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Washington State L&I Permanent Total Disability Pension Benefits

If you sustain a serious or life-changing injury, and you’re no longer able to work, you could be entitled to a Washington state L&I disability pension.

Paralyzed man using his wheelchair

What Is A Disability Pension?

A disability pension is a special category of pension only awarded to the most severely injured workers. If you’re eligible for a disability pension, you will receive a non-taxable payment every month for the rest of your life.

L&I pensions in Washington are different from retirement pensions, which you receive for a lifetime of service at a company. Since they’re separate from any kind of pension provided by an employer, you can be eligible for both a retirement pension and a disability pension.

How Do I Qualify For A Washington State Disability Pension?

You must meet certain criteria to claim a pension from Washington State L&I.

First, you must be certified as completely or permanently disabled before your L&I claim closes. You must then be able to show that you can no longer find gainful employment due to your disability, or you’re disabled in one or more of the following ways:

  • Vision loss
  • No use of one or both legs, both arms or an arm and a leg (including limb loss)
  • The right strategy
  • Commitment to the process

What Does It Take To Get A Washington State Disability Pension?

It’s not easy to win an L&I pension in Washington. 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 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 a pension. An experienced legal team with a proven track record of avoiding those traps is your best bet for successfully navigating the system.

In short, you need the following elements to win a disability pension from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries:

  • The right attorney: it is extremely rare that any worker gets a pension without legal help.
  • A good doctor: Without a medical professional on your side, a pension is unlikely.
  • The right strategy
  • Commitment to the process

Fewer than 2% of claims result in a pension; however, it’s worth the effort to secure one of the best benefits of L&I claims. Learn more about getting your L&I pension here.

Can My Spouse Receive My Pension After I Die?

If an injured worker dies as a result of their injury, their spouse (or registered domestic partner) may be eligible for survivor pensions and death benefits.

If you were married prior to the injury or illness and remained married until your death, your spouse or domestic partner would be eligible to receive any workers’ comp pensions awarded to you. Note that the pension is passed at a reduced rate and continues for the duration of the spouse’s lifetime. A 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 Pension After I Die?

Children can receive a survivor pension until they are 18, or 23 if they are attending school full-time. Totally disabled children can continue to receive a pension for the duration of their disability.

Can I Simultaneously Receive A Permanent Partial Disability Settlement And A Pension?

No. However, if you have already been granted a permanent partial disability settlement 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’s lifetime 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 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?

Your pension status will change if you go back to work. L&I will first suspend pension benefits while you attempt to re-enter your job. If you are successful in resuming work, you will likely forfeit your pension. At that time, however, you may be able to pursue a permanent partial disability payment.

Getting an L&I total disability pension isn’t impossible, but it is full of twists and turns and can be overwhelming. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney to understand your options and what steps you need to take. With over 15 years of experience in workers’ compensation, employment law, and third-party injury claims, the legal team at Emery | Reddy, PLLC can help you determine if you have a case. Call us today! Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

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