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    Rae Howe   
503-947-7018   

Vocational Assistance

What is Vocational Assistance?

What do these terms mean?

What is the insurer required to do?

When may an injured worker be eligible for vocational assistance?

What happens if the worker is found eligible for vocational assistance?

What are the types of vocational assistance?

What are the types of training?

What if a training plan is not signed within 90 days?

What is a vocational assistance dispute?

What information should I include in a request for dispute resolution?

vocassist.oregon@state.or.us
Salem: 503-947-7816 or 800-452-0288 ext. 1719
Medford: 541-776-6032 or 800-696-7161

Who’s Who in SAW/RTW


Related links:
    Vocational provider page
    Bulletin 112 - Reimbursement of injured workers' travel, food, and lodging costs
    Bulletin 124 - Required forms and procedures under rules governing vocational assistance to injured workers -- Revised 10/10/12; Addendum to Bulletin 124 -- Revised 5/29/13
    Bulletin 151 - List of registered vocational rehabilitation providers
    Forms for vocational assistance
    Resources

What is Vocational Assistance?
The worker’s compensation insurance carrier is responsible for providing vocational assistance to assist injured workers in returning to suitable employment after an on-the-job injury. An injured worker may qualify for vocational assistance if: 1) s/he has a permanent disability caused by the on-the-job injury, 2) s/he cannot return to the job at injury or another job with the employer-at-injury that pays at least 80% of the pre-injury wages, and 3) s/he is authorized to work in the United States.

What do these terms mean?
Adjusted weekly wage is the weekly wage the worker was earning at the time of the injury, adjusted by any cost-of-living increases since the date of injury.
Suitable employment or a suitable job means employment or a job for which the worker has the necessary physical capacities, knowledge, skills, and abilities, which pays a suitable wage, and which is permanent.
Reasonable commuting distance is no more than 50 miles one-way modified by these factors:
   - Wage of the job; a low wage may justify a shorter commute
   - The worker’s pre-injury commute
   - The worker’s physical capacity – the worker may have a restriction preventing a longer commute
   - Commuting practices for other workers in the worker’s geographical area
   - Distance from the worker’s residence to the nearest cities or towns, which offer employment opportunities
Suitable wage:
   - For the purpose of determining eligibility for vocational assistance, a wage at least 80 percent of the adjusted weekly wage
   - For the purpose of providing or ending vocational assistance, a wage as close as possible to 100 percent of the adjusted weekly wage.
     This wage may be considered suitable if less than 80 percent of the adjusted weekly wage, if the wage is as close as possible to the
     adjusted weekly wage.

What is the insurer required to do?
The insurer is required to contact the worker within five days of:
• Receiving a request for vocational assistance from the worker
• Receiving a report sufficient to document the worker is likely eligible for vocational assistance
• Finding out that the claim qualifies for closure because the worker is medically stationary, i.e. the worker’s medical condition is not expected to improve with further treatment or the passage of time.

The insurer will determine if the worker is eligible within 30 days of one of the criteria above.

When may an injured worker be eligible for vocational assistance?
An injured worker may be eligible for vocational assistance if s/he:
• Has an accepted disabling claim or claim for aggravation,
• Is unable to return or has not been released to regular work or other suitable employment with the employer-at-injury or aggravation,
• Is available in Oregon for vocational assistance (or within commuting distance)
• Is authorized to work in the United States, and
• Has a substantial handicap to employment, i.e. the injury prevents the worker from returning to suitable employment that would pay at least 80% of the worker’s pre-injury wage.

What happens if the worker is found eligible for vocational assistance?
If a worker is determined eligible for vocational assistance, the worker and insurer will agree on a vocational counselor. The worker and counselor will:
• Choose a vocational goal
• Develop a return-to-work plan, either direct employment or training
• Implement the return-to-work plan
• Begin the job search

What are the types of vocational assistance?
There are two types of vocational assistance: direct employment and training. Direct employment assistance is provided if the worker can return to suitable employment without training. It can also be provided after completion of a training plan. A direct employment plan may include:
• Vocational goal selection
• Job search skills instruction
• Job interview practice
• Direct worker purchases: mileage reimbursement, clothing, tools
• Job development

If a direct employment plan will not enable the worker to return to a wage as close as possible to their adjusted weekly wage, the worker will need training. A training plan may include:
• Vocational goal selection
• On-the-job training
• Occupational skills training
• Formal training
• Direct worker purchases: tuition, books, mileage reimbursement, clothing, tools
• Job development

A training plan is usually limited to 16 months. However, the insurer may choose to go up to 21 months of training for a worker with an exceptional disability or an exceptional loss of earning capacity.

What are the types of training?
There are three types of training:
On-the-job training is provided by an employer. It is intended to prepare the worker for suitable employment with the training employer, and for similar employment in the labor market at large.
Occupational skills training is hands-on instruction in an actual workplace. The course of study is monitored by a community college and may include academic classes to supplement skills training activities.
Formal training is classroom instruction provided by a community college or a licensed vocational school.

What if a training plan is not signed within 90 days?
A return-to-work plan should be a joint effort between the vocational counselor and the injured worker. If a plan is not approved by the insurer within 90 days, the insurer must contact the Workers’ Compensation Division to schedule a conference. The purpose of the conference is to identify and remove the obstacles to completion and approval of the plan. The insurer or worker may request another conference with the division if other delays occur.

What is a vocational assistance dispute?
A vocational assistance dispute can result from an oral or written disagreement between two or more of the parties involved in the case, a denial of an injured worker’s request, or a written notice. The first step in addressing a dispute is to contact your insurer. If this does not resolve the matter, you may request help from the Workers’ Compensation Division. If your insurer or counselor sent you a warning letter or notified you of a decision you don’t think is right, you must contact the division within 60 days of that letter or notification to receive help in resolving your dispute.

What information should be included in a request for dispute resolution?
To process your dispute as quickly as possible, it would help for you to provide:
• The worker’s current address and telephone number
• The reason for the dispute, if connected to a specific notice, include a copy of the notice
• The name and contact information of the worker’s attorney, if there is one and it is known


If you have questions about this webpage, please contact Rae Howe, 503-947-7018.