is Vocational Assistance?
The workers 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
- Wage of the job; a low wage may justify a shorter commute
- The workers pre-injury commute
- The workers physical capacity the worker may have a restriction
preventing a longer commute
- Commuting practices for other workers in the workers geographical
- Distance from the workers residence to the nearest cities or towns,
which offer employment opportunities
- 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.
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
Finding out that the claim qualifies for closure because the worker is medically stationary,
i.e. the workers medical condition is not expected to improve with further treatment
or the passage of time.
will determine if the worker is eligible within 30 days of one of the criteria above.
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 workers pre-injury wage.
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
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
Vocational goal selection
Job search skills instruction
Job interview practice
Direct worker purchases: mileage reimbursement, clothing, tools
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
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.
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.
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.
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 workers current address and telephone number
The reason for the dispute, if connected to a specific notice, include a copy of the
The name and contact information of the workers attorney, if there is one and
it is known