrals

March 2022

Save the date: Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee public meeting

Happy Rehabilitation Counselor Day!

Register now for the 2022 Physical Medicine Conference

Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #20

Volunteers needed: School Oversight Billing Project

Preparing for Opioid Review Team meetings

Extended deadline: Progressive Goal Attainment Program Study

Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

Volunteers needed: Progressive Goal Attainment Program Study

Updated quality assurance data reporting template

February 2022

Interim Chief of Return to Work Partnerships – Kirsta Glenn

Stand-alone job analyses

New L&I WorkSource assistance contact list

Save the date: Physical Medicine Conference 2022

Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships personnel update

January 2022

Modified Chronic Opioid Therapy (mCOT) Pilot

Private vehicle mileage reimbursement rate

Reminder to track plan development and plan implementation quality assurance elements

Reminder: Chief of Return to Work Partnerships opening

Updated timeline for ProviderOne transition

New Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee members named

December 2021

Begin plan development and plan implementation tracking in January

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #19

Authentication of firm data

November 2021

Exciting L&I leadership opportunities

Reminder: Submitting PDF documents

Application for the Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee

Bill processing error

L&I seeking a vocational services specialist

Updates to the vocational recovery referral closure templates

Vickie Kennedy honored with two industry awards

Action Required: 2022 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement

Save the date: Quality Assurance Information Session

New Preferred Worker Program web pages for employers

Updated Utilization Review messages

October 2021

Updates to plan development good cause extension template

Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

Washington’s vaccine requirement proclamation

Retraining plans impacted by the worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status

Updated vocational provider application

ADMX Request Discussion Guide for plan implementation referrals

September 2021

Discussion guides for good cause extensions and ADMX requests on plan development referrals

ADMX Request Discussion Guide for ability to work assessment referrals

ADMX Request Discussion Guide for vocational recovery referrals

Employer’s Return to Work Toolkit

Introducing ADMX discussion guides

Orientations for firms interested in doing business with L&I

Return to Work Partnerships staff update

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #18

Physical Medicine Progress Report updates

Welcome the newest WorkSource vocational services specialists

Open for public comment: Work Rehabilitation Guideline

August 2021

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #17

Progress report due date change

New – Retraining plan certification requirement

July 2021

Correction to extension fee cap system error

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #16

New interpreter services procedures for out of state providers

Follow-up: June Quality Assurance Information Session materials

Information needed for background checks

UPDATED: Vocational Recovery Referral Closing Reports

L&I's interpreter scheduling system: Acknowledging challenges from change, inviting your feedback

New quality assurance data reporting template

NEW Vocational Recovery Referral Closing Reports

What to do when your VSS is out

ACTION REQUESTED – Vocational Firm Quality Assurance Adoption Survey

Avoiding plan failures: How to better manage plan implementation

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #15

June 2021

L&I seeking a vocational services specialist

Important information about branch offices

Vocational retraining fund adjustment – a 2 percent increase

Guidance on requesting additional vocational assistance (AVA)

L&I provider accounts and credentialing are moving to ProviderOne

Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #14

Background Checks for Vocational Providers

Retraining plans: Don’t wait until the last minute!

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services for telehealth available to providers through CTS Language Link

VSS coverage update

January 2021

Travel mileage reimbursement rate effective Jan. 1, 2021


Request archived news

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


Reminder: Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee public meeting May 26

May 12, 2022

The Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC) will hold a public meeting online on Thursday, May 26.

Please see Zoom details below:

Thursday, May 26 at 9 a.m.

  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 849 0131 2517
  • Passcode: VRACop3n!
  • Or, join by phone at 253-215-8782, with passcode 025736785#

Agenda items include:

  • Data and trends.
  • Recent changes and upcoming initiatives.
  • Open forum questions and answers.

The meeting is scheduled for two hours.

For questions about the meeting, or if you would like to send your meeting questions in advance, email the vocational recovery project with “VRAC Public Meeting” in the subject line.


Update - Stand-alone job analysis referrals and code

May 2, 2022

We have an update on recent information about stand-alone job analysis (SAJA) referrals.

What’s changed?

  • We have decided to send all SAJAs to private vocational firms. This will increase the number of SAJA referrals received by your firm.
  • Use JA02: Job Analysis Not Complete to close the referral if the SAJA referral can’t be completed due to time or fee-cap limits.
    • Please tell your staff not to call the claim manager when this code is used.
    • Return-to-Work Partnerships staff will review these outcomes daily and send the referral back to the firm for completion.

SAJA referrals can provide important information for claim managers to make decisions that help reduce the development of work disability. We appreciate the good work we have been seeing from the private sector.

Remember to fill out the SAJA referral closing report and submit it with the job analysis when the SAJA referral has been successfully completed.

L&I will continue to assess SAJA outcomes to determine if changes to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-19A-137 and/or fee caps should be considered

L&I will evaluate SAJA closures with our Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee over the next several months.

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

April 25, 2022

Return to Work Partnerships is excited to announce Fernando Herron as a new vocational services specialist (VSS) supervisor, effective April 18, 2022.

Fernando joins Melissa Sutherland and Lara Drabek as VSS supervisors reporting to Kirsta Glenn, chief of Return to Work Partnerships. Please check our updated printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.

Fernando has spent the last five years as a vocational services specialist lead coaching VSSs working with vocational rehabilitation counselors and claim managers to provide effective services to workers. During this time, he built valuable relationships, and developed an expertise in promoting vocational recovery and helping injured workers return to work.

Fernando has contributed to many process improvement projects. He brings a wealth of experience working with non-English language speaking workers while supporting the Out of Country Claims unit, which includes H-2A workers and Spanish-speaking workers. Fernando’s background in both claims management and vocational counseling will be an asset to the VSS team as they collaborate to provide excellent services to workers in Washington.

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.


New stand-alone job analysis referral closing report and codes

April 11, 2022

L&I lifted the moratorium on stand-alone job analysis (SAJA) referrals in February. We plan to use the reintroduction of SAJAs to also collect data about engagement activities, barriers, and the ability to go to the jobsite through a new closing report.

We will assess SAJA outcomes on a weekly basis to determine if changes to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-19A-137 and/or fee caps should be considered.

To identify when a referral is closing due to time or fee cap limits, vocational counselors should use the following closure codes:

  • JA02: Job Analysis Not Complete (due to fee cap)
  • JA03: Job Analysis – Ran Out of Time

Using the correct code is critical to gathering accurate data. Counselors should submit closures as soon as possible to minimize delays.

Once closed, L&I will send a new referral to the firm to complete the job analysis.

We do not expect a high level of SAJA referrals since the Early Return to Work team receives most referrals on claims not yet allowed and, for allowed claims, a vocational recovery referral is often more appropriate for the worker. However, completed SAJA referrals will now require a closing report. The one-page report asks vocational providers to briefly summarize barriers, if any, to completing the analysis at the jobsite and describe the worker and employer engagement during the process. There is a 500-character limit, so only the most significant details should be included in the report.

L&I will evaluate SAJA closures with our Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC) over the next several months. If you have feedback on the report, email the Vocational Recovery Project.

If a firm is not comfortable completing the analysis at the jobsite, decline the referral and call the claim manager so it can be reassigned. If the counselor cannot go to the jobsite due to employer restrictions, the firm should accept and complete the analysis using all available tools. Then, on the closing report, indicate the jobsite barrier.

Finally, thank you to our VRAC members who were instrumental in the development of the new SAJA closing report and their additional recommendations. We are excited to continue to build solutions with their engagement and support.

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Early Return to Work Consultation for employers with open vocational recovery referrals

April 7, 2022

Early Return to Work Consultation (ERTWC) is a new service offered by the Early Return to Work (ERTW) program. Through an ERTWC, regional vocational services specialists (VSSs) help employers to build and implement a return-to-work program.

An ERTWC focuses on employer systems, not individual cases. Sometimes ERTWC may receive a referral or request for services while there is an open vocational recovery (VR) referral. When this happens, the efforts of the regional VSS during the ERTWC will not overlap or conflict with the work of the vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC).

Before working with any employer, the regional VSS will check if the employer has any open VR referrals. If there are, they will contact the employer to clarify their role during the ERTWC versus that of the VRC. Of course, as part of normal engagement activities, the VRC is also expected to explain their role to the employer.

VRCs can help an employer develop a return-to-work program by emailing the ERTW consultation team mailbox. You can find more information about the services ERTW offers on L&I’s employer incentives web page.

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Save the date: Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee public meeting

March 31, 2022

The Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC) will hold a public meeting online on Thursday, May 26.

Save the date and Zoom details below:

Thursday, May 26 at 9 a.m.

  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 849 0131 2517
  • Passcode: VRACop3n!
  • Or, join by phone at 253-215-8782, with passcode 025736785#

Agenda items include:

  • Data and trends.
  • Recent changes and upcoming initiatives.
  • Open forum questions and answers.

The meeting is scheduled for two hours.

For questions about the meeting, or if you would like to send your meeting questions in advance, email the vocational recovery project with “VRAC Public Meeting” in the subject line.


Happy Rehabilitation Counselor Day!

March 22, 2022

Today, L&I is celebrating National Rehabilitation Counselor Appreciation Day, recognizing vocational counselors and vocational services specialists. We are so grateful for the partnership we have built and continue to develop with the vocational community.

First established in 2007, National Rehabilitation Counselors Appreciation Day continues to be a day that holds a special place in the hearts of the rehabilitation community. According to the United States of America Congressional Record, Congress “commends all of the hard work and dedication that rehabilitation counselors provide to individuals in need and the numerous efforts that the multiple professional organizations have made to assisting those who require rehabilitation.”

We couldn’t have said it any better. Your dedication to quality and helping workers heal and return to work is appreciated today and every day. Thank you.

For questions, email the Vocational Recovery Project.


Register now for the 2022 Physical Medicine Conference

March 21, 2022

The L&I Physical Medicine Conference 2022: Integrating Best Practices will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 6. This is a no-cost, virtual conference with a target audience of occupational and physical therapy providers. Interested vocational rehabilitation counselors, behavioral health providers, and attending providers are also welcome.

Register now for this virtual event.

Topics include:

  • Building therapeutic alliance
  • Behavioral health collaboration
  • Preventing work disability
  • Pain neuroscience
  • The Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy’s new Clinical Practice Guideline: Restricted Work Participation
  • L&I’s new Work Rehabilitation Guideline

All attendees who wish to receive continuing education credits (CEUs) must register separately for the conference.

General certificates of completion and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) /Certified Disability Management Specialist (CDMS) certificates will be issued upon request.

Email therapy@Lni.wa.gov with any questions.


Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #20

March 18, 2022

L&I has created a series of communications called Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, MythBusters clarifies the role of the health services coordinator (HSC) as a resource for a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) if a provider is enrolled in a Center of Occupational Health and Education (COHE).

MYTH: “VRCs don’t have any resources to assist them in getting information from the injured worker’s attending provider.”

If an injured worker’s attending provider is enrolled in a COHE, VRCs may ask the HSC working with that provider for help in getting the information they need. If an HSC is assigned to a case, that person’s name and contact information will appear with that of the attending provider in the address screen in the Claim and Account Center.

The role of the HSC is to:

  • Coordinate worker care for up to the first year of treatment.
  • Engage with employers about return-to-work options.
  • Train providers on best practices.
  • Help providers implement best practices in their office(s).

For more information, email the Health Services team.


Volunteers needed: School Oversight Billing Project

March 17, 2022

L&I’s School Oversight Program is looking for volunteer vocational providers to lend their expertise to a new billing project.

An L&I project team has been formed to analyze and make recommendations to make it easier for schools and providers to do business with L&I. Starting in April, the team is expanding to include expertise from the vocational community. They are looking for vocational providers who are interested in collaborating to solve school billing issues.

Ideally, schools submit accurate and complete bills to L&I and they are paid the first time, every time. In practice, 16 percent of bills submitted by schools are adjusted or denied. This can impact worker training for weeks or even months as issues are researched and resolved.

The team will meet for about two hours every other week through the end of May to develop work products. After that, the focus will shift to testing, refining, and implementing solutions with occasional stakeholder meetings and feedback gathering.

Email School Oversight Program with questions or to volunteer for the project. Once volunteers are selected, they will be notified.


Preparing for Opioid Review Team meetings

March 15, 2022

A new preparation guide is now available for vocational providers to help prepare for the Opioid Review Team meetings as a part of the Modified Chronic Opioid Therapy (mCOT) pilot.

L&I’s Office of the Medical Director (OMD), in partnership with occupational nurse consultants located in our various field offices, launched the mCOT pilot last January to improve how cases of chronic pain are addressed and ultimately reduce opioid-related deaths and disability.

After the OMD identifies people who may be candidates for the pilot, the assigned vocational counselor is invited to attend a closed Opioid Review Team meeting with the L&I pharmacist, the associate medical director, the claim manager, and an occupational nurse consultant.

To prepare for the meetings, vocational providers should consider the questions listed in the guide about the specific worker’s goals and barriers. They should also be prepared to share their insights and expertise to help build a recovery plan for the worker.

The OMD will reach out to vocational providers individually to discuss their involvement in review team discussions and coordinate schedules.

If you have any questions, email Jaymie Mai or call 360-902-6792.


Extended deadline: Progressive Goal Attainment Program Study

March 14, 2022

L&I’s Therapy Services program is looking for a few more vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs), with the approval of their firm, to assist in a Progressive Goal Attainment Program® (PGAP) study to identify specific case characteristics, design best practices for VRCs to identify candidates, and generate data to expand the use of the program.

If your firm is interested in increasing the success of PGAP, contact VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov to join the study by March 15. The team will reach out with more details and schedule the kick-off meeting with the SPOCs.

Many workers who are experiencing a longer than expected recovery time may be missing out on opportunities to increase their quality of life, resume their normal activities, recover, and return to work. With the experiences, observations, and data from vocational providers, Therapy Services can define more specific criteria and tools to identify ideal candidates for the program at the right time.

The program hopes to include at least 40 VRCs from firms all over the state in the study. Firms with more than one participating VRC should identify a representative to collect data and attend monthly meetings for their firm, starting at the end of March. The representative from the firm will be the single point of contact (SPOC) for the study and be responsible for combining all data from VRCs in their firm. The SPOC will submit data to L&I and attend L&I-facilitated group discussions.

Once volunteers are identified, we will schedule a kick-off meeting to discuss how data will be collected pre-referral, during the program, and after the program ends. Data will be collected for at least five months. At the conclusion of the study, Therapy Services will summarize findings and provide recommendations to improve outcomes from PGAP services.


Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

March 3, 2022

There are a few changes to the contact information in the vocational services specialists (VSS) unit coverage list.

Summer Wyze joined the VSS team this month. Summer has extensive experience providing return–to-work assistance to workers and employers as an L&I Early Return to Work (ERTW) VSS. Prior to her work with ERTW, Summer was a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the private sector.

VSS Bailey Ramsdell and VSS John Martinez received promotions. They are now VSS leads. The VSS leads assist in helping mentor our VSSs as they assist claim managers and others address vocational barriers.

VSS Hayden Ayers will be leaving L&I this month to pursue a career in mental health counseling. We wish him the best on his new endeavors. Hayden’s units have been re-assigned. Please check our updated printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.


Volunteers needed: Progressive Goal Attainment Program Study

March 1, 2022

L&I’s Therapy Services program is looking for vocational firms to assist in a Progressive Goal Attainment Program® (PGAP) study to identify specific case characteristics, design best practices for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) to identify candidates, and generate data to expand the use of the program.

Many workers who are experiencing a longer than expected recovery time may be missing out on opportunities to increase their quality of life, resume their normal activities, recover, and return to work. With the experiences, observations, and data from vocational providers, Therapy Services can define more specific criteria and tools to identify ideal candidates for the program at the right time.

The program hopes to include at least 40 VRCs from firms all over the state in the study. Firms with more than one participating VRC should identify a representative to collect data and attend monthly meetings for their firm, starting at the end of March. The representative from the firm will be the single point of contact (SPOC) for the study and be responsible for combining all data from VRCs in their firm. The SPOC will submit data to L&I and attend L&I-facilitated group discussions.

Once volunteers are identified, we will schedule a kick-off meeting to discuss how data will be collected pre-referral, during the program, and after the program ends. Data will be collected for at least five months. At the conclusion of the study, Therapy Services will summarize findings and provide recommendations to improve outcomes from PGAP services.

If your firm is interested in increasing the success of PGAP, contact VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov to join the study by March 10. The team will reach out with more details and schedule the kick-off meeting with the SPOCs.


Updated quality assurance data reporting template

March 1, 2022

The quality assurance data reporting template has been updated to include plan development (PD) and plan implementation (PI) referrals. The new template must be used when you next submit your firm’s quality assurance (QA) report, due on Monday, March 21.

Use the latest reporting template with tabs for PD and PI to submit your data by email to Vocational Firm Data inbox. Write “QA Measures” and your firm’s name on the subject line.

Additional definitions for PD and PI have been added to the template’s definitions tab. This tab includes instructions for reporting certified plans and Option 2 discussions. As with other referral types, you should report by referral cohort. Your PD/PI report should include PD/PI referrals that your firm received in January and were open for the full month’s activity period.


Interim Chief of Return to Work Partnerships – Kirsta Glenn

Feb. 28, 2022

Effective March 1, Kirsta Glenn will become the acting Chief for Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships, a division within Insurance Services.

Kirsta is a familiar name and face for most vocational providers. For the past few years, she has worked closely with RTW Partnerships to design and implement the vocational QA program. She’s helped many vocational providers develop processes for tracking and reporting quality assurance (QA) data.

Kirsta was instrumental in creating the system we use today for vocational recovery claim referrals and played a key role on the team that received a Public Service Recognition Week Extra Mile Award in 2021 for establishing quality assurance for vocational recovery.

L&I is excited for Kirsta to continue to provide the leadership and support needed to build upon our nationally recognized model and help thousands of Washington workers heal and return to work.

Please send questions or concerns to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Stand-alone job analyses

Feb. 24, 2022

In April of 2020, L&I temporarily paused new referrals for stand-alone job analyses (SAJA). The pause was for the health and safety of our staff and partners during the coronavirus pandemic, given that SAJAs are to be done on-site whenever possible. On-site allows for the gathering of precise and pertinent information through on-site observation and measurement.

Employers in Washington have slowly re-opened on-site operations and safety precautions are in place to protect workers and visitors. With this in mind, L&I has ended the pause on SAJA referrals.

If a vocational firm receives a SAJA referral and is not comfortable doing on-site work, please decline the referral so it can be re-assigned.

Please send questions or concerns to the Vocational Recovery Project.


New L&I WorkSource assistance contact list

Feb. 17, 2022

You will notice a few minor changes to the contact information on L&I’s contact us web page this week. We’ve de-coupled the printable phone lists for vocational services specialists (VSS) and WorkSource-aligned VSSs.

The updated VSS contact list includes unit assignments and phone numbers, along with supervisor information. The new L&I WorkSource assistance contact list has been re-formatted to include the phone number and email address for statewide re-employment specialist (RES) support, along with VSS contact information by specific WorkSource center location.

Always use the most current phone lists to reach the appropriate VSS or RES support.


Save the date: Physical Medicine Conference 2022

Feb. 10, 2022

L&I is hosting a no-cost, virtual conference to help physical medicine providers integrate best practices to include different approaches to psychologically informed care and the therapeutic alliance.

The L&I Physical Medicine Conference 2022: Integrating Best Practices will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, May 6.

Our target audience is occupational and physical therapy providers. Interested vocational rehabilitation counselors, behavioral health providers, and attending physicians are also welcome.

Registration information, virtual meeting access, and more details will be shared in future announcements.

Email therapy@Lni.wa.gov with any questions.


Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships personnel update

Feb. 1, 2022

There are a few changes to contact information in the vocational services specialists (VSS) unit coverage list.

Kent Powell retired on Jan. 31. Kent worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the private sector before joining the VSS team at L&I in January 2010. Kent was promoted to a lead VSS position in 2017, when that role was first established. Kent plans to play golf, enjoy being a grandfather, and continue performing with various blue-grass music bands.

Matthew Perkins is also leaving the VSS team. However, he will be staying with L&I and RTW Partnerships, joining the Quality Assurance Program.

Kent and Matthew’s units have been re-assigned. Always use the most current printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Modified Chronic Opioid Therapy (mCOT) Pilot

Jan. 25, 2022

L&I is looking to improve how we address cases of chronic pain and reduce opioid-related deaths through a Modified Chronic Opioid Therapy (mCOT) Pilot, starting in February.

The pilot will include vocational providers assigned to the claim, who may be asked to participate in an Opioid Review Team (ORT) with claim managers (CMs) and others.

The assigned VRC for a worker identified as a candidate for the mCOT Pilot will be contacted well in advance of the scheduled ORT multi-disciplinary staffing. The staffing will include the department pharmacist and medical consultants, the CM, and an occupational nurse consultant. After the staffing, the worker’s attending physician will be contacted to discuss the worker-centered recovery plan, if appropriate.

The assigned VRC’s participation in the collaborative staffing is voluntary, but highly encouraged. Your expertise and experience with the worker can inform the recovery as we examine complicated claims where opioids are promoting disability. Time spent in collaborative staffing meetings is billable.

In anticipation of VRC involvement in the ORT discussions, L&I is developing VRC resources and tools specific to the mCOT Pilot. These tools will be shared on the mCOT web page to assist the VRC in preparing for the staffings by identifying barriers to the worker’s vocational recovery.

If you have questions, contact Jaymie Mai at 360-902-6792 or pharmacymanager@Lni.wa.gov.


Private vehicle mileage reimbursement rate

Jan. 24, 2022

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the private vehicle (POV) mileage reimbursement rate is $0.59 per mile. The 2021 reimbursement rate was $0.56 per mile.


Reminder to track plan development and plan implementation quality assurance elements

Jan. 18, 2022

This is a reminder that vocational firms should be tracking plan development (PD) and plan implementation (PI) quality assurance (QA) elements for all new referrals received in January. Firms will report on the January cohort in March.

An updated reporting template will be available on the vocational recovery services web page in February, well in advance of the March report due date. Always refer to the QA elements document on the vocational recovery services web page for the most current information.

If you have questions, reach out to VocationalFirmData@Lni.wa.gov.


Reminder: Chief of Return to Work Partnerships opening

Jan. 12, 2022

An update on exciting leadership opportunities at L&I.

The recruitment for the Chief of Return to Work Partnerships is still open and will remain open until the position is filled. This is a key leadership role at L&I that directly supports worker-centric vocational recovery services and our culture of work-disability prevention.

If you are interested or know someone interested in the position, please share or apply. This opportunity and many others can be found through the “careers” link on L&I’s website.

Also, candidates are being interviewed for the Quality Assurance Manager position. An announcement about our selection is expected by February.

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Updated timeline for ProviderOne transition

Jan. 11, 2022

L&I is moving all of its provider accounts, including those for vocational providers, to ProviderOne beginning April 2022.

The transition to ProviderOne, an online enrollment system that allows providers to use a single system to enroll and update account information, means providers will be interacting differently with L&I to establish and make changes to their accounts.

Visit the ProviderOne web page to see the timeline and additional information.

To stay informed about ProviderOne, sign up for email updates. Vocational providers should subscribe to the ancillary provider bulletin list.

Remember, billing isn’t changing. You will continue to bill L&I and self-insured employers as you do today.

For questions, email LNIProviderOne@Lni.wa.gov.


New Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee members named

Jan. 6, 2022

After careful consideration, L&I has named the 12 members who will serve on the new Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC).

The new committee members, and the firms they represent, are:

  • David Bacon, Career Opportunities Group
  • Laurel Burditt Creek, Rainier Case Management
  • Sybil Evans, SCA Pacific Case Management
  • Leigh Haley, Strategic Consulting Services, Inc.
  • Aimee Jolie, Sound Vocational Services, Inc.
  • Karin Larson, Vocational Rehab Specialists, Inc.
  • Kaethe Long, Grant & Associates Vocational Counseling LLC
  • Jennifer Lovejoy, Dura Vocational Services, P.S.
  • April Poier, Ability Vocational Consulting
  • Rolando Rodriguez, Sol Case Management LLC
  • Monica Schneider, OSC Vocational Systems, Inc.
  • Cory Turner, Vocational Connections, Inc.

In November, L&I invited volunteers to serve on VRAC. Dozens of inquiries and applications from qualified and capable vocational providers were received. The new committee members were selected based on past participation in similar groups at L&I, their professional affiliations, each applicant’s interest in joining VRAC, and the unique value they bring to the team. The VRAC represents firms of all sizes in locations throughout the state.

VRAC will advance quality vocational services and promote continuous improvement. It will focus on identifying, testing, and implementing innovative processes and practices in vocational services. The committee replaces the Advisory Group and the Vocational Technical Stakeholders Group (VTSG).

Public meeting dates and locations for 2022 will be announced as soon as scheduled.

Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov with questions.


Begin plan development and plan implementation tracking in January

Dec. 9, 2021

Vocational firms must begin tracking plan development (PD) and plan implementation (PI) quality assurance (QA) elements in January 2022. Firms will report on the January cohort in March.

The updated reporting template will be available on the vocational recovery services web page in February, well in advance of the March report due date. Always refer to the QA elements document on the vocational recovery services web page for the most current information.

Firms should work with their software vendors to implement any necessary tools to track activities and associated codes for PD/PI referrals. If you don’t have a software vendor or if you use a proprietary system, and have questions, please reach out to Kirsta Glenn (Kirsta.Glenn@Lni.wa.gov) for assistance.

For other questions, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #19

Dec. 8, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters highlights the importance of proper communication with Claims when a worker is able to work or has returned to work.

MYTH: “When a worker is released to work or has returned to work, the vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) can notify L&I through an EVOC and continue to monitor and assist the worker.”

The VRC is required to verbally inform L&I immediately, followed by written notification and documentation within two working days, when a worker returns to work (RTW) or is released to work (ATW) without restrictions. This requirement is contained in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-19A-030(b).

A VRC should contact the claim manager of a worker’s RTW/ATW status and discuss plans to continue providing services to the worker after their time loss benefits have ended. It may be appropriate for the VRC to monitor the return to work and assist in resolving barriers or concerns of the employer and/or worker, or continue assisting the worker in job search activities. After the conversation with the VRC and the worker, the claim manager makes the decision on whether to continue vocational services (see WAC 296-19A-020).

Failure to properly notify the claim manager of a worker’s RTW/ATW status could result in the worker being paid more time-loss benefits than they are entitled. Recovering the benefits can cause the worker hardship and confusion, and damage the relationship with the department.

Collaboration with Claims aligns all parties with the worker’s return to work goals, prevents a confusing process, and strengthens the partnership between L&I and the vocational community.

Not a myth: We love responding to your questions and concerns, so keep them coming to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Authentication of firm data

Dec. 6, 2021

L&I requests your action as it prepares for another cycle of authenticating firm vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) counts.

This month, firms will receive an email with a list of their VRCs open for referrals and intern names. Please review this list and validate all the information, including supervisor status and number of interns assigned to supervisors.

The list will come with a subject line indicating the month and the name of your firm. You need to respond, even if your data is accurate. Reply to VocationalFirmData@Lni.wa.gov by the date indicated, using the same subject line. You will receive a confirmation email.

We will route any changes to the appropriate programs so that all L&I systems are updated. If needed, we may reach out to you for more information or clarification.

Having accurate VRC, supervisor, and intern counts is important to the effectiveness of our referral distribution model. We recognize that counts and availability of VRCs can fluctuate, so we reach out periodically to ensure our data is up to date and accurate.

L&I authenticates the number of VRCs in each firm who accept State Fund and self-insured referrals.

If you have questions, contact VocationalFirmData@Lni.wa.gov.


Exciting L&I leadership opportunities

Nov. 24, 2021

L&I’s Return to Work Partnership program within the Insurance Services Division is recruiting for leadership positions that directly support worker-centric vocational recovery services and our culture of work-disability prevention.

These opportunities and many others can be found through the "careers" link on L&I’s website. If you are interested or know someone interested in applying for these positions, please use the link below to share or apply:

Chief of Return to Work Partnerships
Posted Nov. 23 and will remain open until filled.

Vocational Services Quality Assurance Manager
Closes on Dec. 9.


Reminder: Submitting PDF documents

Nov. 17, 2021

When sending PDF applications, agreements, and change forms to Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS), remember to not password protect, encrypt, or lock the PDF documents.

PDF forms should be emailed to PSRS unencrypted and open for editing. Often, PSRS needs to edit the order of pages to prepare the documents for imaging. Additionally, PSRS should be able to correct and/or redact the data if errors, like transposed numbers, are discovered.

For more information on submitting applications and change forms, email PSRS@Lni.wa.gov.


Application for the Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee

Nov. 17, 2021

L&I is now accepting applications to join the Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC).
 
We are forming the VRAC to advance quality vocational services and promote continuous improvement. The committee will be similar to the current Advisory in size and make-up, but will focus more on identifying, testing, and implementing innovative processes and practices in vocational services. We are looking towards the future with process improvements, the integration of vocational services with Centers of Occupational Health and Excellence (COHE), Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP), and Behavioral Health Interventions (BHI), and other exciting initiatives.
 
We are looking for a three-year commitment, but will be starting some members off with only a two-year term to create a staggered roll-off/on of members as the committee evolves.
 
If you are interested, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov and we will provide you with an application. We will be accepting applications through December 3rd and selecting 10 members to represent the vocational community.


Bill processing error

Nov. 17, 2021

The Department of Labor and Industries Medical Information Payment System (MIPS) incorrectly processed some vocational services bills processed and reported on August, September, and October remittance advice.

The error resulted in billed services returned with a message, “EOB 435 MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE FEE FOR THIS SERVICE HAS BEEN PAID,” and no payment or reduced payment of the charges submitted.

We expected to correct the errors without action on your part, but have since learned that if you received a returned billing with the EOB 435 message during this period, you will need to submit an adjustment to the bill. You may submit a request for a paper or electronic adjustment.

EDI Electronic billers should not resubmit the original bill for processing. Submit the bill as a correction, using CLM-5-3 Claim Frequency Code 7.

If you have questions, please contact the Provider Hotline at PHL@Lni.wa.gov or 1-800-848-0811. For electronic billing questions, contact the Electronic Billing Unit at ebulni@Lni.wa.gov.


L&I seeking a vocational services specialist

Nov. 16, 2021

Come join an amazing team who supports L&I's cutting-edge Vocational Recovery services and Return-to-Work (RTW) program. Use your professional and technical vocational expertise to ensure workers heal and return to work as quickly and safely as possible. As a vocational services specialist, you can:

  • Live anywhere in Washington State and work remotely.
  • Get support for continuing education credits and membership in professional organizations.
  • Receive growth and development opportunities.

To qualify, you must have either:

  • A master’s degree and a CRC/CDMS/or ABVE and at least one year of full-time Washington industrial insurance, disability management or related field experience in all phases of Washington state worker’s compensation vocational services.

OR

  • A bachelor’s degree and a CRC/CDMS/or ABVE and two years of full-time Washington industrial insurance, disability management or related field experience in all phases of Washington state worker’s compensation vocational services.

AND

  • Experience in providing all phases of vocational services to industrially injured workers in the State of Washington.

If you wish to apply, visit the job opportunity web page.


Updates to the vocational recovery referral closure templates

Nov. 16, 2021

The two vocational recovery (VR) referral closing reports have been updated to make them easier to use. Click on the links below to see the updated report templates:

The protected boxes and form numbers have been removed. The section for the worker’s name and claim number has been moved from the body to the header. Also, the reports could now be run through spell check.

Vocational providers are encouraged to bookmark the Vocational Recovery web page and to always use the most current version of the reports, located under Forms.

Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov with questions about the VR referral closing reports.


Vickie Kennedy honored with two industry awards

Nov. 16, 2021

L&I Insurance Services Assistant Director Vickie Kennedy was recently honored by her peers in workers’ compensation by receiving two awards for her achievements. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) honored Vickie with the Frances Perkins Award for 2021, one of seven President’s awards.

The IAIABC President’s awards are given to those who demonstrate commitment and achievement in advancing workers’ compensation systems throughout the world. The Frances Perkins award honors excellence for those following in the footsteps of Frances Perkins, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, IAIABC President and a role model for innovation and progressive leadership in workers' compensation and social security.

Vickie was also awarded a Comp Laude award from the national news website and educational center, workcompcentral.com. She was honored in the Industry Leader category.

The Comp Laude Awards have become a coveted honor in the workers’ compensation industry. Professionals are nominated annually by their peers in recognition of their significant industry contributions. They are nominated for being thought leaders and embodying the Comp Laude mission: to change the narrative of the workers’ compensation industry to a more positive dialogue.

L&I Director Joel Sacks congratulated Vickie, “These awards add to Vickie’s 50-year legacy of leadership in workers’ compensation at L&I. As I’ve said before, we’re fortunate to have Vickie on our team, a selfless leader who has dedicated her career to our mission to keep Washington safe and working.”

Vickie recently celebrated 50 years with L&I and has been a trailblazer in the workers’ compensation industry, most recently as assistant director for Insurance Services. In this role, she has been a strong advocate for worker-centric approaches to prevent work disability and improve the lives of workers to reduce costs to employers. Vickie announced her upcoming retirement for March 2022.


Action Required: 2022 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement

Nov. 10, 2021

Attention all vocational firm owners/managers receiving State-Fund referrals from L&I:

The deadline to submit your 2022 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement is Dec.15, 2021. Your immediate action is needed. Please do the following:

  • Fax all three pages of your signed Annual Vocational Firm Agreement, with all required documentation, to Private Sector Rehabilitation Services at 360-902-6706 by Dec. 15, 2021.
  • Redact personal details from all documents, such as home addresses, before sending.
  • You may submit photos or scanned copies of credentials.

To receive referrals from L&I, firms must meet the requirements outlined in the agreement for each of their service locations. These requirements include providing L&I with up-to-date evidence of insurance and vocational provider credentials.

As a firm owner or manager, you must agree to submit, implement, and periodically report on your firm’s L&I-approved quality assurance (QA) plan at intervals determined by L&I, pursuant to WAC 296-19A-210(9)(c-e). By signing the agreement, firms commit to its terms and all applicable federal and Washington state statutes, rules, and policies.

When returning your agreement, you must include all required documentation to be in compliance with the requirements in WAC 296-19A-210.

Questions? Contact VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Save the date: Quality Assurance Information Session

Nov. 9, 2021

L&I is hosting a quality assurance (QA) information session via Zoom to share updates and highlight opportunities for 2022.

Save the date and Zoom details below:

Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.

Agenda items include:

  • Preparing to track and report plan development, and plan implementation of QA data elements.
  • Updates on QA at the system level.
  • ADMX discussion guides.
  • 2022 timeline and opportunities.
  • End of year reminders.

The hour-long meeting will have time allotted for questions.

For questions about the meeting, or if you would like to send your meeting questions in advance, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov with “QA Info Session” in the subject line.


New Preferred Worker Program web pages for employers

Nov. 5, 2021

The web pages for the Preferred Worker Program (PWP) have been redesigned to make it easier for employers and vocational rehabilitation counselors to find program information and forms.

There are now two different web pages, depending on where the employer is in the preferred worker application process.

Employers who want to find a preferred worker, or already hired one and need to know how to be eligible for PWP benefits, will find what they need here:

  • Preferred Worker Program
    • Tab 1 – “The 5 steps to benefits”
    • Tab 2 – “Hire a preferred worker”
    • Tab 3 – “Create a job description”
    • Tab 4 – “Create a job offer letter”
    • Tab 5 – “Request L&I approval”

Employers who have already received L&I approval for the preferred worker job (part B application) can go to this page to learn how to take advantage of PWP benefits:

  • Apply for Preferred Worker Program Benefits
    • Tab 1 – “Premium discount”
    • Tab 2 – “Claim protection”
    • Tab 3 – “Wage reimbursement”
    • Tab 4 – “Expense reimbursement”
    • Tab 5 – “Continuous employment incentive”

The web page updates were made by the Washington Stay at Work outreach team. Check out these new pages and share with anyone you think may benefit from the information.

To share a link to a specific tab, just click on the tab, copy the URL, and paste it in your email.

When someone clicks on the link, it will open directly to the tab. For example:

Questions? Contact VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Updated Utilization Review messages

Nov. 3, 2021

Beginning today, L&I has made changes in its automated system to improve workers’ compensation processes.

L&I has been working with its vendor, Comagine, to increase transparency of utilization review requests with a more detailed claim note, also known as RLOG.

When requests for treatment require utilization review, such as physical therapy when additional treatment is requested beyond pre-authorized amounts, Comagine receives a request from a provider and accesses the claim file. Starting today, Comagine will be prompted to select the status of the review, which will automatically post a status message.

The Comagine intake staff are expected to log requests in the Claim and Account Center within 24 business hours of receipt. The language below will be used in the RLOG for the following types of service:

  • If Comagine selects the status type: I’m following up on an existing request, then the resulting RLOG says: (MM/DD/YYYY) Utilization Review The department's utilization review contractor has accessed this claim file. A provider has requested authorization for (review type), and the utilization review contractor is checking to see if additional requested information is available.
  • If Comagine selects the status type: I’m re-reviewing a previous recommendation, then the resulting RLOG says: (MM/DD/YYYY) Utilization Review The department's utilization review contractor has accessed this claim file. They are re-reviewing their recommendation on a previous request for (review type) services.
  • If Comagine selects the status type: I’m reviewing this claim in connection to a request on another claim for this same worker, then the resulting RLOG says: (MM/DD/YYYY) Utilization Review The department's utilization review contractor has accessed this claim file. They are reviewing this claim in connection to a request received on another claim for this worker.

Additional updates and enhancements to RLOGs will be added in the future to help improve utilization review communication, such as:

  • Providing anticipated turnaround time for approval or denial of a claim.
  • A new RLOG and the ability to advise providers that the request for review does not meet UR guidelines.
  • Ability to update the status, if needed, more than once a day.

For more information, visit L&I’s Utilization Review web page.


Updates to plan development good cause extension template

Oct. 26, 2021

Updates have been made to the EVOC template for good cause extensions.

The template, which can be found in the Claim and Account Center (CAC), has been updated with questions consistent with the Good Cause Extension Request for Plan Development (PD) Referrals Discussion Guide. When submitting the request, do not use all capital letters in the EVOC, as it will cause the wording to run off the page and appear incomplete.

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) must consult with their firm manager or the firm’s registered quality assurance representative before submitting a good cause extension request for additional time in a plan development referral.

If the firm supports the VRC’s recommendation, the assigned VRC may complete and submit the updated template in CAC. The EVOC should also include the action plan to reach referral resolution.

Discussion guides are located on the vocational services web pages under each referral type. Vocational firms should use the guides to prepare vocational rehabilitation counselors for making ADMX and good cause extension requests. Vocational services specialists expect thorough justification and completed documentation when receiving requests to prevent unnecessary delays.

Send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

Oct. 20, 2021

Matthew Perkins will now cover Unit F in addition to providing coverage for Unit O and Q.
Please use the most current printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Return to Work Partnerships personnel update

Oct. 12, 2021

Rebecca Cadle, who was promoted to vocational services specialist 2 (VSS 2) on Sept. 1, will now cover unit X. Regina Wilson will now cover units J and 9.

Please use the most current printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Washington’s vaccine requirement proclamation

Oct. 7, 2021

Washington State’s vaccine requirement proclamation requires “health care providers” to get vaccinated against COVID-19. With this in mind, any contractor, including vocational rehabilitation counselors, entering any health care facility or setting must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. Individuals must have received the final dose of their vaccination no later than Oct. 4.

The term health care providers is defined broadly in the proclamation to include more than just licensed health care providers. It includes on-site workers in any health care setting, regardless of whether they are licensed or providing health care services. On-site workers include employees, contractors, and volunteers engaged in work in a health care setting.

If you are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, do not meet in-person with workers at health care facilities or settings or attend their medical appointments.

If you have questions or concerns, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Retraining plans impacted by the worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status

Oct. 6, 2021

A worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status may impact their retraining goals and plans. Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are encouraged to work with L&I claim managers and vocational service specialists to identify, document, and resolve retraining plan issues arising from a worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status.

Our goal is help workers successfully complete their retraining plans within existing laws, rules and policies. Schools and training facilities across the state have implemented new COVID-19 vaccination requirements. If a worker’s retraining plan is impacted by their vaccination status, VRCs can use this reference guide to determine the appropriate action.

As a reminder, VRCs should submit new retraining plans at least 45 days before the start date. The worker must have an approved plan at least 30 days prior to starting their training. All training program requirements need to be addressed, including COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Training plans submitted too close to the start date may cause a plan to fail or require extensions. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit. Help workers understand the timeline, think through potential barriers, and achieve their goals.

Contact your vocational services specialist if you have questions or concerns.


Updated vocational provider application

Oct. 5, 2021

There are updates to applications and forms on the Becoming a Vocational Provider web page:

Forms

  • Vocational Provider and Firm Application (F252-088-000)
    • Use this form to apply to become a new vocational provider (intern, vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC), or firm).
    • Or, use this form to apply if you are currently a VRC or intern who is going to work for a different firm.
  • Vocational Intern Supervisor Application (F252-072-000)
    • Use this form to get L&I’s approval for new intern supervisors. Current intern supervisors must renew their status by submitting the application annually. L&I will notify you directly when it’s time to reapply.
    • You must have a qualified supervisor on staff, as required by WAC 296-19A-10(2)(d), if your firm has (or will have) interns. The new application was created with clearly outlined vocational intern supervisor expectations to generate more consistency in the growth and development of interns.
  • Firm Vocational Provider Change Form (F252-022-000)
    • Firms can use this form to notify L&I of changes to branch locations or staff, to provide credential updates, to make supervisor changes, and to submit forensic status requests.
    • There is no longer an individual change form, with the move to firm-based referrals.

What’s changed about the Vocational Provider and Firm Application?

The firm owner, manager, and quality assurance representative must attend an orientation session about vocational recovery and firm quality assurance requirements before a prospective new firm submits an application to receive referrals for workers from employers insured by L&I.

Allow at least 30 days to process applications for new firms. Allow at least 10 days for individual service providers.

Please use the Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS) fax number, 360-902-6706, for all requests and communications regarding the vocational provider application and registration process that may contain confidential information. You may also send an email to PSRS@Lni.wa.gov for any request involving non-confidential information.

For more information about new firm orientations or other questions, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


ADMX Request Discussion Guide for plan implementation referrals

Oct. 1, 2021

The ADMX Request Discussion Guide for plan implementation referrals is now available for use on L&I’s Vocational Services web page.

The discussion guide is a tool to augment the firm’s quality assurance efforts and avoid unnecessary delays. The guide is a great way for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) to prepare for conversations with the vocational services specialist and share their action plan.

Prior to submitting an ADMX closure request, VRCs must consult with their firm manager(s) or the firm’s registered quality assurance representative(s) to discuss the recommendation. If the firm manager and the VRC agree the ADMX request is the best option, the assigned VRC can submit the request through EVOC with a brief summary to justify the request and the action plan to achieve referral resolution.

Send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Discussion guides for good cause extensions and ADMX requests on plan development referrals

Sept. 30, 2021

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) must consult with their firm manager(s) or the firm’s registered quality assurance representative(s) prior to submitting an ADMX request on a plan development (PD) or a good cause extension for a PD referral.

Two new discussions guides are now available for use on L&I’s Vocational Services web page:

The discussion guides are intended to help the firm augment quality assurance efforts and avoid unnecessary delays. The guides are a great way for VRCs to prepare for conversations with the vocational services specialist and share their action plan.

The current EVOC template in the Claim and Account Center for good cause extensions has not been updated, but updates are planned. Vocational firms will be notified when changes are made. In the meantime, the assigned VRC can submit the EVOC with a brief summary to justify the request and the action plan to achieve referral resolution within the additional time.

Send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


ADMX Request Discussion Guide for ability to work assessment referrals

Sept. 29, 2021

The ADMX Request Discussion Guide for ability to work assessment (AWA) referrals is now available for use on L&I’s Vocational Services web page.

The discussion guide is a tool to augment the firm’s quality assurance efforts and avoid unnecessary delays. The guide is a great way for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) to prepare for conversations with the vocational services specialist and share their action plan. Topics in the discussion guide for ADMX in AWA include links to valuable information, also available online:

Prior to submitting an ADMX closure request, VRCs must consult with their firm manager(s) or the firm’s registered quality assurance representative(s) to discuss the recommendation. If the firm manager and the VRC agree the ADMX request is the best option, the assigned VRC can submit the request through EVOC with a summary of the justification and the action plan to achieve referral resolution.

Send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


ADMX Request Discussion Guide for vocational recovery referrals

Sept. 28, 2021

The ADMX Request Discussion Guide for vocational recovery referrals is now available for use on L&I’s Vocational Services web page.

The discussion guide is a tool to augment the firm’s quality assurance efforts and avoid unnecessary delays. The guide is a great way for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) to prepare for conversations with the vocational services specialist and share their action plan.

Prior to submitting an ADMX closure request, VRCs must consult with their firm manager(s) or the firm’s registered quality assurance representative(s) to discuss the recommendation. If the firm manager and the VRC agree the ADMX request is the best option, the assigned VRC can submit the request through EVOC with a summary of the justification and the action plan to achieve referral resolution.

Send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Employer’s Return to Work Toolkit

Sept. 22, 2021

L&I is excited to introduce the Return to Work Toolkit. The publication compiles best practices, forms, and resources that help employers create a return-to-work culture in the workplace. The Return to Work Toolkit includes:

  • What to do before a workplace injury.
  • What to do after a workplace injury.
  • Roles and responsibilities for staff.
  • L&I return-to-work resources.

Vocational rehabilitation counselors can share and discuss the Return to Work Toolkit with employers. Copies of the toolkit may be ordered online from the L&I website.

For more information on employer return-to-work incentive programs, sign up for one of the webinars at www.Lni.wa.gov/RTWwebinars.


Introducing ADMX discussion guides

Sept. 17, 2021

A series of discussion guides will be posted to L&I’s Vocational Services web pages this month. They are intended to help firm managers and vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) understand new criteria that will be used by VSS’s to determine appropriate and necessary next steps of a referral when the fee cap is reached or more time is needed (extensions of time are limited to Plan Development referrals).

Vocational services are subject to fee caps, based on the referral type. Fee caps for vocational recovery referrals were recently increased in July. When a referral reaches a fee cap, VSSs request an extension. If an extended fee cap is reached and services are still needed, the VRC may request to close the referral using the outcome code ADMX and create a new referral. Decisions to close referrals with this outcome code are not automatic. VSSs must review and discuss the request with VRCs.

To prepare VRCs for these conversations, discussion guides have been developed. The ADMX discussion guides are organized by referral type:

  • Vocational Recovery
  • Ability to Work Assessment
  • Plan Development
  • Plan Implementation
  • Plus – Good Cause Extensions (of time) in Plan Development

Tools like the discussion guides add to the firm’s quality assurance efforts and avoid unnecessary delays. If the firm manager and the VRC agree the ADMX request is the best option, the assigned VRC (the primary contact) can submit the request through EVOC with a summary of the justification and the action plan based on the discussion guides.

More detailed communications with links to individual discussion guides will be coming later this month.

If you have questions, send them to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Orientations for firms interested in doing business with L&I

Sept. 16, 2021

L&I is now offering orientations for those interested in establishing a vocational firm to receive State Fund referrals. The orientation will cover the expectations for vocational recovery, the requirements for firm quality assurance, and more information about doing business with L&I.

To schedule an orientation session, prospective firms should email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov. Orientations will be held at least once per month or more often as requests are received.

In September 2019, L&I stopped accepting applications for new vocational firms. During the two-year moratorium, the department developed a referral distribution model to support firm-based vocational referrals, updated rules to support vocational recovery services, and implemented firm quality assurance processes and requirements.

Results of the tremendous work accomplished in partnership with the vocational community have been overwhelmingly positive. Thanks to our claims management staff, an average of 165 vocational recovery referrals are made each week, with an average of only 49 time-loss days before the referral is made. Return to work outcomes for these referrals are also at an all-time high, demonstrating the value of vocational rehabilitation services.

With the foundational pieces in place and strong results supporting vocational recovery and quality assurance, L&I is ready to begin accepting new firm applications for State Fund referrals. A new provider application will be published this month. However, prospective firms must attend orientation before submitting an application.

Important resources for firms doing business with L&I:

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Return to Work Partnerships staff update

Sept. 14, 2021

Ashlee Hansen will be joining L&I Return to Work Partnerships as the newest vocational services specialist (VSS 2) on Sept. 16. Ashlee received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Crisis Counseling from Liberty University. She has been a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the private sector for three years, working with injured workers in different areas of vocational services.

Ashlee will be assigned specific units as soon as her training is complete. In the meantime, please use the most current printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.

If you have any questions, please send them to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #18

Sept. 7, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters clarifies the use of the employer job description and job analysis during a vocational recovery (VR) referral.

MYTH: “Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRC) are not allowed to work with the employer on obtaining job descriptions or job analyses during the VR referral.”

The VRC may work with the employer to obtain an employer job description (JD) or a job analysis (JA) during the VR referral. While it’s true that an employer JD or a JA are not required during a VR referral, they can be critical to assessing a worker’s safe return to work, the claims adjudication process, and the employer’s Stay at Work benefits.

VRCs are encouraged to consider all available tools and resources during the VR referral and rule out options in RCW 51.32.095 (2)(a) through (g) before closing the referral or moving to an ability to work assessment (AWA). Often, this may include the use of an employer JD or JA, especially if physical therapy or occupational therapy is involved.

Not a myth: We love responding to your questions and concerns, so keep them coming to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Physical Medicine Progress Report updates

Sept. 3, 2021

Physical and occupational therapists have been instructed to use the updated Physical Medicine Progress Report (PMPR) form, Instruction Sheet, and Physical Medicine Best Practices Card when treating workers covered by the state workers’ compensation fund.

The PMPR provides valuable information about the worker’s progress, potential barriers, and concerns about returning to work. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRCs) can use this information to prepare for conversations with attending providers, treatment providers, workers, and employers.

Learn more by visiting the Therapy Resources page for additional information and answers to frequently asked questions. You can also contact the project team with questions at therapy@Lni.wa.gov or 360-902-9115.


Welcome the newest WorkSource vocational services specialists

Sept. 2, 2021

Six new vocational services specialists (VSSs) have joined WorkSource locations throughout the state. Please see the updated contact list on L&I’s Contact Us About Vocational Services web page.

Updates to contacts are in the following WorkSource center locations:

  • Everett
  • North Seattle
  • Rainier (South Seattle)
  • Silverdale
  • Vancouver
  • Union Gap

L&I partners with WorkSource to provide an array of employment and training services in Washington. Several VSSs are co-located at WorkSource centers to offer specialized help to injured workers and other job seekers. The new VSSs were hired, in part, in response to the growing need for services, consistent with the expectations outlined in the rules defining vocational recovery in WAC 296-19A-050. One of their primary roles is to help coordinate the use of various WorkSource tools and resources in partnership with the vocational rehabilitation counselor.

Questions or more information? Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Open for public comment: Work Rehabilitation Guideline

Sept. 1, 2021

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are invited to review and provide feedback on the new Work Rehabilitation Guideline to support injured workers’ rehabilitation.

L&I’s Industrial Insurance Chiropractic and Medical Advisory Committees formed a joint subcommittee with representatives from the physical therapy, occupational therapy, and vocational counselor community. In partnership with L&I and the Office of the Medical Director, the subcommittee proposed a new Work Rehabilitation Guideline as a best practice standard for work rehabilitation.

The Work Rehabilitation Guideline represents the growing partnership between L&I and all of our providers. VRCs play a critical role in fostering those partnerships. The guideline specifically cites the composition of a multi-disciplinary care team as a best practice, where the VRC serves an essential role in coordinating across workers, providers and employers to ensure therapeutic goals align with required job duties, worker’s needs, and goals.

VRCs are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the new Work Rehabilitation Guideline. It will remain open for public comment (mail, fax, or email) through 5 p.m. on Sept. 15. The draft guideline and how to supply public comment can be found on L&I’s website.

A draft of the Work Rehabilitation Guideline will be presented to the Industrial Insurance Chiropractic Advisory Committee in an open public meeting on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. See the L&I website for meeting details. L&I’s response to all public comments will be available, and there will be time on the agenda for public testimony.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #17

Aug. 24, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters offers some reminders about fee caps and extensions.

MYTH: “If a referral fee cap extension is approved, it will be noted in an RLOG.”

If a referral is nearing the fee cap, the vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) can request an extension through EVOC. However, if a fee cap extension is approved, this will not be noted in the RLOG.

The VRC can see the exception code in the Claim and Account Center (CAC) under Services and Treatments Authorized.

Once the fee cap extension is used, the VRC may need to request the original referral be closed so that a new one can be opened.

Coming soon: A series of discussion guides, by referral type, will be available next month to assist firm managers in ADMX conversations with VRCs.

For the latest information about fee caps and extensions, refer to Chapter 30 of the Medical Aid Rules and Fee Schedules.

If you have any questions, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Progress report due date change

Aug. 16, 2021

On the evening of Aug. 26, L&I will remove the due date for progress reports (PRs) in the Claim and Account Center (CAC). It is the responsibility of each vocational firm and vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) to track PR due dates. Timely submission of PRs is required by the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-19A-118.

Previously, the PR submission link in CAC included a due date, which did not always correspond with the “every 30 calendar days” requirement. The date was often incorrect when the worker had more than one referral or multiple phases of vocational services on two or more claims.

VRCs must continue to submit PRs every 30 days and track the due dates for those reports outside of CAC.

To bill for multiple claims:

  • Complete one PR, referencing all claim numbers. Claim managers will review tie-in claims at the same time, so having one progress report for the status on all relevant claims is helpful.
  • Copy and submit the same PR on each claim.
    • Example: If a VRC is working on a triple claim, submit three progress reports, the same one on each claim.
  • Assign the billing code (0910V) to the claim receiving time loss. If more than one claim has time loss, assign the billing code to the claim with the most recent date of injury.

When more than one referral is opened at different times for a worker:

  • Synchronize PR timing by submitting the report 30 days (+/- 5 days) after the first referral was opened.
    • Example: Two referrals are made for a worker, one on May 15 and one on June 3. Submit the PR approximately 30 days after the first referral (on or around June 14). At that time, submit the PR on the second referral to bring PR timing in sync.
  • Subsequent 30-day PRs should follow the timing of the first referral. In the example above, any additional referrals received on the claim must be reported on or around the 14th of each month.

After approval of an ADMX:

  • Synchronize PR timing with the previous PR schedule, otherwise it could easily be 45 or more days before a VRC submits a PR.

Alert: Plan development and forensic progress reports may not display the action plan from the most recent PR. These templates will be updated as soon as possible.

If two different phases of vocational services have been referred on the same worker for two or more claims (for example, vocational recovery and plan development), contact the vocational services specialist to develop a plan to resolve the conflict.

Contact VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov with any questions.


New – Retraining plan certification requirement

Aug. 12, 2021

All retraining plans submitted by vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) must now be certified by the fully credentialed (CDMS, CRC, ABVE) firm manager or quality assurance representative.

Plan certification requires the credentialed firm representative:

  • Reviews the VRC’s plan approval request report,
  • Ensures supporting documentation is attached, and,
  • Validates that the retraining plan is appropriate for the worker’s physical and academic capabilities, is in line with the worker’s disposition, and meets the specific requirements of the current labor market.

The VRC preparing the plan and the representative certifying the plan should discuss concerns and barriers and ensure that these are clearly identified, addressed and documented in the report. A VRC writing the plan cannot certify the plan unless they are a sole proprietor. The plan should be completed as a stand-alone document, and should not include case notes or reference to progress reports.

The new plan certification requirement was designed to help firms submit complete and accurate information to L&I and avoid needless delays and excessive follow-up. The plan approval request report was prepared with assistance from the vocational recovery advisory group, the L&I VSS team and members of the private school oversight program.

For more information about preparing retraining plans, see L&I's Vocational Services page on Plan Development. Additionally, several recent communications highlight tips for building successful retraining plans:

If you have questions, contact your assigned VSS or email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Correction to extension fee cap system error

July 21, 2021

Several vocational recovery extension bills (0802/0803) were denied after the recent fee cap change. The system error has been corrected and the bills will be reprocessed. Vocational providers do not need to re-submit any denied bills. Payments will be sent on Aug. 6.

If you have questions or find other bills that are not adjusted, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #16

July 21, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters explores the meaning of engagement.

MYTH: “A vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) is required to meet with a worker twice per month.”

L&I would never advise a VRC to schedule a meeting with a worker or anyone else “just to meet.” The goal of any interaction with the worker, attorney, third party administrator, medical provider, or employer is to have meaningful engagement. Meaningful engagement occurs when all parties involved get value from the exchange. The VRC should schedule meetings with a clear purpose and a desired outcome.

Vocational recovery is a unique intervention. It’s specific to each worker’s needs and different for every individual. Regardless of how often meetings occur, the VRC needs to make the interaction matter, respecting every person’s time and adding value.

Not a myth: We love responding to your questions and concerns, so keep them coming to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


New interpreter services procedures for out of state providers

July 20, 2021

As you know, L&I has contracted with a vendor, interpretingWorks, to implement a scheduling system for healthcare and vocational providers to request interpretation services for all in-person, scheduled appointments.

Providers practicing outside of Washington State (out of state providers) who treat Washington workers’ compensation patients in the following zip codes must use interpretingWorks to request an interpreter for scheduled, in-person spoken appointments.

  • Oregon zip codes starting with 970, 971, 972 and 978
  • Idaho zip codes starting with 835 and 838

Providers in the above zip codes should register today at https://interpreting.works/lni.

interpretingWorks is free for providers and interpreters, available 24 hours a day, and offers scheduling dispatchers for provider support. interpretingWorks modernizes L&I’s Interpreter Services program with a mobile-friendly, web-based platform. The website contains built-in technical and customer service support, quality assurance, and feedback options.

Providers can no longer request interpreters through interpreter agencies. L&I pays for interpretation services only when scheduled using the methods described on the website. The only exceptions to using individual spoken language interpreters outside the online system are:

  • On-demand interpretation (appointments that do not have a pre-scheduled time, such as an emergency, urgent care, or walk-in appointment)
  • Telehealth or telephone appointments (use CTS Language Link, 1-844-303-7212)

Visit the Interpreter Services web page for more information and to view the FAQs. The FAQs contain information about enrolling in interpretingWorks and managing on-demand appointments.

If you still need help, contact us at interpretation@Lni.wa.gov with any questions or concerns.


Follow-up: June Quality Assurance Information Session materials

July 20, 2021

Thank you for attending the recent quality assurance information session. Presentation materials are posted on L&I’s Vocational Recovery Services web page, under education and training.

If you were unable to attend the session, please review the slides for reminders and updates. A tentative implementation timeline for the remainder of the year is also included so you can plan ahead.

Please send questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Information needed for background checks

July 15, 2021

Please fax to L&I a list and information for each vocational provider who works in your firm by Aug. 15 to complete their background checks.

L&I is performing background checks on all vocational providers at least once every two years to comply with WAC 296-19A-268. Information about background checks was shared in last month’s memo to vocational firm owners and managers. In order to ensure accuracy of our background checks, we are requesting your help in collecting necessary information.

Action Required
Fax a list of every vocational provider, including interns, in your firm to Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS) at 360-902-6706. In the list, include the following details:

  • Full name, including middle initial(s).
  • If no middle name, indicate “no middle name.”
  • Date of birth.
  • For subject, write down “Staff information for (your firm’s name).”

Do not send your firm’s list and vocational provider information by email. PSRS has recently acquired secure fax capabilities, using the same fax number they used prior to remote working arrangements.

Questions? Email PSRS@Lni.wa.gov.


UPDATED: Vocational Recovery Referral Closing Reports

July 14, 2021

Two new templates for vocational recovery (VR) referral closing reports that were recently posted to L&I’s vocational services web page had some character limitations. Those issues have been resolved and the updated report templates are now available. Please double check to make sure you are using the updated report templates.

Bookmark the link to VR forms to always have the most current templates. If you saved an offline copy of the templates previously, you will need to download the updated versions. One report is for “needs further assessment (also known as SAS1),” and the other is for all other outcomes.

For questions about the new VR closing reports, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


L&I's interpreter scheduling system: Acknowledging challenges from change, inviting your feedback

July 13, 2021

It’s been nearly three months since we launched a new online interpreter scheduling system, as directed by the Washington State Legislature. To comply with the new state law, L&I contracted with interpretingWorks to develop a platform for in-person interpretation for injured workers during medical and vocational appointments.

The department recognizes that using this system has changed the way many providers and interpreters support injured workers who need these vital services. Yet, these changes also bring new capabilities for both providers and interpreters:

  • Appointment scheduling 24 hours a day,
  • A mobile-friendly interface, displaying real-time appointment availability,
  • Automated time-keeping and billing,
  • Built-in technical support, and
  • Quality assurance and reporting functions.

We know that adapting to this change may be challenging and we appreciate the input of our partners who support these injured workers. Your ongoing feedback helps us track and resolve system and process issues and continually improve. We’re specifically interested in learning about technical limitations or helpful features you have encountered in this new platform. Please email your feedback to our Interpreter Services team.

As an example of our commitment to ensuring the success of this tool, we took immediate action when we recently learned about delayed payments to interpreters. We discovered that mismatched worker names and missing claim numbers were resulting in disruptions to an automated process. We worked quickly to temporarily resolve the issue and re-assigned staff to rapidly process these payments. At the same time, we’re working on a permanent solution.

We look forward to sharing future updates with you about additional improvements and welcome your feedback. Thank you for everything you do to help injured workers heal and return to work.


New quality assurance data reporting template

July 13, 2021

A new template must be used when you submit your firm’s next quality assurance (QA) report, due on Wednesday, July 21. The report should include vocational recovery (VR) and ability to work assessment (AWA) referral activities.

Use the latest reporting template with tabs for VR and AWA to submit your data by email to vocationalfirmdata@Lni.wa.gov. Write “QA Measures 202012” and your firm’s name on the subject line.

Additional definitions for AWA have been added to the definitions tab. This tab includes instructions for reporting exit interviews. This month’s report should include activity for new AWA referrals (not those continuing from an ADMX closure) that were open for the full 30-day activity period that started in May.

For questions, contact vocationalfirmdata@Lni.wa.gov. L&I is committed to working with you to ensure your successful submission of QA data.


NEW Vocational Recovery Referral Closing Reports

July 12, 2021

Starting July 12, vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) should begin using two new vocational recovery (VR) referral closing reports. One report is for “needs further assessment (also known as SAS1),” and the other is for all other outcomes.

The new VR closing reports refer VRCs to the appropriate Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and Washington Administrative Codes (WAC) to document actions taken to assist the worker in returning to work. For the SAS1 VR closing report, VRCs must document their efforts to provide the services outlined in WAC 296-19A-050 subsection (3)(a)(i) through (viii) and (b)(i) through (ix), including offers of employment and the worker's response(s), before requesting a referral for an ability to work assessment described in WAC 296-19A-065.

VR closing reports should not include case notes or refer readers to prior progress reports. Rather, they should be completed as stand-alone documents. They should be concise summaries, citing unique services provided for the worker based on their individual needs and the relevant details supporting the closing recommendation.

The SAS1 VR closing report will also have “CLSAW index” on the bottom, automatically routing it to the vocational services specialist mailbox. This eliminates the need for the VRC to send an EVOC and avoids unnecessary delays.

Be sure to delete any saved copies of the old VR closing report. You can find templates for the new reports on L&I’s Vocational Recovery Services web page, under Forms.

For questions about the new VR closing reports, email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


What to do when your VSS is out

July 8, 2021

The vocational services specialist (VSS) assigned to your unit is your first point of contact to discuss barriers to vocational recovery and other issues. Here are some pointers for seamless communication when your VSS is away:

  • Expect a call back within 2 business days if you call a VSS and leave a voicemail message.
  • If the assigned VSS is out, their outgoing message will say so, along with when they expect to be back in the office.
  • Coverage is provided when a VSS is absent. Leave a voicemail and the covering VSS will review the message and return the call. To avoid delays and confusion, please don’t contact multiple VSSs or leave multiple voicemail messages.
  • If you have started working with a VSS on a particular issue and have follow-up questions or concerns, continue to work with the same VSS on that issue, even if they aren’t your regularly assigned VSS. Example: Matt is the assigned VSS for the unit, but while Matt was out, VSS LaTrisha helped you work on the CLSAW report. Continue working with LaTrisha.
  • If resolution of an issue is not reached while working with a VSS, consider requesting a joint staffing with the VSS and a VSS supervisor.

You can check to see who is assigned to each unit by going to our Contact Us About Vocational Services web page.

When we update the unit-aligned phone list for VSSs and supervisors, please reprint it.


ACTION REQUESTED – Vocational Firm Quality Assurance Adoption Survey

July 6, 2021

Does your firm have everything it needs to sustain quality assurance and advance vocational recovery? How can L&I help?

Your insight will help L&I continue to implement strategies to further work disability prevention and best support workers.

Action Requested
This simple survey should only take about three minutes to complete. Please submit your survey by July 20. Your suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your continued partnership and your honest feedback.

Please send any questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Avoiding plan failures: How to better manage plan implementation

July 1, 2021

July and August are peak times for building retraining plans with workers. Here are some tips for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs), developed with advice from vocational services specialists (VSSs), for successful plan implementation (PI):

  • Review and facilitate the Plan Implementation Quality Assurance Elements.
    • Submit retraining plans early.
    • Plans submitted too close to the school start date may cause a plan to fail or extend beyond the statutory limit for time and costs. As previously communicated, don’t wait until the last minute. A VSS will not approve a retraining plan that is not received by the worker at least 30 days prior to the start.
    • VSSs have 15 calendar days to approve a plan. The letter advising the worker of the plan approval and approved encumbrance form may not reach the worker for three or four days, longer if the letter needs to be translated.
    • In addition to the 15 calendar days required by the VSS, provide the worker at least 30 days after plan approval to prepare for starting their retraining plan.
  • Keep an accurate and updated account of costs.
    • Lack of proactive monitoring of retraining funds during PI, coupled with untimely requests for additional time/money, can cause unnecessary breaks in training programs and may impact the worker’s eligibility for time-loss benefits.
    • Check in with the worker, instructors/advisors, and vendors on their billing submissions, progress, and issues, as required by WAC 296-19A-110.
    • Make sure the worker’s concerns are addressed, such as the need for additional tutoring or lower level math and English classes.
  • Make sure the worker is getting reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, like travel and equipment/supply costs.
    • Use documentation provided by the training facility to assist with cost estimates.
    • Assist the worker in understanding which expenses may be reimbursed and help them provide accurate information when reporting expenses.
  • Utilize resources to address psychosocial issues.
    • Identify physical, emotional, social, or financial well-being concerns.
    • Send an EVOC outlining barriers to the claim manager and VSS.
    • Use your community and claim resources to provide assistance to the worker.
    • Follow-up with the VSS to brainstorm possible solutions when there is an impact to the retraining plan.
  • Provide alternative resources for unaddressed medical concerns.
    • Unaddressed medical concerns can be a barrier to successful plan completion, whether or not these concerns are related to the industrial injury or disease.
    • Check in early and often with the worker to determine if any unaddressed, new, and/or unrelated medical issue is impacting their progress and performance.
    • Consult with a VSS to discuss how unrelated medical factors can be managed to avoid an interruption in the worker’s retraining plan.

By incorporating these tips into plans and monitoring progress closely, VRCs can avoid the pitfalls that VSSs often see in plan failures. If an issue arises, discuss options with the VSS to determine if the workers’ goals and/or retraining plans can be salvaged.

For specific questions, consult with your unit VSS.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #15

July 1, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters revisits the Quality Assurance (QA) Plan to point out an important role for firm owners/managers to consider.

MYTH: “The firm owner must attend all validation meetings and sign all QA Plan Addendums.”

Each firm is required to provide the name of a QA representative, responsible for administering the QA Plan and attending QA discussions with the department, on the signature page of the QA Plan.

The QA representative can be the firm owner, manager, or a qualified credentialed vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC). The QA representative is responsible for ensuring the firm remains in compliance with quality assurance requirements as defined in the QA plan.

Depending on the firm’s business model, multiple individuals may be responsible for managing quality assurance at the firm. However, only the identified QA representative needs to attend validation meetings and sign the QA plan/addendum. It is not appropriate for VRCs without supervisory or QA administration duties to attend validation meetings.

If your firm needs to update the name of your QA representative, please contact VocRecovery@lni.wa.gov to make that change. This way, invites and reminders can be sent to the correct person.

Not a myth: We love responding to your questions and concerns, so keep them coming to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


L&I seeking a vocational services specialist

June 29, 2021

Come join an amazing team who supports L&I's cutting-edge Return-to-Work (RTW) program. Use your professional and technical vocational expertise to ensure workers heal and return to work as quickly and safely as possible. As a vocational services specialist, you can:

  • Live anywhere in Washington State and work remotely.
  • Get support for continuing education credits and membership in professional organizations.
  • Receive growth and development opportunities.

To qualify, you must have either:

  • A master’s degree and a CRC/CDMS/or ABVE and at least one year of full-time Washington industrial insurance, disability management or related field experience in all phases of Washington state worker’s compensation vocational services.

OR

  • A bachelor’s degree and a CRC/CDMS/or ABVE and two years of full-time Washington industrial insurance, disability management or related field experience in all phases of Washington state worker’s compensation vocational services.

If you wish to apply, visit the job opportunity web page.


Important information about branch offices

June 29, 2021

L&I is cleaning up unnecessary data and simplifying the referral process. To do this, we are asking firms with multiple branch offices in a service location to identify a single branch in each location to be the referral hub. We will use the single branch office when assigning any referrals to that SL.

As communicated in April’s MythBuster, having multiple branches within a service location doesn’t influence the number of referrals a firm receives. As long as firms continue to meet the law’s requirements in WAC 296-19A-210(8), L&I is fine with reducing the number of branches.

Should firms decide to keep open multiple branches in the same service location, L&I will still use only the selected branch office when distributing referrals in that SL.

ACTION

  • All firms: Sign up to receive eCorrespondence in the Claim and Account Center (CAC) to receive claim-related mail electronically.
  • Firms with more than one branch office in a single service location: Email VocRecoveryProject@lni.wa.gov identifying the branch office that should be used as the referral hub for each SL, by July 23.

We will contact your firm when L&I’s Quality Assurance team is ready to process changes. A member of the team will reach out to you to get more information and make sure vocational rehabilitation counselors are also assigned to the hub branch.

This process, which may take a few weeks to complete, is not expected to affect or interrupt existing or new referrals.

With this change, travel cost reimbursement calculations will remain based on a firm’s “primary” branch location. Correspondence will continue to be addressed to the firm’s headquarters or main address. Your firm and all VRCs should sign up for eCorrespondence in the Claim and Account Center to avoid interruptions in claims-related mail.

Questions? Email VocRecoveryProject@lni.wa.gov.


Vocational retraining fund adjustment – a 2 percent increase

June 25, 2021

L&I’s annual vocational retraining fund adjustment for July 1 will increase by 2 percent.

With the increase, the retraining fund for plans approved on or after July 1 will be $19,414.34, up from the current $19,033.67. The maximum retraining fund will be updated on L&I’s Plan Development web page on July 1.

The adjustment is based on tuition information from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the average cost of a two-year retraining plan. An L&I actuary has validated the calculation.

The amount of the maximum training fund applies regardless of whether a worker chooses Option 1 or Option 2 after the plan’s approval.

Please send any questions or concerns to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Guidance on requesting additional vocational assistance (AVA)

June 25, 2021

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are always encouraged to discuss plan implementation (PI) concerns and options with vocational services specialists (VSSs). If a request for additional vocational assistance (AVA) is needed for plan approval or plan modification, the VSS can provide guidance and explain next steps.

To manage expectations, it’s important for VRCs to understand the process for obtaining the director’s approval for AVA. (By law, AVA approval is only at the discretion of the agency director.) L&I needs at least 15 calendar days to take action on these requests. Each request must include: all pertinent documentation, encumbrance forms, reason for the request, an analysis of how money and/or time beyond the statutory limit is necessary, and explanation of how the worker will gain the necessary skills needed to return to work.

The end date of the retraining plan may impact the worker’s time-loss payment. VRCs need to plan ahead when requesting an AVA so time-loss is not impacted.

After the request for AVA is submitted, the VSS will prepare a recommendation to the agency director. The VRC will be contacted if additional information is needed.

The worker should not start their modified plan until after approval is received, thus VRCs need to submit any request for AVA with sufficient time for approval.

For questions about AVA, contact your VSS.


L&I provider accounts and credentialing are moving to ProviderOne

June 24, 2021

Provider accounts and credentialing with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) are moving to ProviderOne in 2022.

This change affects vocational providers and others who deliver services to injured workers.

Information about ProviderOne will come directly from the project team, so it will be important for your firm to subscribe to the monthly email updates. Go to Lni.wa.gov/ProviderOne to sign up and learn more about how the new system will impact you.

Questions about the implementation and impacts should be directed to LniProviderOne@lni.wa.gov.


Vocational Recovery Project MythBuster #14

June 23, 2021

L&I has created a series of communications called Vocational Recovery Project (VRP) MythBusters to provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, VRP MythBusters looks at what a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) can and cannot do about psychosocial barriers.

MYTH: “Only the attending physician or a psychiatrist can identify psychosocial behaviors and authorize a behavioral health intervention (BHI).”

VRCs can and should identify and address psychosocial and other barriers preventing a worker from returning to work.

It’s crucial for VRCs to share concerns about psychosocial barriers with the attending provider (AP) as soon as possible so they can determine if immediate help is needed. A BHI does not require authorization, but it does need a written referral from the AP.

After the referral is made, VRCs can help the worker by identifying BHI providers in the area and by explaining the process. They should establish regular communication with the BHI provider and proactively engage with them. They can also help the worker explore additional services to address psychosocial barriers, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and the Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP).

VRCs should let the claim manager know as soon as a written referral is made. If there are questions about available services, or which services may be appropriate based on the particular worker’s needs, the claim manager can help.

Not a myth: We love responding to your questions and concerns, so keep them coming to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Background Checks for Vocational Providers

June 18, 2021

L&I conducts criminal background checks on all vocational providers requesting a new provider number, as required by WAC 296-19A-268. Beginning July 1, L&I will start conducting background checks at least once every two years on all vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) and interns.

To find pending charges or convictions, L&I uses Washington Access To Criminal History (WATCH) report and/or its out of state equivalent. To determine whether pending criminal charges or a conviction may warrant suspension or revocation of a VRC identification number, L&I uses the same criteria used by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Any findings associated with a criminal background check will be communicated to the individual and their firm manager. In accordance with WAC 296-19A-269, L&I will convene an independent panel of private sector peers to review the case and provide recommendations to L&I, if permanent sanctions appear to be warranted.

Firm managers must not allow a newly hired vocational provider, whether VRC or intern, access to any worker information until they obtain a provider number. Doing so would potentially violate WAC 296-19A-270(1)(e), (l), and (m). The WAC subsections protect a worker’s right to the privacy of their confidential claim information.

For questions regarding background checks, email Private Sector Rehabilitation Services at PSRS@Lni.wa.gov.


Retraining plans: Don’t wait until the last minute!

June 18, 2021

The fall deadline for submission of retraining plans is right around the corner, and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRCs) are encouraged to plan early and monitor often during plan development (PD) and plan implementation (PI).

VRCs should use their best judgement in establishing a retraining plan start date for their worker. Remember, a worker who is given more time to make a good decision about retraining, and is well-prepared from the start, has the best chance of being successful.

VRCs should consider submitting retraining plans at least 45 days prior to the training start date. The Vocational Services Specialist (VSS) has 15 calendar days to review, and the worker should have at least 30 days after plan approval to prepare for starting their retraining plan. Additional time may be needed if the approval letter needs to be translated. A VSS will not approve a retraining plan that is not received by the worker at least 30 days prior to the start.

The VRC should help the worker prepare for their training by providing them time to:

  • Dispute the plan and have a Vocational Dispute Resolution Office decision prior to the start date.
  • Adjust to changes in lifestyle and schedule.
  • Make arrangements for transportation and child/pet care.
  • Obtain books, accommodations, and equipment needed for participation in the training plan.
  • Participate in additional tutoring or training arranged by the VRC and/or learn how to use assistive equipment, like voice-activated software.
  • Register for the classes outlined in the academic plan.
  • Decide if they want to take Option 1 or Option 2 prior to the start date.
  • Change their mind if they previously indicated they planned to take Option 2.

Training plans submitted too close to the start date may cause a plan to fail or require unnecessary extensions. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit. Help workers understand the timeline, think through potential barriers, and achieve their goals.

The VSS staff are available to consult about retraining plans and/or plan development.


June 16, 2021

Vocational providers are now able to access VRI services through CTS Language Link. VRI is meeting with workers via CTS Language Link’s online video program. CTS Language Link can allow an interpreter to join the video appointment.

CTS Language Link currently offers telephone interpretation and has been working with L&I for a number of years. L&I is excited to add VRI to the list of services available through CTS Language Link.

What's new

If you’re a provider using telehealth to meet with workers with State Fund claims and they require an interpreter, you can now schedule a video interpreter through CTS Language Link prior to the visit. Providers can also contact CTS Language Link for on-demand VRI service if needed, in much the same way providers can use CTS Language Link for on-demand telephone interpretation.

Please be aware that you’re not allowed to use CTS Language Link VRI for administrative purposes, such as scheduling, rescheduling, or reminding workers about appointments.

What's changing

As of June 30, L&I’s temporary interpreter telehealth policy will expire. From that date forward, CTS Language Link will be the sole provider of VRI for telehealth interpretation for crime victims and State Fund claims.

CTS Language Link only covers telephone and VRI interpretation. For in-person appointments, use interpretingWorks. Details are available on our website.

Providers treating workers with self-insured employers should continue using their current practices for VRI. L&I is developing new policies and procedures for self-insured claims and will announce those when they’re ready to roll out.

How to get started

If you’re a provider, you’ll need a unique login to access the CTS Language Link VRI platform (even if you already have an account with CTS Language Link). Test your network and confirm your system is compatible with the platform. User guide and instructions are available on our website.

Once you’ve confirmed your system meets the requirements, send an email to clientrelations@language.link with your full name, company name, email address, and L&I provider number. CTS Language Link will confirm your provider number is active.

Once you’re signed up, scheduling an interpreter for a video visit is easy. Just log in to your CTS Language Link VRI account.

Questions about this service? Send us an email at interpretation@lni.wa.gov.


VSS coverage update

June 16, 2021

Effective immediately, you will notice a few changes to VSS unit support in the VSS unit coverage list.

Please update your VSS contact list, as appropriate.

If you have any questions, please send them to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Travel mileage reimbursement rate effective Jan. 1, 2021

Jan. 6, 2021

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the reimbursement rate for personal vehicle mileage is $0.56 per mile. The 2020 reimbursement rate was $0.58 per mile.