L&I claim retraining is one of the most valuable benefits during your workers’ compensation claim in Washington State. Retraining benefits aren’t available for everyone. In fact, retraining is a discretionary benefit. However, when the retraining option is available, I always recommend work injury clients to seriously consider retraining.


L&I claim retraining in Washington State

Strictly speaking, the director of the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) authorizes retraining benefits. Usually, vocational counselors provide recommendations to L&I. Then, the director exercises discretion and grants retraining on the basis of vocational inputs. Over time, I represented many work injury claimants who very much wanted to pursue a retraining program. However, L&I did not offer the retraining option to them. Yet, although retraining is a highly valuable benefit, it’s not always the best path for you.


L&I retraining is not for everyone

There are two common scenarios for when retraining isn’t right. First, when the retraining plan doesn’t make sense. And second, when the work injury claimant has no interest in retraining. When retraining doesn’t make sense, it’s typically a good idea to dispute the vocational determination. Remember, workplace injury claimants can file a dispute up to 15 days from the day L&I approves the retraining plan.


Personally, from my prospective, there are several common scenarios when retraining doesn’t make sense. They include cases where:

1) The injured worker cannot maintain a stable work schedule. This can be a result of the work injury or any pre-existing conditions.

2) The work injury claimant lacks the physical or mental ability to complete the retraining or the job goal.

3) The retraining plan won’t make the work injury victim employable in a competitive manner.


Vocational option 1 and option 2

Sometimes, a retraining plan does make sense, but the worker doesn’t want to retrain. Here, the work injury claimant has options. The 1st, which is my least favorite option, is refusing to participate in retraining. If L&I approves your plan and you fail to participate, they will find you non-cooperative and suspend your L&I claim. You don’t want to end up in L&I claim suspension. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to overturn this claim outcome.



The 2nd  option, which is my second least favorite one, is Vocational Option 2. I often call this the “opt-out” option. In short, workers can choose retraining option 2 to opt out of retraining. After that, the work injury claimant is eligible to a vocational award equivalent to 9 months of time-loss compensation payments. Once the worker selects option 2, the workers’ compensation claim moves towards closure. Moreover, work injury claimants may only select option 2 one time across all their claims and reopening. I’m not a fan of this option because it lacks long-term thinking. The funds will run our sooner than later. What then? It’s best to plan for the long run.


Additional options for L&I vocational retraining

If you are over 50 years old, then you have another option. This 3rd option is to pursue an L&I structured settlement.  For me, this is potentially a valid option. But, it all depends on whether retirement is appropriate for the worker. Furthermore, it boils down to the timing when funds from the L&I settlement become available. Finally, it also depends on whether the worker can use the funds for a proper retirement plan outside of the L&I claim.


The 4th and final option is to try the retraining plan. Many times, work injury claimants find that retaining is very enjoyable. In addition, an L&I retraining plan can last as long as 2 years. While retraining, workers receive L&I time-loss compensation. This option can genuinely serve as a great opportunity to acquire new skills and receive additional recovery time before re-entering the workforce.


Final words

In summation, retraining is a valuable benefit in your workers’ compensation claim, but it isn’t for everyone. If the L&I retraining plan doesn’t make sense, it’s important to submit an appropriate vocational dispute. However, if the plan makes sense but it isn’t what you want, you have options. Some of these options are better than others. Therefore, it’s a good idea to carefully consider your decisions. Choose the option that makes the most sense for you and for your life.