L&I Award Benefits

Washington State
L&I Disability Pensions

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) disability pension benefits are awarded to injured workers who will never be able to return to gainful employment due to a severe or life-threatening injury. An L&I disability pension is not a retirement pension, nor does it come from any system such as social security, an insurance contract, or a private pension plan. It also does not come from your employer; it comes from L&I. Any Labor and Industries claim can end with an L&I disability pension if it meets certain criteria.

What Is an L&I Disability Pension?


A Labor and Industries disability pension is a special category of pension only awarded to the most severely injured workers in Washington state. If you are eligible for an L&I disability pension, you will receive a non-taxable payment every month for the rest of your life.

Under Washington state law (WAC 296-14-150), gainful employment is defined as a regular occupation (in any position) for income, salary, or wages. If your doctor or Vocational Counselor says that you cannot ever work again because of a job-related injury or occupational illness, you may be entitled to Labor and Industries disability pension benefits.

It’s not easy to win an L&I disability pension — you must be committed to the process. As these lifetime benefits are so valuable, the system is set up to derail your claim at every step along the way.

The process involves complicated bureaucratic hurdles and red tape, along with consultations with L&I Claims Managers, employers, Vocational Counselors, and Independent Medical Examiners who do not always have your best interests in mind. These parties have blocked many workers before you and will try to stop you from securing an L&I disability pension. An experienced L&I attorney with a proven track record of avoiding those traps is your best bet for successfully navigating the system.


Watch This Video to Learn More about L&I Disability Pensions

How Do I Qualify for a Washington State L&I Disability Pension?

You may receive a monthly pension if you are certified as permanently and totally disabled, AND:

  • The medical and vocational evidence finds that your injury prevents you from becoming gainfully employed, OR
  • You have lost, or lose the use of, both legs, both arms, an arm and a leg, or your vision.

If I Qualify, Can I Increase My Chances of Receiving an L&I Disability Pension?

worker filling out work injury claim form with a ball point pen

You can increase your chances of receiving L&I disability benefits. By obtaining a favorable medical opinion and showing what you have done to help yourself so far, you can provide the necessary information needed to prove your claim.

There are also factors — specific to only you — such as your age, education, and work experience, that can be helpful in increasing your chances of receiving an L&I disability pension.

  • Age: Being more advanced in age is beneficial to your claim. The older you are, the less chance you have of being able to learn a new skill or job.
  • Education: The less education you have, the better for obtaining a pension. Without a degree, you do not have certain qualifications employers seek during the rehiring process. 
  • Work experience: A smaller amount of work experience rather than a long-term career shows that you do not have as many transferable skills.

How Are L&I Disability Pensions Paid?

An L&I disability pension is a payment received once monthly for the rest of your life. The monthly dollar amount is roughly equal to your monthly time-loss payment.

If you begin receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits, you should immediately notify the L&I Pension Benefits Section in order to avoid overpayment. Your future L&I disability pension benefits may be reduced depending on the effective date of your pension and your highest year’s wages. Even if you are drawing benefits from both agencies, the total amount you receive will not be less than you would be entitled to receive from L&I alone. 

L&I disability pensions are hotly contested, and less than 2% of all L&I claims end up settled in this manner. Because these claims are expensive to fund, it’s sometimes cheaper for the State or self-insured employer (SIE) to fight a claim rather than just pay it. In other words, your claim is valuable, and as such, you should expect to fight hard for it.

Time Loss Calculator

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*Time loss is subject to a maximum set by L&I and adjusted annually. This calculation is as of 2022. Call Emery Reddy to discuss your specific case.

L&I Disability Pension FAQ

Whether you’re seeking information on L&I disability pension eligibility criteria, application procedures, benefits, or other related inquiries, this FAQ is designed to address your concerns and help you navigate the complexities of L&I disability pensions in the state of Washington.

Are Washington State L&I Disability Pensions Taxable?

L&I disability pensions are not taxable. Federal Tax Regulations 1-104-1(b) states that workers’ compensation benefits incurred in the course of employment are not taxable.

How Long Does Labor & Industries Have to Review My Claim?

There is no effective deadline for an L&I disability pension review. As with any legal process, it can take time and patience. There isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution. Investigations will be made, and claims will be reviewed. Some people will get their award faster than others.

When Will My L&I Survivor Pension End?

  • If the worker’s death was related to a workplace injury or illness that resulted in an L&I disability pension, the spouse’s L&I survivor pension is for life unless he or she remarries.
  • If a worker dies from causes other than the workplace injury or illness that resulted in an L&I disability pension, and an L&I survivor pension was chosen, the surviving spouse’s benefit is for life even if he or she remarries.
  • For claims filed before July 1, 1986, a spouse’s L&I survivor pension ends if he or she remarries.
  • For surviving children, benefits end at the age of 18 (they may continue up to age 23 if the child is enrolled full-time in an accredited school).
  • For other dependents, benefits cease when the need that caused the dependency ends.

Can My Partner Receive My L&I Disability Pension after I Die?

At the end of the injured worker’s life, their spouse (or registered domestic partner) and children may be eligible for survivor pensions and death benefits.

  • If you were married on the day your Labor and Industries disability pension was awarded and remained married until your death, your spouse or domestic partner would be eligible to receive any benefits awarded to you. Note that the pension continues for the duration of the spouse’s lifetime.
  • If you were not married on the date that your L&I disability pension was granted, you cannot later marry and pass on your pension.
  • An L&I disability pension passed to a spouse or partner does not get passed to any children upon the death of the spouse.

Can My Child Receive My L&I Disability Pension after I Die?

Washington State Labor and Industries disability pension benefits can be passed to children in the event that the injured worker is single at the time of their death. Children can receive this pension until they are 18, or 23 if they are attending school full-time. Eligibility ends when the dependent is no longer attending an accredited school full-time, joins the military, or becomes incarcerated.

Totally disabled children can continue to receive a pension for the duration of their disability.

Can I Receive a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Award and an L&I Disability Pension Simultaneously?

No. However, if you have already been granted a permanent partial disability (PPD) award and then appeal the decision in pursuit of a pension, you can pay the settlement back and keep the pension, which is worth significantly more.

Can I Complete Job Training While on an L&I Disability Pension?

No. L&I disability pensions only go to injured workers permanently incapable of returning to work. If you succeed in completing job training, this counts as evidence that you can work, thus potentially disqualifying you from a pension. However, if you fail in your attempt to complete job training, you are still eligible for the pension award.

Can I Return to Work after Receiving an L&I Disability Pension?

No. If you are found eligible to work following a pension status, you may be subject to overpayment and full forfeiture of future pension benefits. Your L&I disability pension is based on evidence showing that you will never be able to return to gainful employment. Returning to work shows the Department of Labor and Industries that they were incorrect in their assessment, and that you could have returned to work at any time. If this is the case, you will likely be required to pay your entire pension back to L&I, and you will no longer receive ongoing benefits.

Many injured workers desire to reenter the workforce. For such people, a Labor and Industries disability pension may not be the right award. However, you may be able to pursue a permanent partial disability (PPD) award, which is a set payment amount based on an impairment rating

How Do I Know If I Have a Strong L&I Claim?

Several men working in a conference room.

If you have an L&I claim or wonder if you may be eligible for a pension, ask yourself the following:

If any of the above apply to you, Emery | Reddy, PLLC may be able to help.

Navigating a workers’ compensation claim can be difficult and very time-consuming, especially when you’re ill or injured. You want to focus on healing and make sure your bills are paid, but if you don’t file things properly or on time, your health, home, and job could be in jeopardy. Many individuals miss out on much-needed L&I benefits because they don’t understand what to do or how to get the most compensation for their injuries. If you are experiencing any challenges in your case, a Labor and Industries attorney can assist you. By contacting Emery | Reddy as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of filing and navigating an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I Attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Emery | Reddy Can Help You with Your L&I Claim

Emery | Reddy is the only law firm in Washington state that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our Seattle L&I Attorneys thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today for a Free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist to learn more about how we may be able help you.

Want More Information?

To determine the value of your L&I claim, you first need to understand the different types of L&I awards offered in Washington state.

The Labor and Industries claim process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I — workers’ comp questions today.

You may be rated for a permanent partial disability (PPD) award before L&I closes your claim if you have completed treatment and are still able to work, but you have suffered a permanent loss of function.


Meet the Team

The L&I Attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and Employment Law issues. We Help Workers®. It’s our motto and what drives us every day.

We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our Labor and Industries Attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over three decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, call us for a Free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist to learn more about how Emery | Reddy may be able to help you today.

“Emery | Reddy made a very difficult experience better than I hoped for. My settlement was near the max possible. They were kind, understanding and stayed in communication with me.”

— Kyle B.

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