WSLC’s Project HELP assists with navigating the workers’ compensation system
SEATTLE (Mar. 8, 2023) — Workers’ compensation is a critical safety net for Washington’s working families. The system was established “to provide sure and certain relief for workers, injured in their work, and their families and dependents,” and its benefits help thousands of Washington families avoid economic catastrophe when someone is injured or sickened at work.
But navigating this system can be challenging. That’s why the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO makes sure that help is available.
For more than 35 years, the WSLC’s Project HELP program has made a difference by educating injured workers and providing individual one-on-one workers’ compensation claims guidance. The program, which is jointly administered by the WSLC and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), takes a hands-on approach to helping and teaching people about the claims process.
Project HELP Director Jessica Gallardo and Senior Claims Specialist Kathy Petruzzelli and Bilingual Claims Specialist Emmanuel Carrillo have empowered countless injured workers to become proactive in resolving their claims.
For example, an injured worker recently called Project HELP to get information about his time-loss benefits. After reviewing his claim file, it was discovered that his wage order was missing information. It indicated he was single with zero dependents at the time of injury, but he was married with four children. He had received the wage order letter, but did not understand its purpose and ignored it.
Project HELP staff advised him of his right to protest the wage order and the supporting documents he would need. Ultimately, his wage order was updated and his time-loss compensation went from 60 to 73 percent of wages at the time of injury. He also received an adjustment for previous lower time-loss payments.
In addition to one-on-one claims guidance like this, Project HELP conducts educational workshops explaining how the system works for workers and employers, whether they participate in the State Fund or are self-insured.
“One of our goals is to increase awareness of the claims process and advise workers of their rights and responsibilities,” Gallardo said. “In the past couple of months, we have participated in 19 trainings and outreach events with various partners including multiple apprenticeship programs, physical therapy clinics, local unions, and L&I.”
These trainings provide information about the free services Project HELP has to offer, describes the steps for filing a claim for a work injury or illness, and explains wage replacement benefits, dispute rights, and much more.
“No one plans on being hurt at work, but when events bring people to workers’ compensation claims, being armed with information will help you understand and navigate the system for a safe and timely return to work,” Gallardo said.
If you or a loved one have been injured on the job or developed a medical condition from the performance of job duties, you need to be proactive about ensuring your “sure and certain relief” in the workers’ compensation system. Contact Project HELP at 1-800-255-9752 or via this email form. For more information about Project HELP’s services, download its English and Spanish brochure, or visit its website.
WSLC Wednesdays is a feature of The Stand where different departments of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.