On June 4th, 2019, L&I announced it is beginning new rule making process to improve vocational services in workers’ compensation cases. According to L&I, this is because vocational services are critical for helping injured workers return to work. L&I believes that changes it has already made to vocational services have resulted in significant improvements. These include reducing process delays, costs, and increasing return-to-work rates.
New L&I administrative rules to improve vocational recovery
According to the announcement, L&I intends to propose new administrative rules. The rules will support vocational recovery as first priority for vocational services provided by private-sector vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs). L&I wants its new administrative rules to align with the return-to-work language in RCW 51.32.095 of the Industrial Insurance Act.
The new rule making will increase minimum professional requirements for VRCs, their supervisors, interns, and vocational firms. It will also include corrective actions for unacceptable conduct by VRCs and their firms. The proposed actions could include sanctions.
Cautious optimism for injured workers in Washington State
L&I’s filing document for the proposed rule-making can be found on the L&I website. I believe that vocational services are an integral and important benefit for injured workers in Washington State. In the last days, I also reviewed the filing document and L&I’s announcement.
I am optimistic that these changes will yield some positive changes in the vocational process for injured workers. However, as with any changes of this nature, I will be monitoring the progress of these rule changes closely. As always, it is my goal to observe, determine and address the ultimate impact to the injured workers I represent.