Latest News for Vocational Providers

May 2024

Update on pharmacy billing

Out-of-state and out-of-country hub goes LIVE

April 2024

SOSi's Scheduling System Goes Live - Pre-Register NOW!

Updated letters to workers about the vocational referral

Vocational recovery champion, Regina Wilson, passes

Register Today! Vocational Provider Summit on June 7

ACTION REQUIRED: Vocational Firm Quality Assurance Plan Updates

March 2024

ACTION REQUIRED: New out-of-state and out-of-country referral hub

"The Survey Says" - 2nd Edition

Happy Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Day! 

SAVE THE DATE: Quality Assurance Plan Updates

Webinar and CEUs - WorkSource in Action

“Open Doors” at the Vocational Provider Summit – June 7, 2024


Request archived news

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


Update on pharmacy billing

May 2, 2024

As you may have heard, L&I (and insurers across the country) recently experienced challenges paying pharmacies.  We are glad to announce that pharmacies are now able to bill L&I. Vocational counselors are not impacted. However, please keep this in mind should workers express any related concerns about their pharmacies. 

Please send all inquiries to the Preferred Drug List (PDL) Hotline, by calling 888-443-6798 extension 1, or by sending email to PDL@Lni.wa.gov. Staff will support you directly.  

For more information, visit the L&I Drugs and Prescriptions web page.


Out-of-state and out-of-country hub goes LIVE

May 1, 2024

The hub for out-of-state/country (OOS/C) referrals for each firm activated on May 1, 2024.

If you have counselors attached to the hub, you are now eligible to receive new referrals for workers who are currently residing outside of Washington State.

If you do not have counselors attached to the hub, you will not receive new OOS/C referrals. However, you are expected to keep all of your existing OOS/C referrals.

Over the next few months, L&I will clean up the data associated with existing OOS/C referrals. This means OOS/C referrals will transfer from their current branches to your firm’s specific OOS/C hub.

Branches located outside Washington will be deactivated after their referrals have transferred to the firm’s new OOS/C hub. 

For detailed information about the hub, go to the OOS/C referral hub FAQs.

For questions, email Vocational Recovery Project.  


SOSi's Scheduling System Goes Live - Pre-Register NOW!

April 23, 2024

SOSi’s scheduling system WordBridge goes live June 17, 2024.

What you need to know to ensure a smooth transition
  • Providers may book requests and Language Access Providers (LAPs) may accept assignments in WordBridge ahead of the launch for dates of service on or after June 17.
  • Providers must cancel all requests in the interpretingWorks system for dates of service on or after June 15.
  • LAPs must register with SOSi to receive referrals and be paid for scheduled and on-demand services provided on or after June 17.
  • All L&I accounts for on-demand interpreter services will be deactivated June 17 for services delivered on or after June 17.
  • Services scheduled and delivered through interpretingWorks after June 14 will not be paid.
Providers and their staff must register in My L&I

All requestors (providers and/or scheduling staff) must complete a one-time registration in My L&I to access the WordBridge system. We are working with SOSi on adding the link to the WordBridge system on My L&I.

Why use My L&I? Logging into My L&I protects confidentiality of all customer information and complies with online security requirements.

Next Steps

L&I will send messages when:

  • Providers and their scheduling staff can access WordBridge through My L&I and start booking requests.
  • WordBridge begins sending assignment offers to the LAPs.
  • Training opportunities become available.

Visit L&I’s Interpreter Services website for “My L&I registration instructions for requestors,” project updates, available trainings, and to view the FAQs.

If you still need help, please contact us at Interpretation@lni.wa.gov.


Updated letters to workers about the vocational referral

April 17, 2024

L&I created new vocational recovery (VR) and ability to work assessment (AWA) referral letters to better align with the worker-centric approach and our vocational recovery referral model. Both letters intend to encourage workers to engage with their counselor and actively participate in their recovery.  

The new AWA letter no longer includes a copy of the Assessing Your Ability to Work: Your Rights and Responsibilities (F280-017-000) publication. 

Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are required to discuss with workers their rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Quality Assurance Elements.  

We appreciate your work to make sure that workers are aware of the importance of their participation in a successful referral.  

If you have questions, email Vocational Recovery Project


Vocational recovery champion, Regina Wilson, passes

April 12, 2024

Regina Wilson, a passionate advocate for vocational recovery and a longtime L&I employee, died on March 28. Funeral services are set for Friday (April 12) in Lexington, Kentucky, where Regina’s mother and most of her extended family live.

For almost nine years, Regina was a member of the Vocational Service Specialist team within Return to Work Partnerships. She is remembered as a great team member with incredible knowledge and skills, dedication to her work, and ability to persevere.

Regina had a firm belief in the importance of working and the mission of helping people return to work,” said her supervisor, Melissa Sutherland. “She was not afraid to voice her opinion, even if it did not align with others. She was always ready to help out when asked and enjoyed being part of our team.”

Regina moved to Washington from Texas to be close to her grandchildren. She had two master's degrees, one in Vocational Rehabilitation, and was a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor; and the other was in Marriage and Family Counseling.

She is survived by her husband, Marcus Wilson; two daughters, MarcKia and Zina Wilson; mother, Brenda Edrington; and three grandsons.

Although Regina worked all the way to the end, and that was her way, we will remember and miss her as she is in this photo taken in Mexico a few years ago with her husband, Marcus, enjoying a sunny day on the beach.

It is with heavy hearts that we wish farewell to our friend and colleague.


Register Today! Vocational Provider Summit on June 7

April 3, 2024

Return to Work (RTW) Partnerships is excited to host an in-person Vocational Provider Summit on Friday, June 7.

The full-day, no-cost, summit is set for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at L&I headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501. It’s an exclusively in-person event. No virtual or hybrid options will be offered.

This year’s summit theme is “opening doors” to worker recovery.

Who Should Attend?

All vocational rehabilitation providers serving Washington workers in State Fund or Self-Insured vocational services are invited to the summit. Topics include:

  • “CALM” - A model for navigating intense interactions.
  • Q&A with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experts. 
  • Return-to-work tools, including Job Scan and On the Job Recovery.
  • Updates on new interpreter scheduling system.
  • Updates on new labor market skills development.

Light refreshments will be provided. Lunch will be on your own.

Register for the Vocational Provider Summit

  • Submit an individual registration form for each vocational provider to reserve their seat.
  • Complete the registration no later than May 17.
  • Early registration is encouraged due to limited seating.
  • Waitlist available once registration has met maximum capacity.
  • If you require an accommodation or service to fully participate, please email Vocational Summit mailbox no later than May 17.

Note: We don’t want empty seats on the day of the Summit because of no-shows! Our goal this year is to eliminate no-shows, so that we can welcome all who would like to attend. You have a part to play. If you sign up for the event, but then realize that you can’t come, please let us know ASAP so that we can let people in from our waiting list.

Questions? Email the Vocational Summit mailbox.


ACTION REQUIRED: Vocational Firm Quality Assurance Plan Updates

April 1, 2024

L&I has made several updates to the Vocational Firm Quality Assurance (QA) Plan. Changes are effective June 1, 2024.

ACTION REQUIRED:

Each vocational firm’s quality assurance has evolved through QA Plan addendums and those will continue. However, to maintain consistency, fill gaps, and provide greater clarity, the Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee and L&I’s Quality Assurance Team have made the following updates to the QA Plan:

  • More concise:
    • Larger print and fewer words.
    • Significantly improved readability.
    • More logical content arrangement.
    • Consistent with changes to MARFS and other reference guides.
  • Referral distribution:
    • Added expectations for out-of-state and out-of-country referral distribution.
    • Clarified expectations for declining and returning referrals.
  • New firm manager: As firms hire or promote managers, they will be expected to attend a Quality Assurance Orientation.
  • Managing capacity: Added expectations for firms to proactively manage the volume of referrals.
  • Coverage plan: Added expectation for firms to plan for continuation of services to the worker during counselor absences.

Most vocational firms signed their QA Plan Agreement in 2021 when the Quality Assurance program was established. Since then, the partnership between L&I and the vocational community has grown and remains committed to continuous improvements. Firms have implemented quality assurance activities, provided valuable feedback, and influenced changes to the system. Most importantly, the worker has benefited from our shared passion to elevate best practices in vocational recovery.

The changes made to the plan are aligned with the implementation of the out-of-state and out-of-country referral hub, which is effective May 1, 2024. Applicable changes in the QA Plan will also reflect in the 2024 updates to MARFS, effective July 1, 2024.

For questions, email the Vocational Recovery Project.


ACTION REQUIRED: New out-of-state and out-of-country referral hub

March 29, 2024

On May 1, Labor & Industries (L&I) will be activating an out-of-state and out-of-country (OOS/C) referral hub for each vocational firm. New OOS/C referrals will be sent to firms who have assigned vocational counselors to the hub.

Firm owners and managers are asked to take action on some tasks by April 25. They are also invited to attend a virtual meeting on April 1 to hear more about the new hub.

Zoom meeting on April 1

The OOS/C hub will be discussed as a part of the Zoom meeting on Quality Assurance Plan Updates at 1 p.m. The meeting is scheduled for an hour, but facilitators will be available for questions for an additional 30 minutes.

  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 892 0656 5644
  • Passcode: QAPla123!
  • Or, join by phone at 253-215-8782, with passcode 696637825#

Action required by April 25:

NOTE: Providers will receive their “new branch ID” letter within a few weeks.

The hub is essentially a new service location with a firm-specific branch ID number. The hub adds flexibility to the firm’s referral assignment process because it’s not counted as one of a counselor’s allowable three contiguous service locations.

The new OOS/C referral hub will allow vocational firms to close physical office locations outside of Washington State, if desired. The hub will also allow firms that have not previously received referrals for OOS/C workers to choose to begin receiving them.

Vocational firms will need to consider their staff’s willingness to learn new skills and acquire knowledge to begin accepting OOS/C referrals. A firm’s acceptance of OOS/C Vocational Recovery referrals implies that the firm intends to keep those referrals throughout the duration of service phases.

Working OOS/C referrals can be different or require additional steps compared to instate referrals. Unfamiliar labor market areas, industries, and managing multiple time zones can require more planning, research, and coordination. Workers who move OOS/C may also need help finding and enrolling new medical providers or schools. L&I has attempted to provide a variety of resources to help firms feel confident about building counselor expertise in these areas.

To help counselors with some of the differences associated with providing OOS/C services, the vocational services specialists (VSS) team and the OOS/C specialty claims units have developed guidance for common concerns. The guidance includes:

  • Steps to take before and after a worker relocates.
  • Resources for limited English proficiency communication and cultural competence.
  • Helping out-of-state providers through the ProviderOne application process.
  • Helping out-of-country providers obtain a provider number.

Additionally, the VSSs assigned to out-of-state (unit 7) and out-of-country (unit U) claims specialty units will be available to answer questions and walk counselors through issues affecting OOS/C workers in our system.

NOTE: Firms will continue to receive OOS/C referrals through the existing method until the new referral hub goes live on May 1. To manage the transition and ensure we do not overload firms who assign counselors to the OOS/C referral hub, we will moderate the number of referrals going through the hub. If needed, we may still send some OOS/C referrals through the existing method. Our intent is to work with vocational firms to help counselors gain experience and feel confident taking on OOS/C referrals so we may utilize the hub to the fullest.

For questions, email the Vocational Recovery Project.


"The Survey Says" - 2nd Edition

March 28, 2024

In this second edition of “The Survey Says,” L&I would like to share findings gleaned from the worker survey and share the voice of our mutual customers.

Workers consistently report that helping them understand next steps is the single most helpful action taken by their vocational counselor.

Last year, L&I began sending online surveys to workers who recently concluded Vocational Recovery (VR) services or have been receiving VR services for longer than 12 months. The survey was designed to identify, from the worker’s perspective, what aspect of VR is most beneficial to them and what’s missing or creating delays in their recovery.

Free form responses within the online survey allow workers to expand upon the many ways their counselor has supported their recovery by setting clear expectations and following through on action items. Workers appreciate the insight and reassurance from counselors that they are doing everything possible to keep their claim moving forward.

Most beneficial to worker:​ Most often missing:​ Most often contributes to delays: 
Workers report the most beneficial aspect of VR is helping them understand next steps in the process.​ Workers lack understanding of the counselor's role in moving their recovery forward.​ Workers don't understand their role in the claims process.​

Unprompted praise has been documented in telephone surveys that reinforce the value of the vocational counselor as a trusted guide. The phone survey data also supports the online survey in what’s missing or creating delays:

  • 30% of telephone survey participants aren’t sure what their counselor will do next.
  • 30% of workers report they are not sure about their role in the claim process.

The results in both surveys point back to the principles of work disability prevention, specifically the importance of preventing a confusing process. While all parties can influence the duration and outcome of claims, vocational counselors are especially well-positioned to positively impact recovery by helping workers navigate the system, define action items, and next steps.


Happy Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Day!

March 22, 2024

March 22 is National Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Appreciation Day. L&I honors vocational rehabilitation professionals, both at the department and in the private sector, for their meaningful work in helping injured workers.

Every day, vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) make deep connections, understand concerns, and offer guidance to people when they need it most. Our L&I Vocational Services Specialists (VSSs) work directly with counselors to share their expertise, solve problems, and navigate our system. Together, they help people discover their path forward.

We thank all VRCs and VSSs for their continued commitment in helping workers regain employment, independence, and sense of self. We appreciate your hard work and steadfast service to Washington workers!


SAVE THE DATE: Quality Assurance Plan Updates

March 13, 2024

Attention all vocational firm owners/managers and quality assurance representatives:

L&I is hosting an important meeting to discuss planned updates to the Quality Assurance (QA) Plan.

Save the date and Zoom details below:

Monday, April 1 at 1 p.m.

The meeting is scheduled for an hour, but facilitators will be available for questions for an additional 30 minutes.

  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 892 0656 5644
  • Passcode: QAPla123!
  • Or, join by phone at 253-215-8782, with passcode 696637825#

The Vocational Recovery Advisory Committee has worked with the QA team to make several changes to the QA Plan. The changes add clarity to items in the plan and better support our partnership in providing quality vocational services to workers.

Meeting topics include:

  • Distribution of out-of-state and out-of-country referrals.
  • Alignment with 2024 updates to Billing and Payment policies (effective July 1).
  • Quality Assurance Orientations for new firm managers.
  • Coverage plans for when counselors are on vacation or have emergency leave situations.
  • Clarification on when and how to decline referrals.

NOTE: Quality Assurance Elements will not change and there is no impact to your firm data reporting.

You will receive communication immediately after the meeting outlining the changes and action items. A new signature page will be required. All firm-specific QA Plan addendums will remain applicable to the firm’s overall quality assurance plan.

The updated QA Plan takes effect June 1.

For questions, email the Vocational Recovery Project.


Webinar and CEUs - WorkSource in Action

March 12, 2024

L&I is hosting a webinar for VRCs that will highlight the role of WorkSource vocational services specialists (VSSs) in helping injured workers achieve their return-to-work goals. Registered participants with confirmed attendance will receive one continuing education unit (CEU) for CRC and CDMS.

WorkSource in Action:

Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Time: Noon – 1 p.m.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Topics include:

  • Real-world scenarios of successful collaboration between VRCs and WorkSource VSSs.
  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  • Services available at WorkSource locations.

Questions? Email the Vocational Recovery Project with “WorkSource In Action” on the subject line.


“Open Doors” at the Vocational Provider Summit – June 7, 2024

March 8, 2024

Save the date for L&I’s Vocational Provider Summit on Friday, June 7, 2024. This year, the theme focuses on how vocational providers can “Open Doors” in a worker’s recovery. 

This in-person event will be held at L&I headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501 from 8am - 3:30pm. 

Registration opens on April 3 (formerly 3/29), with a message about the registration and other event details to follow. The summit is open and offered at no cost to all vocational providers. There is a cap on attendees due to space limitations, so early registration is recommended.  

The summit will feature interactive discussions, engaging speakers, and case studies focused on overcoming barriers in vocational recovery. More information, including the detailed agenda, will be shared when registration opens.

Questions? Email the Vocational Recovery Project.