When you hear the term “pension,” you probably think of retirement benefits. A Washington workers’ comp pension is different. RCW 51.08.060 defines permanent total disability (pension) as: “loss of both legs, or arms, or one leg and one arm, total loss of eyesight, paralysis or other condition permanently incapacitating the worker from performing any work at any gainful occupation.” If you cannot return to work after an on-the-job accident or disability occupational disease, an L&I pension may be your best option.
At The Walthew Law Firm, our top-rated Washington workers’ compensation attorneys have extensive experience handling L&I pension cases. We want to make sure that you have the tools and knowledge you need to protect your interests. Here, you will find a guide to L&I pension benefits in Washington. If you have specific questions about L&I pensions, your legal rights, or options, please contact our law firm for immediate help.
An Overview of Washington State L&I Pensions
Washington workers’ compensation pension benefits are paid directly by Labor & Industries. You may be eligible for L&I pension benefits whether or not your date-of-injury employer offers its own pension plan. These benefits are designed to support workers who cannot return to work because of many factors – their age, education, work history, pre-existing disabling conditions, and the effects of the industrial injury or occupational disease. Here are three key things to know about L&I pensions in Washington State:
- L&I Pensions are for Workers Who Will Never Return to Work: The single most important thing to know about L&I pensions is that these benefits are for injured workers who cannot return to gainful employment. Under Washington law (WAC 296-14-150), gainful employment is defined as a regular occupation for income or salary. Put another way, if your doctor or vocational counselor says that you cannot ever work again because of a job-related injury or illness, you should pursue L&I pension benefits.
- Pension Benefit Payments are based on Your Time Loss Rate: Pension benefit payments are paid for your lifetime and, if you elect, for your spouse or child’s lifetimes. You may be wondering: how is my pension calculated? The short answer is that your monthly wages at the time of your accident, receipt of Social Security benefits, and whether you select an Option to provide benefits to a spouse, child, or domestic partner determine your pension rate. Notably, Washington State L&I pension benefits are not counted as taxable income for Federal income tax purposes.
- Qualifying for an L&I Pension Can Be Challenging: Unfortunately, it is not always easy for injured workers to receive an L&I pension. You need to present a strong case that proves that you cannot work again at gainful employment. Many factors will be considered in assessing eligibility, including your age, education, and work experience. Most importantly, injured workers need comprehensive, compelling medical and vocational documentation that prove permanent total disability. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you put together the medical and vocational information and opinions that you need to support your claim.
Only a small percentage of workers’ compensation claims in Washington end in an L&I pension. The claims process and path to a total disability pension is difficult to navigate. You do not have to go through it alone. If you or your loved one cannot return to the workforce after suffering a job-related injury or developing an occupational disease, contact an experienced Seattle L&I pension attorney for immediate help.