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Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC)

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Handbook

Part 8


Part 8 – Placement – New Employer (PNE)

Paragraph and Subject

Date

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Table of Contents

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1. Overview

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2. Initial Steps

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3. Job Placement

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4. Roles and Responsibilities

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5. Rehabilitation Counselor Responsibilities during PNE

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6. Injured Worker (IW) Responsibilities during PNE

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7. Employed Status – Placement Follow-Up

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8. Cooperative IW – Difficulty Obtaining Position

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9. Non-cooperation with Placement Services

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10. Completion of PNE Services

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11. Post-Employment Services

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1. Overview. Once it is determined that the Injured Worker (IW) will not be returning to work with his/her previous Federal employer, the focus of vocational rehabilitation services shifts to placement with a new employer. Through plan development and job placement services, the Rehabilitation Counselor (RC) will assist the IW with identification of marketable skills and competitive job goals, and then with pursuit of the target jobs in his/her community. Most often, jobs sought are in the private sector. Target jobs available within another federal, state or governmental entity may also be pursued although the goal itself may not be to work for the government or in a position which only exists within government.

Placement with a New Employer (PNE) may be offered, as appropriate, when the IW has existing transferrable and marketable work skills or after completion of an approved training plan. This is the phase during which the actual job search occurs.

As always, the goal of vocational rehabilitation services through DFEC is to return the IW to a job compatible with his/her work restrictions and actual wage-earning capacity, and which minimizes wage loss. The IW has a statutory obligation to cooperate with rehabilitation efforts – including plan development and job placement – aimed at increasing employability and allowing the IW to return to work as quickly as feasibly possible.

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2. Initial Steps.

a. Once the Rehabilitation Specialist (RS) has approved a rehabilitation plan (see Part 7 of this handbook) and advised that PNE should begin, whether following training or upon approval of a direct placement plan, the RC should conduct an in-person placement conference (unless otherwise directed by the RS) with the IW and advise him/her that placement services have been authorized for 90 days. The RC should provide information and instructions regarding the placement process, confirm each party's responsibilities, and provide job placement guidance as needed. The RC may also advise that following the 90-day period, it is likely that wage loss compensation will be reduced, regardless of whether the IW is actually employed or not, and encourage the IW's maximum participation in the job search effort.

b. Plan signature and cooperation with placement. Usually, after discussion of planned services, the RC will obtain the IW's signature on the PNE plan to indicate agreement and intent to participate. However, DFEC procedures provide that the IW's signature of agreement with the plan, although preferred, is not mandatory in order to proceed with services if it is determined that the target job goals are suitable and available. In the FECA program, an IW's mere refusal to sign a plan is not in itself obstruction of the rehabilitation effort provided that the IW is actively cooperating in all other aspects of the placement plan.

There may be situations in which the IW does not sign the plan but does participate and cooperate with placement services as planned. The RC should always document discussion of the plan and the IW's preference not to sign, including information related to the RC's concerns or reasons for this. The RC should also inform the RS and discuss whether any further actions are needed or warranted. The RC may also refer the IW to the RS or CE for further discussion of DFEC policies and procedures or to address questions or issues which may be of concern related to the placement plan, services or the IW's claim.

c. Non-cooperation. Regardless of signature on the plan, if the IW refuses to cooperate with placement efforts, the RC should inform the RS immediately and submit a Form OWCP-44 to document the IW's concerns and/or non-compliance. Depending on the circumstances, the RS and CE may decide that additional services or investigation are needed to address the IW's concerns. Should this occur, vocational services will either return to plan development, be placed in interrupt status while the CE develops the issue(s) raised, or vocational rehabilitation services may be closed. The RC may be advised to terminate placement services with instructions to close the file and provide a final recommendation for suitable job goals on Forms OWCP-66 (or equivalent).

The RC will follow the guidance of the RS in these circumstances.

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3. Job Placement. Once the PNE plan is approved, job placement services may begin immediately.

a. Time Frames. The IW will be provided with job placement assistance for a period of up to 90 days. If the IW secures a job within that time, the RC should provide follow-up support for 60 days to ensure a successful return to work.

b. Allowable Professional Hours. Unless otherwise authorized, 50 professional hours are allowed for job placement activities within the 90 day time frame. A reasonable number of non-professional hours for clerical and travel may also be included.

The RC is expected to apply approximately 70% of the 50 professional hours to job development (directly contacting employers, arranging interviews, etc.) and approximately 30% to guiding and counseling the IW, preferably face-to-face and on a regular basis.

As a general rule of thumb, the 50 professional hours should be utilized evenly over the course of the 90 day placement period unless a case-specific situation requires otherwise (e.g. a need for more intensive services or support in a short period of time due to a job offer, accommodations assistance, etc.).

c. Job Developers. Within the boundaries of the Job Placement professional hours and time frames given, the RC may enlist services of a job developer within his or her organization to augment job development services provided by the RC. In this circumstance, the DFEC certified RC should assume a supervisory role over the job developer and ensure provision of quality job development services according to general rehabilitation and DFEC policies and standards. The RC will maintain primary responsibility for the case, including responsibility for content and quality of all reports and documentation. Reports signed by anyone other than the assigned RC will not be accepted. The DFEC RC also must assume direct responsibility for any payment arrangements with the job developers.

d. Request for Extension. If the IW does not obtain a job within 90 days, one extension of up to 90 days for placement may be considered.

Note - This extension should only be considered if the IW is fully participating in placement services.

The RC should promptly submit any request for extension of calendar time and/or hours in writing to the RS for consideration. The request should include a justification for the additional time/hours requested and information regarding how these will be used and how the recommended activities are likely to promote an employment outcome.

The RC should ensure that a request for extension is approved prior to their providing additional services or professional hours.

e. Documentation. All placement related activities should be documented and forwarded to the RS in the monthly rehabilitation progress report and/or more often as appropriate. Relevant job search documentation including IW tracking logs, relevant job postings, etc. should also be included in the submission.

As always, any problems, changes or other issues of concern should be communicated promptly to the RS and documented on the Rehabilitation Action Report (Form OWCP-44), if appropriate.

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4. Roles and Responsibilities. The RC and IW are expected to work together toward the goal of obtaining employment in the target occupation.

As with all vocational services, time is of the essence during the placement phase and, as such, the RC must be prepared to provide the IW with comprehensive and assertive guidance and support with job readiness, job development and job placement activities.

Of course, joint participation and team-work is crucial. The FECA statute and regulations mandate that the IW participate fully in the placement effort and there is also an expectation that the IW will initiate activities on his/her own behalf, as feasible. Consistent with other phases of rehabilitation services, the IW's engagement in the job search and placement process is likely to foster an outcome in which the IW feels more invested.

Both the RC and the IW have specific and complementary roles to play in facilitating the return to work process.

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5. Rehabilitation Counselor Responsibilities during PNE.

a. Placement Assistance. The RC is responsible for providing the IW with individualized and direct job readiness, development and placement assistance. The intent of these services is to effectively prepare the IW for the job search, to assist with the development and facilitation of job possibilities and to provide support during the transition to work, if hired.

(1) During preparation for the job search, it is important to engage the IW in learning and/or updating job search skills and techniques. The RC should provide information on current job search methods, application and hiring trends, as well as offer opportunities to practice skills and give constructive feedback to maximize preparedness, boost confidence and increase independence and effectiveness in the job search. Although the RC is primarily responsible for assisting the IW in preparing for the job search, the use of complementary resources in the IW's area such as workforce development centers, job clubs, interview and resume development classes, etc. may also be suggested and encouraged.

(2) The development of networking skills as well as the exploration, development and use of personal and professional contacts, should also be emphasized during the placement process. Networking can be one of the most effective means of finding job opportunities and employment.

(3) The RC should engage in discussion and training on employer hiring incentive programs with the IW. The DFEC Assisted Reemployment Program, or other available programs, as appropriate to each situation (see Part 9 of this handbook), may be very effective tools in the placement process. It is beneficial for both the RC and IW to be familiar with these, have access to any applicable program materials and to be able to discuss the benefits of the programs when networking with potential employers.

(4) During the job search, the RC and IW should work together to find, facilitate and follow-up on job leads. The IW is expected to maintain a log of job search activities and employer/other contacts made and to provide this log on a regular basis to the RC. The RC is also expected to maintain documentation of activities completed with, and on behalf of, the IW. This information should be sent to the RS with the monthly rehabilitation progress report and/or as needed or requested.

During this process, the RC should provide as many realistic job leads to the IW from as many different sources as are available based on the vocational job goals and the commuting area.

(5) Prior to approaching potential employers, the RC and IW should discuss issues related to confidentiality of information and disability disclosure.

Depending on circumstances, type of disability and need for accommodations, it may or may not be necessary or beneficial to discuss disability, work restrictions or other information with potential employers during the placement process. Any questions or concerns the IW has in this regard should be addressed by the RC prior to beginning the job search.

In addition, there may be times when the IW has been the sole contact with an employer or potential employer and prefers that the RC not make direct contact. In this instance, the RC should generally not approach the employer without the IW's consent, but should continue to provide support and guidance to the IW "off-site". It is the IW's responsibility, in such circumstances, to maintain ongoing contact with the RC and provide information about the status of activities and/or job offers as requested.

b. Counseling and Guidance. The IW's prospect of returning to work, especially after a lengthy absence, may create apprehension and the need to address transitional issues. The RC should aid the IW's engagement in the process by providing information and resources, supportive counseling, guidance and encouragement.

One of the RC's initial responsibilities is to provide clear and comprehensive information to the IW about the job placement process – opportunities as well as possible outcomes and/or consequences.

It is important for the IW to be aware of the likely reduction in wage loss compensation benefits, based on the identified wages of the target jobs. This will occur upon completion of the rehabilitation plan regardless of whether the IW is actually employed or not. Although it is not the responsibility of the RC to explain specific DFEC policies or technical details, he/she will benefit from being aware of the general process. If the IW has any questions related to DFEC technical or claims information, he/she should be referred to the CE.

c. Employer Networking. The RC is also expected to network directly and assertively with potential employers to investigate job leads, promote interview and job opportunities and to provide resources, information and support as needed for new hire, transition to work and disability employment issues. The promotion of Assisted Reemployment and other hiring incentives, as appropriate, is strongly encouraged during this process.

RCs are also encouraged to develop productive relationships with employers which may support ongoing employment and/or training opportunities for DFEC IWs. The use of DFEC employment incentives may be promoted to assist in this regard. DFEC RSs are also available to assist with these efforts.

d. RC Role of Facilitation and Communication with the RS. In regard to DFEC programmatic requirements, the RC is expected to do his/her best to facilitate the IW's compliance with placement efforts by effective communicating with those involved in the vocational rehabilitation process; providing structured services; and monitoring of the IW's participation and efforts in the process. The RC is required to prepare a monthly progress report and to promptly communicate any barriers, changes, concerns or non-compliance to the RS.

e. Specific Placement Services for IWs. Specific services that the RC may provide to the IW during PNE/Job Placement include:

(1) Assistance with quality resume development and resume tailoring for specific positions. A resume is required for all PNE plans and job search efforts. The RC should facilitate or aid in the preparation of the IW's resume. The RC must also ensure that the resume is current, informative and of good quality based on the IW's job goals and labor market standards. The completed resume should be forwarded to the RS.

(2) Training and guidance on job search techniques

(3) Training and assistance, as needed, for successful completion of applications

(4) Education on the use of the internet for employment research and job seeking

(5) Providing additional job search resources – e.g. One-Stop Centers

(6) Counseling on successful self-presentation and communications, such as:

(a) Telephone etiquette, successful query and follow-up calls

(b) Disclosure of disability (when/if)

(c) How to discuss and request accommodations, if needed

(d) How to discuss any work gaps in the resume/applications

(e) Networking skills

(f) Professional appearance and behavior

(7) Development and practice of interview skills and interview follow-up

(8) Providing job leads and assistance with follow-up

(9) Direct job development - Contacting potential employers or other relevant sources for:

(a) Developing leads, productive relationships

(b) Marketing the IW's skills and qualifications

(c) Advocating for the IW as related to hiring opportunities, accommodations

(10) Marketing and usage of hiring incentives

(11) Actively assessing the status of the job search and identifying obstacles

(12) Providing support, constructive counseling and guidance

f. Specific Placement Services for Potential Employers. Not exclusively, specific services that the RC may provide to potential employers during PNE/Job Placement include:

(1) Technical advice and counseling – disability issues, accommodations, ADA, etc.

(2) Facilitation of evaluative services – job analysis, ergonomic and assistive technology assessments to assist with identification of accommodations for the IW

(a) Support of the IW, assistance with problem-solving as needed during the transition and adjustment to the new position

(b) Short-term training for the IW, if needed, to retain employment

g. Specific Services for the RS and CE during Placement. Specific services that the RC should provide to the RS and CE include:

(1) Facilitating the IW's compliance with placement efforts through structured meetings with IW in accessible locations, as well as monitoring follow-up actions on job leads and participation in interviews and/or other plan related activities.

(2) Prompt reporting to the RS of any IW concerns or IW non-cooperative behaviors

(3) Counseling with the IW regarding the opportunities of the program and potential consequences of failure to participate

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6. Injured Worker Responsibilities during PNE. The IW is expected to play an active role in the placement process by fully participating in all activities, contacting employers, scheduling and carrying out interviews and presenting him/herself as work ready and qualified.

The IW's participation in placement activities may also include:

a. Being responsive to the RC by returning phone calls, emails; appearing for scheduled meetings; responding to requests for information, etc.

b. Promptly reporting any changes, questions or concerns so that RC and RS have the opportunity to provide support and address these issues.

c. Taking responsibility for personal arrangements necessary for success on the job, e.g. travel, child-care, familial responsibilities, etc.

d. Promptly reporting job offers to RC and providing information needed.

e. Actively engaging in job search and related activities including:

(1) Working with the RC on job search preparation activities

(2) Contacting job leads provided by the RC

(3) Applying for suitable jobs

(4) Maintaining log(s) of job search activities

(5) Attending job fairs

(6) Making and keeping scheduled interviews and meetings

(7) Participating in networking activities

(8) Participating with job search related activities at Career One-Stop/Workforce development center, or otherwise, as appropriate

(9) Independently working on job searches as much as possible

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7. Employed Status – Placement Follow-Up. Unless otherwise authorized, once the IW begins working, the RC should provide follow-up services for 60 days. These services may include technical assistance, counseling and guidance and/or any additional vocational rehabilitation services needed by the IW or employer (and approved by the RS), to promote a successful and smooth transition into the new position.

a. Report of Employment. If the IW is offered and accepts a job, the RC should immediately document and communicate this information to the RS via the Rehabilitation Action Report, Form OWCP-44 and, if needed, assist with the identification of a start date and vocational rehabilitation services to facilitate the transition back to work.

The RC may obtain the information from the employer or, if the IW prefers that the RC not contact the employer directly, from the IW who is responsible for providing applicable position information to the RC.

The specific job-related information necessary includes:

(1) Job title

(2) DOT and/or O*Net code

(3) Employer name

(4) Start date

(5) Employer address and phone number

(6) Description of duties

(7) Specific physical requirements

(8) Schedule

(9) Salary

(10) Prospective barriers and/or vocational rehabilitation services needed/proposed

(11) DFEC incentives used, e.g. Assisted Reemployment

b. Placement Follow-up Activities/Contacts. The RC should contact the IW and employer (if authorized by the IW) at minimum during the first day on the job, at the end of the first month of employment, and at the end of the second month of employment (prior to closure of the rehabilitation file).

At least one of these visits should be an in-person job site visit (unless the IW prefers that the RC not contact the employer directly, or unless otherwise directed by the RS). However, the RC is not limited to this and should maintain communications with both parties to assist with problem-solving and to ensure a smooth transition back to work.

All regular communications and any problems which may arise should be documented and reported promptly to the RS in monthly progress reports or sooner, as appropriate.

c. Placement Follow-up Time Frame and Professional Hours. Unless otherwise authorized, 60 days and 10 professional hours are allowed for placement follow-up services.

A reasonable number of non-professional hours for clerical and travel may also be included.

At the end of 60 days, the RC should contact the RS, advise that the 60 day monitoring period is over and report on the status of the IW's employment.

d. Placement Follow-up Request for Extension. If the RC feels that increased time or professional hours are needed due to the need for additional transitional support or problem-solving related to the IW's employment, a request must be submitted promptly (and in writing) to the RS for consideration. The request should include justification for the request, amount of additional time/hours needed, services to be provided during that time and how these activities are likely to result in successful maintenance of the position.

The RC should ensure that a request for extension is approved prior to any provision of additional services or professional hours.

e. Placement Follow-up Documentation. The RC should report the status of the employment in the monthly rehabilitation progress reports, including any applicable accompanying documentation.

As always, any problems, changes or other issues of concern should be reported promptly to the RS and, if appropriate, documented on the Rehabilitation Action Report (Form OWCP-44).

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8. Cooperative IW – Difficulty Obtaining Position. If the IW is motivated and cooperative in the job search but having difficulty with actually obtaining a position, the RC should work with the IW and RS to consider actions or adjustments which will promote a successful employment outcome.

Actions to consider may include:

a. Use of all available tools including DFEC employer incentives, such as Assisted Reemployment, or others as appropriate.

b. Identification of obstacles or areas of need and determine a plan to address these (e.g. more interview practice, etc).

c. Determination of whether additional time (up to an additional 90 days) would be of assistance and likely to result in obtaining employment. See paragraph 3d above.

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9. Non-cooperation with Placement Services. If the IW is not participating fully, not meeting agreed-upon responsibilities or not cooperating with the placement process, the RC should notify the RS immediately via the Rehabilitation Action Report (Form OWCP-44).

a. Examples of non-cooperation may include:

(1) Not returning calls or being in regular contact with RC

(2) Failing to appear at job interviews or habitually arriving late or unsuitably dressed

(3) Not providing job application tracking sheets or information

(4) Not participating in job preparation activities

(5) Not considering or accepting offers of employment

If possible, the RC should work with the IW and RS to identify the reason for non-cooperation and to address barriers or concerns. If these are related to the need for accommodations, ability to perform job tasks, or other issues which may be addressed, the RC may be asked to arrange for, or provide, additional vocational rehabilitation services to assist with clarification of these issues.

If the IW cannot be contacted and/or non-cooperation continues, the RC should inform the RS promptly and follow directions as to how to proceed with services.

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10. Completion of PNE Services. The information required upon completion of placement services will depend on whether the IW is actually employed or not. In either case, the RC will be directed by the RS as to when to formally conclude services. Most often, the RS will issue a Status Report (Form OWCP-3 or equivalent) with instructions to close the rehabilitation file.

The RC should never close a file without receiving authorization from the RS to do so.

a. IW Employed. When the IW is working, the RC should alert the RS at the end of the 60 day monitoring period and discuss the status of employment. At that time, if employment is stable, the RC may be asked to submit a final report and vocational services may be completed as per authorization of the RS.

The IW's actual salary earnings may be used to calculate a Loss of Wage-Earning Capacity (LWEC) which may serve as the basis for an adjustment to the IW's wage loss compensation benefits.

b. IW Not Employed. If the IW has not obtained employment after 90 days (or by the end of any approved extension period), or was not cooperative at any time during the placement period, the RC may be asked to submit a closure report including updated Labor Market Information on target jobs which will be used to calculate the IW's projected wage-earning capacity and which may serve as the basis for an adjustment to the IW's compensation.

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11. Post-Employment Services (PES). The RS may authorize post-employment services within one year after a successful rehabilitation if the IW has adjustment difficulties and/or needs additional short-term services to maintain the vocational goal. Services may include counseling, guidance, placement, training, medical rehabilitation and self-employment assistance. The length of PES will be based on the needs of each situation and must be authorized in advance by the RS.

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