Vocational Services in Workers’ Compensation L&I claims – The “Plan Development” Phase

Workers Compensation L&I claim - plan development in vocational services

Introduction and context

Today’s post in the series about vocational benefits in workers’ compensation claims and L&I claims is about “Plan Development”. Plan Development is a big, and somewhat complex topic. Today’s post will be one of several on this topic. During Plan Development the assigned vocational counselor attempts to identify a retraining goal and plan for retraining to submit to the Department of Labor and Industries for approval. Vocational counselors are given 90 days to complete this phase. However, with proper documentation, the vocational counselor can request extensions of time for completing plan development.

 

According to WAC 296-19A-100, at the completion of the Plan development phase, the vocational counselor must either (1) submit a vocational rehabilitation plan addressing the return to work priorities, the reason retraining is needed, and outlining significant details regarding the likelihood of success for the plan; or (2) submit a closing report explaining why Plan Development must stop prior to plan approval together with a plan development closing report explaining why plan development cannot continue.

 

Pros and cons and various considerations

In my experience, in the absence of significant extenuating circumstances, the Plan Development process usually concludes with submission of a retraining plan for the Department’s approval. I have to be honest that as a workers’ compensation attorney representing injured workers in Washington State, I have very mixed emotions about vocational services and Plan Development in particular.

 

On the one hand, under the Industrial Insurance Act, vocational rehabilitation is a significant benefit since retraining plans can last up to two years at a cost of little over $17k, with time-loss compensation paid for the entire retraining period. Essentially, it is a two-year, full ride scholarship plus a living stipend. When done well under the right circumstances, a vocational retraining plan can give an injured worker a new lease on life; a second chance at a fulfilling career.

 

In my personal opinion, I believe there is an over-emphasis on finding that an injured worker is theoretically employable, and not enough emphasis on actual employment. In short, the Department’s criteria for a retraining plan to be approved is that it must look good on paper. The injured worker must be physically capable of performing the retraining goal job, the injured worker must have the aptitudes for retraining, and the retraining goal job must exist sufficiently in the labor market. An injured worker’s actual interest in the retraining goal job, the wages the job will ultimately pay, whether the job provides future growth potential, and actual job placement are not considerations for plan approval and employability determinations.

 

Plan development – What to expect

As a result of the above, outcomes of the Plan Development process can vary significantly for injured workers involved in retraining plans. Some injured workers receive the chance of a lifetime to be retrained to a job they want, so they can move on with a new and fulfilling work life. However, other injured workers struggle to keep up with the demands of academically challenging retraining plans designed to make them employable in uninteresting and unmotivating job goals they feel have been oppressively imposed upon them.

 

For this reason, I often advise injured workers to be ultra-invested in participating in the Plan Development process. In my experience, the more engaged and invested injured workers are in the plan development process, the more likely it is that a satisfying retraining goal will be submitted for approval.

3 thoughts on “Vocational Services in Workers’ Compensation L&I claims – The “Plan Development” Phase

  1. I hate L&I and i hate my daughter’s VRC. My daughter’s been on it since 05-09-2017. They have totally messed up her right knee . Had prolotherapy shots in it for about 4 months, which were not ultrasound guided. Her vrc is a fraud. She is taking courses in college now that will be of no benefit to her in 2 years. Can someone please just call me? I’m her mom and I have a very large files on them and my daughter. I’ve been fighting them on my own for 3 years now. Her claim # is BCXXXXX and her name is **** *****. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx.

  2. The Vocational Services I received were lacking in integrity, and very dishonest. Once again the system has left me shaking my head.
    Her report stated i never gave her Xrays, orthopedic notes and MRI results. I did and there was email documentation to verify. Then she went so far as to grab a resume I had done in college knowing it was merely learning tool, basically a mock exercise. Which I told her as I set it aside. However, She took it when I was filling out paperwork copied it and comes back and hands it to me. Wow, I’m thinking, as I explain that was not a real resume . Apparently it was to her, she included it in her report stating i had a plethora of transferable skills.

    What a disaster, I responded to the Directors report but, realize I did not articulate it properly. I will say this to anyone who is reading, Get an Attorney!!!

    Lastly, I discovered that she used my first Vocational Services report that was done 9 years ago as her guide. I was given a list of documents she needed and and the V report was on the list. Additionally, I learn 6 months prior to taking my case there a couple businesses ran out of the building she purchased from my first vocational mgr, no big deal, however this to me is, her workers comp mgr gave a “strike” for not having “Employee Insurance” That should be grounds to having no input on any workers retraining. I’m not going to elaborate other than to add, i felt she had no understanding of employees, didn’t care to see how a permanent impairment affected my daiily life skills. Its troublesome to make this statement, however i I felt discrimination and a strong bias as an employee.

  3. Well, this is for my husband since he never finished school. We are sitting here with a “TV lawyer” and an L&I Voc. Trainer trying to make him jump through school.. Yet they seem to not take into the fact he has 7 high school credits (5 from PE). He has done 3 evaluations and they all come back that he is illiterate. Yes, he is are and we keep thanking them for the degrading reminder at the age of 46 yrs old. He has a prior injury that affects him and he walks with a can and takes medicians. So they want these off-the-wall plans that he can not do let alone he will fail ad they do not care NOT EVEN TE LAWYER! So here we sit from a broken ankle (3 spots) the ankle was disregarded as being sprung for 3 months & he was sent back to work PT to have it swell every day and finally after getting the “TV Lawyer” we got a low-grade MRI, he was fine..The doctor disagreed 2 months later so almost 6 months after the injury we get a High-grade MRI and there are 2 fractures. Too late to do anything for the ankle/foot and a torn distal biceps had surgery right away and healed! The doctor finally after 3 years said he could not do anything more he was in the best care he could do. ANd he was medically done…. Then started the education circus. We released his school records (they said we lied, he’s hiding them.. who wants to be a dropout?) as they asked and they said he was lying. To not have an H.S.education is stimulating and he has made it to his 40;s married and raised a son with no H.S. diploma, thank god for Construction & Mechanic (current trade was a mechanic). Now he supposes to know how to do any job they assign. He has been asking employers but due to a prior injury not related to this years prior 2005, this has left him with a nerilogical disease and walks with a cane. Every employer tells him he is a danger, he to feels this way as the job he was injured at was his 1st job after his accident in 2005. But he was 100% transparent with the Company and they hired him and loved his work. But see they have had 4 L&I claims so when they have a claim they shut down the old L&I account and rename the company in someone else name & get a reassign L&I number so they do not pay the high premiums.
    The “TV Lawyer” has done ZERO in helping him, I do his reports weekly stating he has not worked. I research what is next.. Last week we finally lost our house, our last extra car and I quit my job and we moved back to CA where I could have help while I work so he is not so depressed since all the lawyer keeps doing is test and test and test and test to tell him you will have to go to school. My husband could not stay in school at a young age, he;s is driven to keep reliving his horrific childhood & he is a dropout!! We have been married 28 years, we have a son that is 28 went to the Navy so he is not a worthless person as they keep refusing him as… But WA L&I & the “TV Lawyer that name starts with “Ph” out of Renton” sure does love to take their payment & hung up on him when we told them we are here in CA. So now what??? He will not make it in school, I was doing my husband’s school work in 1989 in 8th grade that’s how he graduated 8th grade. The system is broken the “TV Lawyer “PH” Law firm & L&I are in bed together” and I have a suicidal husband that is being driven crazy by the system of L&I.. Thanks for listening and I am so sorry for the rest of you that have to deal with all of this. Cause at 46 years years old we are just not into these games with our life! Why can I not support my husband and stop this madness? Why must he “retrain” and he will never make it & lose?
    The world seems to only care about money, not human life!

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