When your doctor says that you are medically “fixed and stable” (no further treatment), and you have not been released to return to your job of injury, the Department of Labor & Industries or self-insured employer should assign a vocational counselor. During the assessment, the vocational counselor will gather information about your
- Complete work history
- Any transferrable skills you might have
- Physical limitations from your workers’ compensation claim
- Pre-existing physical limitations
- Post-injury physical limitations
- Your work pattern at the time of the injury (full-time vs. part-time)
- Barriers to employment
- Jobs available in your labor market
Vocational retraining is available to you if you are unable to return to any work you have performed in the past. “Transferrable skills” allow you to perform some other work without the need for retraining. If you have transferable skills, you will not be eligible for vocational retraining.
If your doctor says that you cannot perform a particular job based on your industrial injury and any pre-existing, disabling conditions, your time loss compensation will continue. Once your doctor signs a job analysis for a position that you can do physically and for which you have the skills, your time loss compensation will end. It is absolutely essential you talk with your doctor about your limitations from your injury. Tell him what you are having trouble doing. If you do not communicate this information to your doctor, he will assume that you are fine.
Retraining is available in the form of formal schooling or on-the-job retraining. Current maximum retraining benefits are approximately $17,500 for a two-year program. That figure increases each year. The law encourages short-term retraining, so it is important that you be active in the process of selecting a retraining program. Be involved in selecting your retraining plan or you may only receive short-term retraining for a job, such as cashier or electronics assembler.