Even if your doctor has formally recommended a surgery, getting authorization from L&I can be challenging for injured workers in…
What is the 2023-2024 Cost of Living Adjustment in Washington State?
Washington State’s Statutory Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2023-2024 provides a 2.01% increase.
The increase is according to the Employment Security Department’s findings that the average annual wage in Washington State increased from $82,508 in 2021 to $84,167.00 in 2022.
This means, under the Industrial Insurance Act (Title 51, RCW), effective July 1, 2023, workers’ compensation benefits will increase 2.01% for those entitled to time-loss, pension and loss of earning power (LEP) benefits in industrial injury and occupational disease claims which are greater than one year old.
L&I COLA History
What is the Maximum L&I Time-Loss Rate for 2023-2024 in Washington State?
Washington State’s maximum time-loss rate for 2023-2024 is $8,416.70 per month.
Pursuant to statutory formulas (RCW 51.32.060), this will be the new maximum time-loss rate for work injuries sustained during the period of July 1, 2023 through June 20, 2024.
The legal maximum benefit amount is equal to 120% of the average annual wage in Washington State. Since the average annual wage for 2022 was $84,167.00 the maximum monthly benefit for 2023-2024 equals $8,416.70 (Maximum Time-Loss Rates Chart).
Historic Maximum Time-Loss Rates
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What is the Minimum L&I Time-Loss Rate for 2023-2024 in Washington State?
Washington State’s minimum time-loss rate for 2023-2024 is $1,052.09 per month.
Also pursuant to RCW 51.32.060, this will be the new minimum time-loss rate for work injuries sustained during the period of July 1, 2023 through June 20, 2024.
The legal minimum benefit amount is equal to 15% of the average annual wage in Washington State plus $10 if the worker has a spouse and $10 for each dependent child up to five children, pursuant to RCW 51.32.090(9)(b). Since the average annual wage for 2022 was $84,167.00 the minimum monthly benefit for 2023-2024 equals $1,052.09, plus any applicable spouse and dependent payments (Minimum Time Loss Rates Chart).
Historic Minimum Time-Loss Rates
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Why do COLA adjustments occur?
COLA adjustments exist in order to ensure that the workers’ compensation time-Loss benefits for injured and sick workers will generally keep pace with the rate of inflationary change in the average wages earned by workers within the state.
Because workers’ compensation (L&I) benefits provide a critical financial safety net for those injured or made ill by diseases caused by their work, as well as their dependent family members, yearly COLA adjustments to time-Loss and pension rates are necessary.
How is the amount of COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustments) determined?
The Employment Security Department determines the COLA amount based upon whether the average wages of all workers in Washington State have gone up since the prior year. If those wages have risen, the COLA is computed as the percentage of increase.
An injured worker’s Time-Loss rate is computed according to statute (RCW 51.36.060) based upon whether the worker is married or single and whether the worker has dependents such as children at the time of injury. The Time-Loss rate will then be paid during all periods of temporary total or permanent total disability (RCW 51.32.090).
Who gets an L&I COLA?
All workers whose claims are greater than one year old as of July 1 of the current year are eligible for a COLA adjustment unless adding the COLA would cause their L&I Time-Loss rate to exceed the current Maximum Time-Loss rate for the present year. For workers whose claims are set at the statutory Minimum Time-Loss rate, those will also adjust upward to the present Minimum Time-Loss rate as of each July 1 regardless of whether the worker’s claim is older than one year.
Will the COLA get applied to my benefits automatically?
The Department of Labor and Industries should automatically compute any eligible Cost of Living Adjustment and apply it to ongoing benefits effective July 1, 2023. If your claim is managed by a Self Insured Employer (SIE), the Third Party Administrator (TPA) should also automatically compute and apply any eligible Cost of Living Adjustment. That said, do not trust your benefits are being calculated correctly and automatically applied.
Our decades of experience as workers’ compensation attorneys has unfortunately shown many eligible injured workers do not have their benefits automatically adjusted. Every year our team personally reviews and calculates each of our client’s claims to make sure they are receiving the correct amount and in the event they are not we fight for them until they do. Statue limitations do apply so if you believe you may need help please reach out as time is of the essence.
Will every injured worker get the 2023-2024 COLA adjustment?
Pursuant to RCW 51.32.075, there is no adjustment during the first year of the workers’ compensation claim. Injured-workers are eligible during the claim’s second July adjustment. However, time-loss rates set at either minimum or maximum values will still increase to the new minimum or maximum rate.
Why don’t newly-injured workers get COLA?
Pursuant to RCW 51.32.075(4), a worker’s time-Loss rate will not be eligible for a July 1 COLA adjustment unless or until more than one year has elapsed since the date of their industrial injury or the manifestation date of their occupational disease.
Does the current COLA adjustment apply to L&I Pensions?
Yes. COLA adjustment apply to L&I pension payments because an L&I pension is equivalent to a vested right to permanently receive time-Loss payments for the rest of the beneficiary’s life.
If I receive Social Security Benefits, will I still get a COLA?
Because Social Security Benefits of any kind (disability, retirement, early-retirement or widow’s benefits) may potentially offset workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to federal statute, injured workers receiving time-Loss benefits may or may not receive a COLA.
The calculation of whether an offset exists between receipt of time-Loss and Social Security benefits is truly one of the most technical and fact-dependent inquiries in all of workers’ compensation law. The analysis depends upon each individual worker’s highest 35 years of earnings after the age of 21. You will certainly need to consult an experienced attorney to determine whether an offset exists in your case.
How do I make sure I’m receiving the correct compensation amount?
If you have any questions about workers compensation benefit eligibility or the Department of Labor & Industries’ Cost of Living Adjustment rate change and how they affect your time-loss benefits, our experienced L&I attorneys are here to help.
Calculating your rate can be challenging but you should make sure to get all the compensation you are entitled to! At Washington Law Center we aim to help as many injured workers as we possibly can so they know they’re getting the benefits they deserve. If you think we can help, give us a call! Our phone number is: (206) 596-7888.
What Should I Do If I Don’t Receive a COLA?
Consult immediately with an experienced workers’ compensation (L&I) attorney. You may also need to file a protest or appeal. Protests are filed with the Department of Labor & Industries for State Fund claims and with the Self-Insured Employer for SIE claims. Appeals can be filed electronically with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. If you have already retained an attorney for your L&I matter, the attorney will handle this process for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Spencer Parr is a litigation and trial attorney at Washington Law Center focused primarily in the areas of Labor & Industries claims and injury pension benefits. Before co-founding Washington Law Center, Spencer served in the U.S. Army. He has litigated major issues in the law, represented clients from coast to coast, and dedicated his professional life to assisting the injured and disabled. Click here to learn more about Spencer. View More Labor & Industries and Work Injury Resources.