Trust your gut. If work is making you sick, we can help.

Pensions = L&I Settlement with Lifetime Payments

A Pension is Washington State L&I Settlement with lifetime payments.

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 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 an L&I 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 players 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, otherwise it may be too late. 

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.

Do all permanently disabled L&I workers want a pension?

Yes, except 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. To be more precise, add in an annual cost of living adjustment. That 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 if you need it. 

Why are Washington State L&I 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 PPD settlement and a permanent disability pension?

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

Job Training and L&I Pensions

L&I pensions are for injured workers who can never work again. Successfully completing job training is evidence you can work, so no pension. Attempting job training and failing still allows for the award of a pension.

What if I return to work while receiving a Washington State L&I 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 looks at 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 an L&I pension?

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 a 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. 

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 Washington State L&I 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.

What’s Next?