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VOCATIONAL BENEFITS: Understanding This Valuable but Discretionary Benefit

Posted by Tara J Reck on August 25, 2016

In the State of Washington, injured workers who have sustained an industrial injury or developed an occupational disease resulting in permanent physical and/or mental limitations may wonder about their ability to receive vocational
rehabilitation (retraining) benefits.  Access to vocational services is not a guaranteed benefit; vocational services are
provided at the sole discretion of the Director of the Department of Labor and Industries when vocational rehabilitation is determined to be both necessary and likely to make the injured worker employable at gainful employment.  (
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=51.32.095) 

If the Director determines that vocational rehabilitation is necessary and likely to make the injured worker employable at gainful employment, a specific set of vocational return-to-work priorities are followed in assessing the injured worker’s vocational rehabilitation needs.  To this end, the Department or self-insurers must utilize the services of professionals whose experience and training qualify them to lend expert assistance as necessary to make the injured worker employable consistent with his or her physical and mental abilities.  (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=51.32.095)  If vocational services are deemed necessary, a vocational counselor will be assigned to a claim in order to carry out the vocational rehabilitation return-to-work
priorities.  The order of priorities that the vocational counselor must address are:

#1:  Can the injured worker return to the job of injury/previous job with the employer of injury/same employer?  If not, then:

#2:  Can the injured worker return to a modified job of injury/previous job with the employer of injury/same employer including transitional return to work? If not, then:

#3:  Can the injured worker return to a new job with the employer of injury/same employer in keeping with any limitations or restrictions?  If not,then:

#4:  Can the injured worker return to a modification of a new job with the employer of injury/same employer including transitional return to work? If not, then:

#5:  Can the injured worker return to a modification of the previous job/job of injury with a new employer? If not, then:

#6:  Can the injured worker return to a new job with a new employer or self-employment based upon transferable skills?  If not, then:

#7:  Can the injured worker return to a modification of a new job with a new employer? If not, then:

#8:  Can the injured worker return to a new job with a new employer or self-employment involving on-the-job training?  If not, then:

#9:  Can the injured worker benefit from short-term retraining and job placement?

Before an injured worker will be provided with vocational retraining through an on-the-job training program or short-term training program, the first seven return-to-work priorities must be answered in the negative.  Therefore, it is critical for an injured worker to work closely with his or her attending physician and other treating providers to identify physical restrictions and mental limitations that impact the worker’s ability to obtain and perform jobs identified by the vocational counselor.  It is usually in the worker’s best interest to discuss specific jobs and their physical demands with his or her attending physician when possible.

 

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