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L&I Vocational Rehabilitation

on the job vocational rehabilitation training

Vocational rehabilitation services are available to injured workers who are unable to return to their existing profession. The following services are included in workers’ comp vocational rehabilitation training:

  • Vocational recovery
  • Ability-to-work assessment
  • Plan development or work relating to prior job experience, education, or other transferable skills (must be completed and submitted to L&I within 90 days of the day the worker commences vocational plan development)
  • Plan implementation (vocational training)
  • Counseling
  • Job placement

L&I cannot close your claim until either you return to work or your doctor has deemed that you are able to return to work. See RCW 51.32.095.

How Do I Qualify For Workers’ Comp Vocational Rehabilitation?

To qualify for vocational rehabilitation, you must be unable to return to work in the same or modified position. You must also have no sufficient transferable skills that allow you to gainfully return to the workforce.

The Ability To Work Assessment

L&I determines if you qualify for workers comp vocational rehabilitation during the Ability-to-Work Assessment (AWA). The final report to L&I includes the following:

  • Your age, education, and work experience
  • Your transferable skills
  • Preexisting physical and mental conditions and their effect on your employability
  • Physical and mental conditions caused by your injury or occupational illness and their effect on your employability
  • Your wage at the time of injury
  • Your work pattern
  • Significant barriers to your employment
  • Surveys of potential jobs (referred to as “labor market surveys”)
  • Complete work history, explaining any gaps in employment and any licenses or training that you may have had in addition to your formal education

It is strongly advised that you talk to an L&I attorney before you start working with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC). A VRC works for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) or the self-insured employer and is responsible for making recommendations about your future in the workplace. VRCs and L&I claim managers are skilled at finding ways to argue that you can return to the workforce in some other job—even if it’s a job you’ve never performed.

Can I Appeal An Unfavorable Employability Determination?

You, your employer, and your doctor all have the right to protest any decision made about your workers’ compensation claim. L&I must receive a written protest within 15 days for decisions about vocational benefits and all disputes must be made to the Vocational Dispute Resolution Office (VDRO).

Vocational Dispute Resolution Office (VDRO)

The L&I director makes all final decisions based on those recommendations.

Disputes may be submitted by:

  • The injured or ill worker,
  • An employer, or
  • The representative of an injured or ill worker or employer.

If you disagree with a vocational determination on your claim, you may submit the Vocational Dispute Form with your concerns. The dispute form is not required but may be prove to be a useful tool.

You may also appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA). The decision becomes final if your written appeal is not received within the following legal time limits from the date you received the decision:

  • 60 days to appeal a claim decision or a payment decision
  • 20 days for providers to appeal a billing decision that reduces the amount paid or demands repayment

What Are My Options for Workers’ Comp Vocational Rehabilitation?

If you qualify for vocational rehabilitation, you and your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) will draft a plan to train you for new work which will then be sent to L&I for approval and implementation. Once you have been approved, you will receive an Option Election Form. The options included in the form are:

  • Option 1: follow your approved retraining plan and receive time-loss throughout (up to 2 years)
  • Option 2: develop your own training plan and receive 9 months of time-loss

If L&I does not receive your Option Election Form before the Option 1 retraining plan starts, you must proceed with the Option 1 plan. You can choose Option 2 after starting Option 1 as long as you do so within the first quarter of school.

Choosing your training option is an important decision. Contacting an experienced L&I lawyer is crucial during this time. Call Emery Reddy, PLLC today for a free case review to see if we can help you with your claim because it affects your career and time-loss benefits.

What Happens When My Vocational Rehabilitation Is Complete?

Once workers’ comp vocational rehabilitation is complete, L&I will terminate time-loss benefits and close your claim with any permanent partial disability (PPD) award to which you are entitled.

Is Workers’ Comp Vocational Rehabilitation Good Or Bad?

Vocational rehabilitation can seem like a good thing at face value—you are given a chance to learn a new job or continue working and provide an income for your family. However, vocational retraining is a common tactic used by L&I to certify you as able to work in a different line of work even when you are required to perform duties that the worker is clearly unable to perform due to your injuries.

emery reddy attorney and client handshake after settlement is reached

Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have An Employment Law Claim

A significant number of L&I workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment law or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from an L&I lawyer and thus never discover that in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment law claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation.

What Is An Employment Law Claim?

Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. An L&I attorney that is experienced in both L&I workers’ compensation law and employment law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.

What Is A Third-Party Claim?

A third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.

Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.

Who Is At Fault For A Workplace Injury?

L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third-party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.

How Do I Know If I Have A Labor & Industries Case?

If you have an L&I claim or wonder if you have an injury case, ask yourself the following:

  • Have you been denied the medical care benefits to which you are legally entitled?
  • Has L&I asked you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
  • Do you have questions about the L&I claim process that you don’t understand?

If any of the above apply to you, you may have a case!

Navigating an L&I claim can be difficult and very time-consuming, especially when you’re ill or injured. You want to focus on healing and make sure your bills are paid, but if you don’t file things properly or on time, your health, home, and job could be in jeopardy. Many individuals miss out on much-needed L&I benefits because they don’t understand what to do or how to get the most compensation for their injuries. If you are experiencing any challenges in your case, a labor and industries attorney can assist you. By contacting Emery | Reddy as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of filing an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim

Emery | Reddy is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. We thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

Want More Information?

Self-Insured Employer (SIE) Claims 

In Washington State, employers need to pay a premium to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) each month or have a self-insured policy establishing a fund that is then used to pay out self-insurance workers’ compensation claims as they arise.


The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Settlement Amounts

You may be rated for a PPD award before the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) closes your claim if you have completed treatment and are still able to work but have suffered a permanent loss of function and a qualified doctor provides L&I with a PPD rating.

Meet The Team

The L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s what drives us every day.

We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our labor and industries attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

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Timothy W. Emery

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Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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