If you cannot work again, because of a serious job injury, consider asking for a pension. A pension is a monthly money payment for life. The dollar amount is roughly equal to your time loss payment, paid every month for the rest of your life. A pension is the best benefit L&I has to offer.
This is not a retirement pension you get for a lifetime of service to the company. It doesn’t matter if your employer does or does not offer a pension. This pension does not come from your employer. This is a pension you get because you have an L&I claim and a career ending 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 an L&I condition permanently incapacitating you from performing any work at any gainful occupation. Pensions are a good result for a serious and disabling injury. Keep reading to see if you have a chance.
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 important L&I people have ambushed many an injured worker before you, whereas this could be your first trip down the pension road. Get advice before you think you need it.
A pension is possible with:
Yes, its, the best benefit L&I has to offer. The only person who does not want a pension is someone who will return to work, or someone who will die soon.
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. To be more precise, add in an annual cost of living adjustment. That calculation equals a rough approximation of the value of a pension for you. If you will be penalized with a Social Security Offset, be sure to factor that into your analysis. Get help figuring this out if you need it.
The short explanation is that most L&I settlements are for permanent partial disability (PPD) which generally includes money only for physical and mental impairment. A pension settlement is worth much more because it takes into consideration loss of income for the rest of your life.
If you are not going to work again because of your job injury, talk to us about a pension.
If you are married on the day a pension is granted, then you will be given the option to pass your pension on to that spouse if you are still married on the date of your death. There are two spousal pension options, both of which usually involve a reduced rate. The spousal pension continues to pay as long as one or both of you are alive.
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.
The general rule is no, you cannot get both PPD and a pension for the same claim. However, if you are awarded a PPD settlement you can appeal that decision. If you later win a pension, you can pay the settlement back and keep the much more valuable pension. There are some exceptions to the general rule per RCW.51.32.060(4).
L&I pensions are for injured workers who can never work again. Successfully completing vocational training is evidence you can work, so probably no pension. Attempting job training and failing still allows for the award of 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 may wish to apply for a PPD settlement.
Keep in mind that while you are on a pension, L&I is looking at you. They look at your reported social security earnings history, your social media presence, and other community information. If they see something that looks like work activity then they follow up. They also require you to certify each year your earnings and work activity, if any. Be honest with L&I.
The easy answer is “no,” and most L&I attorneys will tell you exactly that. However the law in this area is untested. You can do a little part time work and still keep your pension. How much and what work you can do, and how much you can earn is fact dependent on your case. Talk to an L&I lawyer if you need guidance in this area.
A pension is all or nothing; that is to say there is no reduced pension similar to social security where you can work a little and take a reduced payment, nor is there a trial work period. Be honest with L&I about the work you do while on a pension. You can bet they are looking at you.
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. God forbid this happened to you. If you do qualify for a statutory pension, you can work, even full time, and still receive the statutory pension benefit.
Most pensioners lose their L&I medical care when the pension is granted. A few lucky but seriously injured 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 will never work again because of your job injury, talk to us about a pension. It may be the smartest thing you ever do.
If you need legal counsel, Seattle L&I attorney Chris Sharpe and his staff are ready to help. Contact Us.