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What is Vocational Retraining?


A significant impact of an on-the-job injury is how it can affect your ability to earn a living. If your injury prohibits you from returning to your original job or any jobs for which you have experience, you may be eligible for vocational retraining. It is important to fully cooperate with your vocational counselor. Failure to do so could stop payment of benefits under your claim, including time loss compensation.

To begin the vocational process, the Department of Labor & Industries or a self-insured employer will assign a vocational counselor who will gather information about your injury, employment history, and transferable skills. During this period, it is critical that you tell your doctor about your injury-related limitations, as your doctor will make the final decision about whether you are able to return to work and in what capacity.

After meeting with you, the vocational counselor will send several possible job options to your doctor.  If your doctor approves one of the jobs as a position you’re able to physically do, you will be found employable, not eligible for retraining, and your time loss compensation will stop.

The Department or self-insured employer do not need to find you a job where you make the same salary as at the time of injury. Under Washington law, you only need be found employable at minimum wage and any loss of earning capacity paid until claim closure.

You should be active in the process of finding a new retraining goal.  A vocational counselor, without your input, is most likely to opt for short-term retraining, resulting in a position that you may not desire or may not have a large wage potential, such as being a cashier.

If you are eligible for vocational retraining, you will receive formal schooling or on-the-job training.  The maximum allowed for school and books is $17,500 for up to two years. Once you have selected a retraining program, you have two options. Under Vocational Option 1, you will immediately begin the retraining program, receive time loss for the entirety of the program (up to two years), and have your claim remain open for treatment. Under Vocational Option 2, you can delay your retraining program for up to five years, but your claim will close, and you will only receive nine months of time loss payments.  This option is rarely a good choice, and consulting with a worker’s compensation lawyer can help you decide which is best for you.

If you select Vocational Option 2 and your claim is reopened in the future and time loss or pension benefits owed, then the Option 2 payments will be converted to an overpayment and must be repaid to the Department.  There are other Option 2 limitations for new claims or reopened claims.

Your best option for securing a promising vocational future is by hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer. At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle attorneys can help you through this confusing process to help you obtain the compensation and vocational retraining you deserve.

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