Did you know that if you switch to a lower paying job because of work injury or occupational disease,
you may be receive Loss of Earning Power (LEP) benefits? These L&I claim benefits compensate you for your inability to earn as much as you did before.
What is Loss of Earning Power (LEP)?
Many injured workers are surprised to learn about the Loss of Earning Power benefits. Earning power refers to a worker’s ability to earn income as a result of labor. If an injured worker’s ability to earn income has been reduced because of an industrial injury or occupational disease, the worker may be entitled to LEP benefits under the claim.
For LEP to be payable, two conditions must be met: (1) The injured worker’s loss of earnings must be greater than 5% of wages at the time of injury; and (2) Medical certification must indicate that the worker’s loss of earning capacity is due to the industrial injury or occupational disease.
If an injured worker is unable to work in any capacity, they should receive time-loss compensation benefits, not LEP. LEP is appropriate when an injured worker can perform some work, but not at the same wage-earning capacity. Common scenarios where LEP may apply include when injured workers cannot work a full-time schedule and are on reduced hours following the injury or disease. Another scenario is when an injured worker can return to a lighter or more sedentary job that pays a much lower salary than their job of injury.
If you have an open and active claim but have returned to work and think LEP benefits may apply, you can use the online calculator on the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) website to determine if you should receive LEP. You can also view how much you should receive. If LEP benefits are appropriate, it is important for the injured worker to apply for the benefits. With medical basis for LEP benefits, the application requires information from the injured worker, the attending physician, and the employer. However, it is possible to apply without requiring the employer to fill the application. Instead, an injured worker may attach pay stubs outlining their salary and hours worked for LEP calculations. If the basis for the LEP is vocational, the application requires information from the injured worker, the employer (or pay stubs), and the vocational counselor.
Applying for Loss of Earning Power (LEP) benefits
When you submit a valid application for LEP benefits, L&I typically makes payments on a regular bi-weekly or semi-monthly schedule. As a rule of thumb, I usually suggest injured workers eligible for LEP to continue see their attending medical provider on a monthly basis. This way, the attending provider can complete and submit updated LEP forms. If the basis for LEP benefits is vocational, the application can be submitted on a schedule consistent with pay periods for the current employment.