Latest News for Vocational Providers

January 2023

2023 mileage reimbursement rate increase

PGAP Informational webinar

New PGAP resource available!

Counselor kudos – Ian Lampe-Martin, Strategic Consulting Services

Counselor Kudos – Amber Parmley, Vocational Connections, Inc.

Intern supervisor expectations documents due Jan. 31

December 2022

Updated Vocational Recovery Reference Manual

Guide to retraining plans now available

Policy updates

VSS staff updates

Early Return to Work Consultation Team

Vocational Firm accounts will move to ProviderOne starting February 2023

November 2022

PGAP Success Story: Irina Razvina, Ability Vocational Consulting

VSS staff announcements

Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #24

Counselor Kudos: Morgan Sanders, Dura Vocational Services P.S.

In-person engagement with workers, employers, and medical providers

Action Required: 2023 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement


Request archived news

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


2023 mileage reimbursement rate increase

Jan. 31, 2023

Effective Jan.1, 2023, the mileage reimbursement rate for privately owned vehicles increased to 66 cents per mile. For details, visit the Office of Financial Management (OFM) website’s travel webpage.


PGAP Informational webinar

Jan. 27, 2023

All vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are invited to register for an informational webinar on the Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP). This 30-minute webinar will teach VRCs how activity coaching with PGAP can help their clients. The webinar will also address the vital role VRCs play in facilitating a referral for activity coaching.

Webinar date: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023
Time: 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

REGISTER HERE in advance via Zoom webinar.

PGAP is a 10-week structured program that focuses on reintegration of daily tasks for workers who are struggling to resume or maintain an active lifestyle, which was disrupted by their workplace injury.

Early access to this program can improve workers’:

  • Participation in other treatment areas.
  • Engagement in their vocational recovery.
  • Return to work outcomes.

Please email Activity Coaching if you have any questions.


New PGAP resource available!

Jan. 27, 2023

Introducing Activity Coaching with the Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP)” is a new resource now available on the Vocational Recovery Services webpage under ‘Publications.’

This resource is expected to help vocational rehabilitation counselors and other providers who are unfamiliar with PGAP communicate effectively with workers about how PGAP can help them recover from their injuries. The PGAP talking points were developed in a joint effort by current activity coaches and PGAP study participants.


Counselor kudos – Ian Lampe-Martin, Strategic Consulting Services

Jan. 12, 2023

L&I has created a message series called Counselor Kudos to recognize and share stories about the exceptional work of vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) in the vocational community.

Ian Lampe–Martin, a VRC with Strategic Consulting Services, was assigned a vocational recovery referral earlier in 2022. The worker needed surgery and would be unable to work for several months. It was a frustrating and confusing time. Thankfully, Ian was there to help.

Minimizing work disability includes:

  • Managing unnecessary delays and duration.
  • Preventing a confusing process.
  • Setting clear return to work goals with the worker.

Ian was especially helpful in navigating the complexities of the claims process and being a reliable source for answers.

The worker sent an email to the firm expressing his appreciation for Ian:

“Ian has been fantastic! He genuinely cares about the people he's helping. He's an asset to your team. I thought it was important for him to get the recognition he deserves, especially in a time when so few are willing to put in more than minimal effort.”

Thank you, Ian, for building the relationship with the worker and creating a positive experience during a difficult time in this worker’s life.

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


Counselor Kudos – Amber Parmley, Vocational Connections, Inc.

Jan. 12, 2023

L&I has created a message series called Counselor Kudos to recognize and share stories about the exceptional work of vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) in the vocational community.

A worker from Eastern Washington writes, “Amber, you don’t know how much I appreciate you and your support through all this. Sometimes I felt you were the only one who was truly in my corner.”

The worker is referring to Amber Parmley from Vocational Connections, Inc. As the assigned VRC, Amber assisted the worker through plan development and the successful completion of a retraining plan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When she met Amber, the worker was a certified nursing assistant injured on the job. After three knee surgeries, the worker knew she needed to find a job that didn’t require her to be on her feet all day. The worker was devastated by the loss of the job she loved doing.

To complicate matters, the worker was also pregnant and relocating to Western Washington. Amber presented the worker with all of her options. The worker could have selected Option 2; however, she wanted to pursue a new career that aligned with her skills and abilities. Amber helped her develop a retraining goal and find a training program that could accommodate online learning.

There were multiple times when the worker could have easily given up on training. With Amber’s continued support and encouragement, the worker overcame many barriers, including computer issues, additional relocations, and other personal concerns. The worker completed her medical secretary/human resource assistant training through Edmonds College Business Technical Center.

While the worker was in training, Amber helped her put together a return–to-work portfolio, including resumes, certifications, a job search contact log, interview guidance, a pro-active job search to-do list, and other tools for accessing job openings. Amber also connected the worker with the local WorkSource vocational services specialist.

Thank you, Amber, for guiding the worker through the worker-centric model and helping her return to work!

For questions or comments, email the Vocational Recovery Project.


Intern supervisor expectations documents due Jan. 31

Jan. 3, 2023

Vocational intern supervisors need to record and report on their interns’ progress in demonstrating the skills developed through observation, participation, and supervised independent practice using the Vocational Intern Supervisor Expectations document. This requirement only applies to vocational providers assisting with State Fund referrals.

How and when should supervisors send us the expectations documents?

By Jan. 31, 2023, supervisors should send expectations documents—for all interns—to Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS) at PSRS@Lni.wa.gov. Both the supervisor and intern must sign the documents.

The intern supervisors must send updated expectations documents for each intern every six months after.

What happens if PSRS doesn’t receive the documents every six months?

If the intern supervisor doesn’t submit their expectations documents, PSRS may remove the individual’s intern supervisor status and contact the firm’s owner or manager, asking them to identify the intern’s new supervisor. An intern supervisor who has been removed may reapply, but multiple infractions will result in permanent removal.

How will PSRS use the documents?

PSRS will keep the expectations documents on file. When an intern applies to become a vocational rehabilitation (VRC), PSRS will review the latest expectations document on file for that intern. Before PSRS can consider the intern’s application, the documentation must show the intern has achieved all the listed essential knowledge and skills required to become a VRC.

Where can I learn more?

For more information, see:

To read the policy:

  1. Follow the directions to access the Claim and Account Knowledge Base. (Open a separate browser window to keep the directions handy.)
  2. After you’ve logged in to the knowledge base, in the search bar at the top, enter ‘6.07’.
  3. Click on the policy to view it.

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


Updated Vocational Recovery Reference Manual

Dec. 22, 2022

L&I has updated its Vocational Recovery Reference Manual. This manual is a detailed reference of up-to-date and useful information related to vocational recovery.

Since the manual is for general reference, L&I will send the manual directly to every vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) providing vocational services to workers.

Typically, L&I only sends communications to firm owners and managers, as discussed at the December 2022 Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee (VRAC) meeting. However, if information needs to go directly to VRCs, we will give firm owners and managers advance notice.

Please send us your suggestions and questions to VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov.


Guide to retraining plans now available

Dec. 21, 2022

A new resource is now available to help ensure timely approval of retraining plans.

The Guide to Retraining Plans is now on L&I’s Plan Development webpage.

Vocational services specialist (VSS) staff and vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRC) worked together to create the guide to address commonly missed items, which often cause delays in approval when submitting a retraining plan.

The guide includes useful instructions and information on:

  • How to successfully submit a retraining plan to L&I.
  • How to receive approval the first time.
  • Retraining plan topics and criteria.

VRCs can use this guide when writing plans to ensure they have addressed all required criteria. It could be valuable to those who certify plans when reviewing plans before submitting them to L&I.

Ilana Lehmann, education specialist for Return-to-Work Partnerships, would like to acknowledge those who contributed to the development of the guide:

VRCs:

  • Adriane Bendzak, Eastside Vocational Services LLC
  • David Flores, Rainier Case Management Inc.
  • Matt Nystul, Disability Management and Consulting
  • Katie Rogge, Eastside Vocational Services LLC

VSS staff:

  • John Martinez
  • Leia Sanchez

Thank you all for your collaboration and work on this resource!

For questions, email VSS staff.


Policy updates

Dec. 20, 2022

We have made a few policy updates. The changes became effective Dec. 15, 2022.

  • Interim Policy 6.07 – Vocational Interns and Supervisors (State Fund Claims)
    • This new policy explains the importance of submitting Vocational Intern Supervisor Expectations documents.
    • Interim Policy 6.02 – Assigning State Fund Referrals
      This policy is updated to reflect the current referral model.
  • Policy 6.11 – Marketing by Vocational Rehabilitation Providers
    • This policy is no longer necessary; it’s been archived.

To read the policies:

  1. Follow the directions to access the Claim and Account Knowledge Base. (Open a separate browser window to keep the directions handy.)
  2. After you’ve logged in to the knowledge base, in the search bar at the top, enter the policy’s number.
  3. Click on the policy to view it.

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


VSS staff updates

Dec. 19, 2022

The vocational services specialist (VSS) unit coverage and unit assignments have changed.

Sara Crone, VSS, has accepted a position with the Vocational Dispute Resolution Office effective Dec. 19, 2022. We have reassigned Sara’s units.

Please see the updated printable list with the changes.


Early Return to Work Consultation Team

Dec. 7, 2022

It’s now easier than ever for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) to partner with Early Return to Work Consultation (ERTWC) to help Washington employers prepare for future claims.

The ERTWC team is made up of highly skilled and experienced vocational service specialists who can help employers across the state build their own return-to-work culture. Direct services this team provide include:

  • Educating employers about L&I’s financial incentives programs
  • Creating “light duty” opportunities
  • Completing job analyses and job descriptions

The consultation may also include employer referrals to internal experts in the Stay at Work, Preferred Worker, and Retrospective Rating programs, as well as, in areas such as risk management, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics. The long-term goal is to help employers be prepared to act quickly in the case of future claims and to promote safe and effective return-to-work.

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) can help by identifying employers who may benefit from ERTWC services and by sending the employer’s name, contact information, and a short description of their need to the ERTW Consultation mailbox. Also, feel free to submit any questions you have about ERTWC services.

Additional resources include the Early Return to Work Consultation brochure and Fact Sheet. These can also be found and shared on our web page, Prepare for Future Claims (wa.gov).


Vocational Firm accounts will move to ProviderOne starting February 2023

Dec. 2, 2022

This message applies to ALL vocational firms, regardless of if they accept vocational referrals from the state fund.

L&I Provider accounts are moving to ProviderOne. The migration is planned for February through June 2023.

What is ProviderOne?

ProviderOne is a new enrollment system that will allow firms to manage their account information online. It will eliminate most paper enrollment and change forms. This change only applies to enrollment. The bill payment system will not change. All L&I providers’ accounts will migrate in a staggered schedule.

Support for firms

L&I’s Private Sector Rehabilitation Services (PSRS) registration team will support firms with the transition. The PSRS team will:

  • Provide instructions to help firms successfully finalize their accounts after migration.
  • Answer questions.
  • Provide individual support for firms.

L&I will also send regular updates to firms prior to the implementation start date.

Staggered implementation

L&I will begin moving smaller firms (1-2 employees, including firm manager) in February. Larger firms will move later, with a target to have all vocational firms moved by the end of June. We will notify each firm 30 days prior to their move date.

What is the process prior to the move?

L&I will continue to use the current application and change form process until a firm moves. This does not include brand new vocational firms that need to establish their new account application in ProviderOne starting Dec. 5, 2022.

What is the firm owner/manager responsibility?

After your firm is moved, complete these three key steps:

  1. Identify a system administrator to manage your firm’s access to ProviderOne.
  2. Add minimal information to complete your account (for example, business license and electronic funds transfer (EFT)/direct deposit information as shown below). A detailed description of required information will be sent along with the instructions referenced below.
  3. Add your individual staff and their social security numbers.

L&I is finalizing instructions and additional information, which will be sent prior to a firm migrating.

Accessing ProviderOne

Before moving to ProviderOne, firms will receive a letter from L&I with a direct link to ProviderOne that includes login and password information.

EFT/Direct deposit

Existing electronic payment information will not migrate. Firms need to add bank account details to their ProviderOne account to continue. Firms can also start EFT/direct deposit after their account moves. If the firm does not add information after the move, L&I will send payments by mail to the mailing address on file.

No changes to billing

Firms will continue to bill L&I and self-insured employers using the existing process.

More information?

Visit www.Lni.wa.gov/ProviderOne

Questions?

Email VocRecoveryProject@Lni.wa.gov


PGAP Success Story: Irina Razvina, Ability Vocational Consulting

Nov. 30, 2022

Attention all vocational firm owners/managers: Please share with your staff.

We are collecting and sharing some examples of your great work and how VRCs really make a difference every day in the lives of workers. Sharing successes can give us good ideas, helps to orient us towards what is meaningful in our work, and just makes us feel proud to be a part of such an amazing community. Here is a story we heard recently.

Irina Razvina, co-owner of Ability Vocational Consulting and an active vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC), submitted a great success story to L&I, highlighting the use of the Progressive Goal Attainment Program to help a worker secure a new job with a new employer.

The worker, a 62-year-old man, injured his right shoulder in May 2020 while working as an auto mechanic. He had two surgeries on his right shoulder but continued to have significant pain and limitations. Ultimately, he was unable to return to work as an auto mechanic, and his employer of injury was not able to accommodate his restrictions.

The worker was feeling very uncertain about his ability to return to work with his existing skills. He had only ever worked as an auto mechanic, lived in a relatively remote area, and while he had the knowledge to work as a service advisor, he was unsure that he could be successful in that role.

With the worker’s continued pain, limitations, and uncertainty about his abilities, Irina suggested using the Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP). The attending provider approved Irina’s suggestion and services were promptly coordinated. Irina worked closely with the activity coach to help the worker. Irina helped him search for jobs, write a new resume, and prepare for interviews. The worker gained more confidence and began expanding his abilities to participate in meaningful activities.

The worker recently started a new full-time job as a service writer near his home, making a wage comparable to what he was making at the time of injury. Irina also helped his new employer apply for Preferred Worker benefits.

Without vocational recovery and PGAP interventions, a positive return to work outcome for this worker may not have been possible. Thank you, Irina, for making a difference in this worker’s life and for connecting him to all of the valuable benefits available to support his goals. In addition, congratulations to the worker!

If you have a PGAP or other success story to share, please email the Vocational Recovery Project.


VSS staff announcements

Nov. 28, 2022

Here are some updates on vocational services specialist (VSS) unit assignments. The VSS unit coverage list has been updated with these changes.

Lea Insua has been promoted to claims unit VSS lead. For six years, Lea worked as a claims unit VSS for Return-to-Work Partnerships. Previously, Lea was a vocational option 2 specialist and a claims manager.

Cherie Davis started a six-month developmental job assignment as a claims VSS on Oct. 17. Cherie comes to us from the Vocational Dispute Resolution Office (VDRO). She has also worked as a VSS in the Private Sector Rehabilitation Services team. Before that, Cherie worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) in the private sector.

Hope Crumley started as a VSS2 on Nov. 1. Hope has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She also has Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) credentials. Hope has worked as a VRC and manager for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. Hope recently worked with The Galt Foundation, a staffing company that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities.

LaTrisha Gallegos started a developmental job assignment as a vocational dispute reviewer with VDRO on Nov. 16. As shown in the VSS unit coverage list, LaTrisha’s units have been reorganized. We are excited to support LaTrisha with learning and developing new skills.

Sophia Miller and Renee Richardson started as VSS2 in-training on Nov. 16. Sophia has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Central Washington University. She has worked as a Customer Service Specialist 3 for the Aberdeen L&I field office. Renee has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and graduated magna cum laude from St. Martin’s University. She has spent the last three years working at L&I as an Industrial Insurance Underwriter 4.

Please help us welcome our new VSS staff!


Return to Work Partnerships MythBuster #24

Nov. 21, 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 vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) need a worker’s COVID-19 vaccination documentation to submit a retraining plan.

MYTH: “L&I requires the VRC to obtain a copy of the worker’s COVID-19 vaccination card when submitting a retraining plan.”

A copy of the worker’s COVID-19 vaccination card is not required as a part of the retraining plan. The agency does not require proof but does expect the VRC to have a conversation with the worker about COVID-19 policies and vaccination requirements prior to submitting a retraining plan.

To submit the retraining plan, L&I needs the VRC to:

  • Review the potential retraining site’s COVID-19 policies and vaccination requirements.
  • Inform the worker of the facility’s policies concerning COVID-19 to attend in-person training or utilize onsite resources.
  • Ask the worker if they meet the vaccination requirements.
  • If yes, address the site’s policies in the narrative portion of the retraining plan. Note that the worker has reviewed the policies and confirm they meet the requirements to start their retraining plan.

To submit on-the-job (OJT) retraining plans, L&I needs the VRC to:

  • Clarify with the OJT training provider if they have any COVID-19 policies or vaccination requirements.
  • Review the policies with the worker, along with any COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
  • Ask the worker if they meet the requirements.
  • If yes, document the OJT site requirements in the narrative portion of the retraining plan. Note that the worker has reviewed the policies and confirm they meet the requirements to start their retraining plan.

Helpful discussion tips for VRCs:

  • As early as possible in plan development, discuss the possibility that retraining sites might have COVID-19 policies. Understanding vaccination requirements early help set realistic expectations and/or give the worker time to meet those requirements.
  • Instead of asking the worker if they are vaccinated, consider asking if they can meet all of the retraining site’s requirements to attend.

Resources:

Please send questions to the Vocational Recovery Project.


Counselor Kudos: Morgan Sanders, Dura Vocational Services P.S.

Nov. 9, 2022

L&I has a message series called Counselor Kudos to recognize and share stories about the exceptional work of vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) in the vocational community.

Today’s kudo goes to Morgan Sanders of Dura Vocational Services. She demonstrated excellent vocational practices as an intern and is now a certified VRC.

As an intern, Morgan helped a worker who had found that he could not return to his job of injury. Morgan helped the worker find housing and address educational barriers, while the worker continued treatment and transitioned to Ability to Work Assessment (AWA). Together, they created resumes, opened an ‘Indeed’ account, developed skills, and reviewed numerous job postings.

Morgan also explained the Preferred Worker (PW) program. The worker saw it as a “win-win,” a true benefit for him and a future employer. In the past, Morgan had workers who declined to tell new employers about their PW status. However, she found that discussing the program’s benefits with the worker was extremely helpful. It gave the worker more knowledge on how to explain the program to future employers.

When completing a transferrable skills labor market survey, one employer indicated that they had job openings available and asked Morgan if she had an applicant in mind. She helped connect the employer and the worker. With the worker’s consent (as required), they discussed accommodations and Morgan provided information on the PW benefit.

The worker completed the interview process with Morgan’s assistance, utilizing the resume she had created with him. As a result, he was hired for the position. She monitored the worker’s transition to the new job and connected his new employer with the PW program.

Now, the worker and new employer are successfully working together. Shortly before the referral closed, Morgan became a certified VRC. We appreciate Morgan’s excellent and tireless efforts to help the worker and new employer come together for a mutually beneficial outcome!

If you have a kudo to share, please email the Vocational Recovery Project.


In-person engagement with workers, employers, and medical providers

Nov. 9, 2022

In-person meetings remain the preferred method when vocational counselors are engaging with workers, employers, and medical providers. Research tells us that there is a unique neural difference between face-to-face communication and other types of communication (Jiang et al., 2012). Meeting in-person helps to better establish clarity, create a meaningful connection, and build trust.

Over the past few years, COVID-19 has taught us how to maximize technology, such as video conferences, to save time, reduce costs, and increase our bandwidth. However, the benefits to our bottom line do not always benefit the worker. The worker-centric model of vocational recovery requires that we meet the worker where they are mentally, emotionally, and often times, physically.

Meeting onsite with employers provides the opportunity to witness, first-hand, the essential functions of a position, use proper tools to complete the job analyses, and identify options for modification or accommodation.

Meeting in person with medical providers helps prevent confusion and promotes discussion about the benefits of return to work while healing.

Governor Inslee ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration on October 31, 2022. However, health, safety, and comfort level should still be considered when setting up meetings.

The agency’s guidance for conducting in-person meetings is to use professional judgment. Keep these points in mind:

  • Vocational recovery is a worker-centric approach, so it’s important to do what’s best for the worker.
  • 93% of communication is non-verbal. You may not detect psychosocial barriers in a video or phone conversation, but in a physical interaction, they may be easy to identify.
  • Onsite meetings with the employer may not always be possible or advisable. Use these tips for writing job analyses and job descriptors when you can't go onsite.
  • As the success and importance of vocational recovery is shared with other provider groups, more physicians, occupational therapists, and physical therapists may be more open to in-person appointments with you or along with the worker.
  • Firm management may need to step in if there are service location issues. For example, if driving across a busy metropolitan area is burdensome, perhaps the counselor can be assigned to a different service location.
  • Remind VRCs that travel reimbursement is available.

As a program, Return to Work Partnerships is delighted to see an upward trend in in-person meetings and look forward to the impact they will have on worker outcomes.


Action Required: 2023 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement

Nov. 9, 2022

The deadline to submit your 2023 Annual Vocational Firm Agreement is Dec.15, 2022. 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, 2022.
  • Redact personal details from all documents, such as home addresses, before sending.
  • You may submit photos or scanned copies of credentials and/or insurance information.

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.

Note: Starting this year L&I will not require credential verification for any provider whose credential is on file with L&I and will be current on Dec. 31, 2022. Firms must send credential verification for any provider whose credential is expired or expiring as of Dec. 31, 2022.

Firms are also encouraged to submit credential verification during the calendar year, if relevant.
Firms must continue to submit all current insurance information with their signed annual agreement.

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, according 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.