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Washington State L&I Disability Pensions

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Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) 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 L&I claim can end with an L&I pension if it meets certain criteria.

What Is An L&I Disability Pension?

An L&I disability pension is a special category of pension only awarded to the most severely injured workers. If you are eligible for a 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 illness, you may be entitled to L&I 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.

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?

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 a disability pension:

  • Age: being more advanced in age is beneficial to your claim.
  • Education: the less education you have, the better.
  • Work experience: a smaller amount of work experience rather than a long-term career.

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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.

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*La pérdida de tiempo está sujeta a un máximo establecido por L&I y ajustado anualmente. Este cálculo es a partir de 2022. Llamar a Emery Reddy para discutir su caso específico.

If you begin receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits you should immediately notify the L&I Pension Benefits Section. 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 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.

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 Washington L&I 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.

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 L&I disability pension was awarded and remained married until your death, your spouse or domestic partner would be eligible to receive any L&I disability pensions 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 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?

Your disability pension status will change if you go back to work. L&I will first suspend Washington State Labor and Industries 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 PPD award.

How Do I Know If I Have A Labor & Industries Case?

If you have an L&I claim or wonder if you have an injury case, ask yourself the following:

  • Have you been denied the medical care benefits to which you are legally entitled?
  • Has L&I asked you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
  • Do you have questions about the L&I claim process that you don’t understand?

If any of the above apply to you, you may have a case!

Navigating an L&I 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 an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

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

Emery | Reddy, PLLC is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our experienced labor and industries 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 to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

Want More Information?

L&I Disability Pension

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.


The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Awards

You may be rated for a 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 are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s 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 two 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, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

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Timothy W. Emery

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Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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