In Washington State, all employers are mandated to have workers’ compensation insurance that provides medical coverage and wage replacement benefits to help injured workers recover and return to their job. Also, in the unfortunate event that an injured worker sustained injuries that are so severe that they are not able to return to their job, workers’ compensation insurance covers services called vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation service is designed to retrain injured workers and help them learn skills needed to transition into a less physically demanding job.
In this article, our Seattle workers’ compensation attorney gives an overview of Washington’s vocational rehabilitation process.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
In Washington, an injured worker who is not able to perform their job of injury may be found eligible for vocational rehabilitation services that can help them be retrained in a new job. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) explains that vocational retraining is a program meant for injured workers who may need to transition to a new career. Oftentimes, this involves the injured worker attending a vocational school or program to learn new work skills.
Washington State Law: Vocational Rehabilitation Services (RCW 51.32.095)
Vocational rehabilitation is a multi-part process that falls under RCW 51.32.095. Before a worker enters the process, L&I or a self-insured employer must first determine that an injured worker is not able to return to their job of injury with their employer due to their physical or mental condition. While there are some differences from case to case, vocational rehabilitation in Washington typically involves the following:
● Comprehensive Ability to Work Assessment: An injured worker is assessed based on their age, education, work history, transferable skills or lack thereof, and current physical and mental health conditions, to determine if they are reasonably employable in a new job.
● Plan Development: Once an assessment has been completed and an injured worker is found eligible for job retraining, a plan must be developed with an authorized vocational provider to help the injured worker transition back into the workforce. A worker should not enter vocational rehabilitation until a well-structured and suitable plan is in place.
● Vocational Rehabilitation: Finally, a worker must go through the vocational retraining plan. The core goal of the vocational process in Washington State is to help the injured worker obtain the skills that they need to transfer to a new career. As the injured worker goes through the retraining program, their progress will be monitored, and their concerns must be addressed.
Vocational rehabilitation services can be a good option for injured workers as it provides retraining and new skills for the injured workers to reenter the workforce and make a living. However, there can also be downsides, including the possibility that L&I could try to have an injured worker retrain for a far lower-paying job. All injured workers must know that they have rights when it comes to retraining, and an experienced Seattle workers’ compensation attorney can help them ensure that they are in the proper program to meet their retraining goals.
Get Help From Our Seattle Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers have the skills and experience to help injured workers navigate all aspects of the vocational process. Contact us right away for a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation. From our Seattle office and Everett office, we provide workers’ compensation services throughout Washington State.