Tara Reck, Managing L&I Attorney at Reck Law PLLC - Workers' Compensation Attorneys

L&I Pension – Permanent Total Disability

An L&I pension is an important benefit after a serious work injury. For example, a catastrophic work injury or occupational disease can make work injury victims unemployable.  Here, unemployable means that the person is unable to “perform or obtain a gainful occupation with a reasonable degree of success and continuity”.  If medical treatment or vocational services cannot make the person employable, then the work injury claimant is permanently and totally disabled.  If you have an L&I claim or workers’ compensation claim, and you are permanently totally disabled, then you are entitled to “L&I pension” benefits under your claim.


L&I pension payments

When the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) places a work injury claimant on L&I pension, then their L&I claim is closed. However, the injured worker receives L&I pension benefits for the rest of their life, so long as they remain unemployable.  L&I pays out pension benefits monthly, around the 15th of each month.  The amount depends on the worker’s salary and wages at the time of injury.  Furthermore, if the worker is married, then he or she can choose for their spouse to get survivor benefits. Simply put, “survivor benefits” means that if the work injury claimant passes then their spouse will receive the pension benefits. Under certain circumstances, this choice may also impact the monthly L&I pension amount.


Permanent total disability and L&I pension

There are many factors to consider when determining whether a work injury claimant is permanently and totally disabled.  These factors include the following considerations, among others:

1) The worker’s work pattern at the time of injury – part-time employment, full time, seasonal worker, and so on.

2) Whether the work-accident, injury, or work-related illness cause the permanent physical or mental limitations.

3) Were there any preexisting permanent (physical or mental) limitations?



4) The person’s wage-earning capacity.

5) The local labor market.

6) The worker’s strengths and weaknesses.

7) The work injury claimant’s age, education, training, and experience.


Based on these factors, L&I may consider the workplace injury claimant as permanently and totally disabled.  Even if a person is not physically or mentally helpless, they can still fall under the qualifications. However, we have to remember that an injured worker doesn’t have permanent total disability just because they cannot return to their former job. In fact, if the worker can perform or obtain any gainful work with success and continuity, then they are employable.


Employability: Are you employable?

The Department of Labor and Industries places great value on employability, for a variety of reasons.  From my perspective, there are some issues with how L&I views and evaluates employability. In my opinion, saying that someone is employable on paper is not the same as how things manifest themselves in the real world. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for employability determinations to be based on erroneous or insufficient medical or vocational evidence.


Getting L&I pension help from an L&I attorney

As I see it, most people with a workers’ compensation claim recover from their injuries or illness and return to work. However, there are many individuals with L&I claims that need assistance to return to work.  Comparatively, only a small number of workplace injury claimants have permanent and total disability. If you have an L&I claim or a workers’ compensation claim, and the claim administrator is saying you are employable when you are not, then you should immediately speak with a workers’ compensation attorney.


  1. Ronald Gallauher

    How do I stop direct deposit and go back to paper check?

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      L&I attorney

      You need to call the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to ask for the change.

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    Lonnie Burns

    I was injured at work, this was the 2nd and same kind of injury. I now have both shoulders torn and both had rotary cuff repairs. Worried that once L&I closes my claim I filed for Social Security Disability. I was working lite duty Up until Jan 11th, 2022. My employer no longer wanted me around and booted me off lite duty. Received a notice from Social Security Disability that I qualified for Social Security Disability on January 5th, 2022 Still receiving L&I except Social Security is deducting L&I payments from my Social Security payments.
    I have since received a summons, It is an over-the-phone hearing on Nov 22nd, In attendance will be: An Appeals Judge, a Lawyer from the States Attorneys General office, and an Attorney Representing the Department of Social and Health Services (my current employer) I also believe theirs is going to be an L&I attorney. What am I to expect?
    I don’t know if they want me to settle with a one-time payout. I believe I qualify for L&I disability payments, and if I do would this payment wind up with another set of deductions? or is it some kind of punitive action against me?
    Please If you do advise, send it to my e-mail

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      L&I attorney

      Unfortunately the Washington State Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct prevent me from providing legal advice to individuals I do not represent. Based on the information you shared, it sounds as if an Appeal has been filed with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals and the heading on November 22 is likely a mediation conference (assuming it is the first conference that has been scheduled). You should certainly participate in that conference to protect your rights. At the conference it should become clear what is under appeal and what the respective positions of the different parties are. I also suspect the Board Judge will tell you if they think it would be a good idea to hire an attorney. If they do, I would recommend scheduling a consultation without delay. The further into the Board process you get, the more challenging it will become for an attorney to get involved on your behalf.

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        Lonnie Burns

        Do I have a case for L&I pension? Since Social security already declared me disabled?

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          L&I attorney

          It is difficult to say without getting into the specific facts of your case. The legal standard for securing a pension is different from being found disabled by Social Security. One does not necessarily guarantee the other.

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