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Lifetime Payment Pensions

What is a Pension? 

This is a monthly money payment for a serious job injury which results in a disability that prevents you from working. The amount is roughly equal to your time loss payment and payments are made for the rest of your life.

This is not a retirement pension you get for a lifetime of service to the company. This is a pension you get for an L&I job injury. Pensions are a little-known and little-talked about benefit, which most people have never heard of in the L&I context. If you have a chance to get one, you owe it to yourself to try. The lifetime benefit of a pension makes it worth the effort. Pensions are not easy to get. Less than two percent of all L&I claims end up in pension.

To qualify for a pension you must show that you have a condition permanently incapacitating you from performing any work at any gainful occupation.

To get a pension you need to qualify per the above plus you need a combination of good luck and hard work. The road to a pension is long and winding. Along the way you will meet claims managers, vocational counselors, employers, and IME doctors who don’t want you to get a pension and may try and derail your pension journey. Keep in mind that these persons have traveled this road perhaps thousands of times, whereas this could be your first trip. A pension is possible with:

  • a good doctor – you can’t do it without favorable medical help
  • a good attorney – few persons get a pension without an attorney
  • good facts – essential
  • staying power – if they try and starve you into settling cheap, you need to be able to survive while you fight on.

Who doesn’t want a pension?

A pension is of no value to someone who will return to work. It is of little value to someone who will die soon.

What’s a pension worth?

To get a rough estimate of pension value, multiply your time loss check by 26, then multiply that by how many more years you have to live. Add in an annual cost of living adjustment. That equals a rough approximation of your pension value. If you will be penalized with a Social Security Offset, be sure to factor that in to your time loss rate.

Why are pensions worth so much?

The short answer is that permanent partial disability (PPD) settlements generally include only physical or mental impairment, whereas pensions take into consideration loss of income for the rest of your life.

Can I pass my pension on to my wife or children when I die?

If you are married on the day a pension is granted, then you will be given the option to pass your pension on to the spouse you are married to on the date of your death. There are two spousal pension options, both of which usually involve a reduced rate. This pension will last until the last of the two of you die.

If you are single with children on the date your pension is granted, you have the option to pass your pension on to your children. Most children can only receive this pension until they are 18, or 23 if in school full time. Totally disabled children can continue to receive a pension so long as they remain in that status.

Can I get both a settlement and a pension?

No. However, if you are awarded a settlement and appeal that decision and win a pension, you can pay the settlement back and keep the much more valuable pension.

What if I return to work while receiving a pension?

If you return to work in the same or greater capacity as you were when injured, your pension status will change. As a first step L&I will suspend pension benefits while you try to work. If you are successful then you will likely forfeit your pension. At that time you can consider applying for a PPD payment.

Keep in mind that while you are on a pension, L&I checks your reported social security earnings history to see if you’re working. They also require you to certify yearly your earnings, if any.

Can I do part time work while on a pension?

The easy answer is “no,” and most L&I attorneys will tell you exactly that. However the law in this area is untested. There is some thought that you can do a little part time work and still keep your pension.

A pension is all or nothing; that is to say there is no offset similar to social security where you can work a little and take a reduced pension, nor is there a trial work period.

What is a statutory pension?

A statutory pension is a different kind of pension. Many of the above rules don’t apply. To qualify for a statutory pension you need to lose two limbs or both eyes. You can work, even full time, and still receive a statutory pension.

Can I get L&I medical care while on a pension?

Most pensioners lose their L&I medical care when the pension is granted. A few lucky pensioners are able to get a treatment order for accepted job related conditions where the supervisor deems treatment necessary to protect such workers’ life or provide for the administration of medical and therapeutic measures. RCW 51.36.010.

Pensioners who do not have a treatment order when the pension is granted may apply for one later. There is no statute of limitations for this application.

If you need legal counsel, contact Seattle, WA L&I attorney Chris Sharpe today.

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