Are you familiar with the Loss of Earning Power benefits under your L&I claim? After a work injury or occupational disease in Washington State, some work injury claimants can return to work with lower earning capacity. Then, if that’s the case, you may be eligible for additional monetary benefits to compensate you for your lower earnings.
Loss of earning power (LEP)
Many work injury claimants are not familiar with the Loss of Earning Power benefit. The term “Earning Power” refers to a worker’s ability to earn income as a result of labor. For some, the ability to earn income is lower because of a workplace injury or work illness. In such instances, workers may be eligible for loss of earning power payments under their workers’ compensation claim.
More explicitly, there are 2 conditions you must meet in order to receive loss of earning power benefits. First, your earnings at your new job or position must be at least 5% lower than your wages at the time of injury. Second, you must obtain medical certification to show that your loss of earning capacity is due to the work injury or disease.
Time-loss compensation versus loss of earning power
If a work injury claimant is unable to work in any capacity, then they can receive time-loss compensation benefits. They should not receive loss of earning power benefits. In fact, the latter is appropriate when the work injury claimant can perform some work. However, the new jobs available to them are not at the same wage-earning capacity. For example, say the worker is unable to work a full-time schedule. Yet, the worker can work part-time hours after their workplace injury. Also, another example is when the worker can return to a lighter duty position. Or, when the worker can perform a more sedentary job that pays less than before.
Many work injury claimants have an open and active L&I claim but they also returned to work. If you are one of them, check if loss of earning power benefits apply to you. If so, you can use the online calculator on the L&I website to determine if you are eligible. Moreover, the calculator allows you to check how much you can receive. If the benefit is applicable, you must apply to receive it. In detail, the application requires information from the work injury claimant, the attending physician, and the employer. However, it is possible to apply without requiring the employer to fill the application. Instead, the work injury claimant can attach pay stubs to show their salary and hours, before and after the workplace injury. Also, in some cases, the vocational counselor might need to provide information during the application process.
Applying for benefits for loss of earning power
First, you must submit a valid application for loss of earning power benefits. Then, L&I typically makes payments on a regular bi-weekly or semi-monthly schedule. After that, I usually suggest work injury clients to continue to see their attending medical provider monthly. This way, the attending provider can complete and submit updates to the loss of earning power forms. Furthermore, for vocational-based loss of earning power benefits, you should submit the application in the same pay periods of your new employment.