Latest News for Vocational Providers

September 2022

VSS in-training opportunities!

Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #22

August 2022

Intern supervisor applications due Sept. 30, 2022

Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #21

Knowing the difference between occupational therapists and physical therapists

Update to vocational services specialists unit assignments

July 2022

ADMX EVOC update

June 2022

Vocational firm interim check-in meetings

Updated Self-Insurance Vocational Reporting Form

New supervisor for Private Sector Rehabilitation Services


Request archived news

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


VSS in-training opportunities!

Sept. 23, 2022

L&I’s Return to Work Partnerships program is seeking to hire and train entry level Vocational Service Specialists. This announcement applies to multiple in-training job opportunities. Please visit the “careers” page on L&I’s website for more information:

Vocational Services Specialist 2, In-Training
Closes Sept. 27, 2022 at 11:59pm PT


Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #22

Sept. 6, 2022

Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships MythBusters provide vocational partners with up-to-date information and clarification on a variety of topics.

In this edition, MythBusters addresses whether a worker can sign a waiver agreeing to consider employment outside of their labor market.

MYTH: A worker can sign a waiver agreeing to an expanded labor market for a proposed retraining plan.

A worker cannot waive their labor market for a retraining plan.

L&I uses the worker’s current residence to determine the labor market supporting the vocational retraining plan goal. The labor market is considered positive if it shows that a sufficient number of jobs exist for the worker’s proposed job goal. This concludes that a positive labor market exists for the worker to return to gainful employment upon plan completion.

See WAC 296-19A-010 for more information. If you have any questions, please call the VSS staff for assistance.


Intern supervisor applications due Sept. 30, 2022

Aug. 29, 2022

All intern supervisors must reapply annually by submitting to L&I the completed Vocational Intern Supervisor Application (F280-072-000). Firm managers must approve applications prior to submittal.

Please send your firm’s completed applications to PSRS@Lni.wa.gov by Sept. 30, 2022. If applications are not received by the deadline, L&I will assume that the individuals are no longer acting as intern supervisors and their supervisor status will be removed from the system.

The reapplication process benefits both firms and L&I by:

  • Reminding intern supervisors of their responsibilities.
  • Giving L&I an accurate list of active intern supervisors.

Only vocational rehabilitation counselors with appropriate L&I supervisor credentials may supervise interns (WAC 296-19A-210(2)).

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


Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #21

Aug. 23, 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 if and when the attending provider must approve a job description or job analysis for the worker’s return to work at a temporary light duty job vs. permanent light duty job.

MYTH: “The worker’s attending provider must review and approve a job description or job analysis for temporary or permanent jobs.”

The documentation requirements for temporary and permanent jobs are different.

For a temporary job: RCW 51.32.090(4)(b) requires the employer to have a job analysis or job description approved in writing by the attending provider. The employer must also provide a copy of the job analysis or job description to the worker when it is initially sent to the attending provider.

For a permanent job: While it may help if the employer sends a job description or job analysis of the permanent job to the attending provider for approval, the provider’s approval is not required.

The VRC should take appropriate steps to ensure a timely return-to-work outcome when all parties are in agreement and, in situations where this may be in question, ensure documentation of the employer’s outreach to the medical provider.

For example, employers may use information about a worker’s permanent restrictions from an activity prescription form to prepare a permanent job offer within the stated restrictions. If the worker and employer are communicating and able to agree on the permanent job, then the job description or job analysis will not be needed.

However, the employer should consider obtaining the provider’s approval of the permanent job when the employer has doubts that the worker will accept the job.

That way if the worker does refuse the job, the employer would have documentation that the job offered was within the worker’s physical capacities. There is a risk to the employer that a permanent return to work may not be supported without this documentation if the worker and employer are not in agreement.

Please note: Eligibility for the Preferred Worker Program requires a copy of the completed job analysis or department's job description form, approved by the worker's health care provider or credentialed VRC.

Please send questions or concerns to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Knowing the difference between occupational therapists and physical therapists

Aug. 9, 2022

What are the differences between an occupational therapist (OT) and a physical therapist (PT)?

Understanding the difference between OTs and PTs is important for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) because this knowledge can help you communicate effectively with the provider and better support a worker who is undergoing treatment.

A recent International Association of Rehabilitation Counselor (IARP) newsletter featured an article outlining the differences between OTs and PTs and provided tips on how to interact effectively with these professionals.

Here are the basics, taken from their respective professional association’s website:

  • OTs help people participate in their desired occupations with the therapeutic use of everyday activities, based on the client's personal interests and needs.
  • PTs are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.

OTs and PTs approach their profession from different educational backgrounds: .

  • OTs have a foundational knowledge in psychology and sociology.
  • PTs emphasis is in physics and chemistry.

Although there is a gray area between services they offer, OTs are more often functionally based and focus on upper extremity and hand related rehabilitation; PTs focus on rehabilitation of the large muscle groups, and optimizing movement and mobility.

For clinics that provide both types of therapy disciplines, PTs are more involved in conditioning and OTs are more involved in work simulation.

Many outpatient OTs and PTs may have minimal understanding of a VRC’s role or L&I’s abbreviations and jargons. This is a great opportunity for VRCs to explain and educate providers on processes, forms, and programs.

What are best practices when interacting with a treating OT and PT?

  • Have ongoing contact with the treating therapist. Share your contact information and ask to identify the best time and method for you to reach them.
  • Mention the Physical Medicine Progress Report form and explain the value it brings.
  • Send over the functional job description or job analysis to help guide treatment and the focus on work demands.
  • Discuss the worker’s abilities in functional terms as they relate to the job.
    Ask about the worker’s reaction to treatment.
  • Have them contact you and the claim manager at the first sign of not attending scheduled appointments or for unresolved barriers.
  • Explain how to make recommendations regarding additional interventions and services L&I offers to workers. This may include behavioral health interventions, activity coaching through the Progressive Goal Attainment Program, and job modification benefits. Some of these interventions might be particularly helpful in cases where a worker is not progressing as expected.
  • Inform them they can ask the claim manager for access to the worker’s claim file. Many are not aware of this option.
  • Include discussions of timelines for return to work. Involve them in how the job may be modified and progressing duties as the worker recovers.
  • Share L&I’s resource page for therapists.

For more information, contact Therapy Services


Update to vocational services specialists unit assignments

Aug. 4, 2022

Starting Aug. 8, vocational services specialists (VSS) unit assignments will change. The updates to claims unit assignments will be posted in the VSS unit coverage list.

We are also happy to report that Kelly Leber has joined the VSS team in a temporary job assignment as a Claims Unit VSS lead.

Kelly worked on the claims floor for 17 years as a Claims VSS and spent the last 5 years as a VSS in the Vocational Dispute Resolution Office. Prior to her work with L&I, Kelly was a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the private sector. We are thrilled to have her as part of our team.

Please check our updated printable phone list to reach the appropriate VSS.


ADMX EVOC update

July 6, 2022

Additional information is requested for ADMX EVOC closure requests. Once the ADMX request is determined as the best option, the assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) will submit the request through EVOC, as usual. However, VRCs are asked to provide additional information to the closure request to reduce delays in approval.

The EVOC should include:

  • Confirmation of the internal Quality Assurance (QA) staffing.
  • Names of the firm managers or QA representatives who participated in the staffing.
  • A summary of the justification for selecting ADMX.
  • An action plan to achieve referral resolution.

L&I’s discussion guides offer tools to understand the criteria used by vocational recovery staff to determine next steps of a referral when the fee cap is reached, or if more time is needed. Time extensions are limited to Plan Development referrals.

Thank you all for supporting the ADMX request process.

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


Vocational firm interim check-in meetings

June 16, 2022

Starting August 2022, the Vocational Firm Quality Assurance team will schedule interim check-in meetings with vocational firms to promote collaboration and support. These meetings will take place approximately three months after the firm’s validation and verification meeting.

Key topics for the interim check-in meetings are: authentication of the firm’s vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRC) currently open to receive new vocational recovery referrals; and discussion of the VRC feedback list.

Authentication is the process of confirming the VRCs who are open to new referrals and the service locations where they are attached. This process ensures L&I has accurate information to reflect the firm’s capacity. To prevent workflow surges, L&I will assist firms in understanding how VRC availability decisions affect the firm’s capacity and the distribution of referrals at the system level.

The firm will receive an authentication list two weeks before the interim check-in meeting. The list will include the name of each VRC, their status for availability of referrals, their attached service locations, and if they are designated as an intern supervisor. Interns with their assigned supervisors are also included in this list.

Discussion of the firm’s VRC feedback list allows identification of patterns, areas of education, and training opportunities within the firm. The discussion also supports L&I process improvement. Firms will receive a one-year roll-up of the VRC feedback list two weeks before the interim check-in meeting. A vocational services specialist supervisor will also attend the meeting.

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


Updated Self-Insurance Vocational Reporting Form

June 14, 2022

The Self-Insurance Vocational Reporting Form (SIVRF) has been updated to reduce the rework and delays that sometimes occurred with the old version of the form.

Please begin using the updated form immediately.

The SIVRF is used as a cover sheet for vocational recommendations submitted to Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) on self-insured claims.

Although the SIVRF must be signed and submitted to L&I by the self-insured employer, VRCs sometimes assist the self-insured employer with completing the form.

The updated SIVRF was developed by L&I in partnership with the vocational representative from the Washington Self-Insurers Association.

Call the vocational services specialist for Self-Insurance at 360-902-5067 if you have questions about the updated form.


New supervisor for Private Sector Rehabilitation Services

June 7, 2022

Debbie Williams has accepted the position of Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS) supervisor. She started June 1.

Debbie has been a valued member of our Private Sector Compliance team for over a year, helping to grow the new School Oversight Program. Prior to that, she worked with our vocational services claims support team, after having provided vocational services as a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) in the private sector.

PSRS is an important part of Return to Work Partnerships. The unit works directly with our vocational partners to help ensure workers get the services they need to heal and return to work, through complaint investigations and when necessary, audits. For the past several years the unit has used a collaborative approach with great success – working with individual VRCs and firm managers to solve problems at the lowest level, if possible. PSRS also handles all of the registration processes for individual vocational providers and firms.

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.