Federal court dismisses lawsuit filed against WA Cares Fund

Release Date: 
Apr 27 2022
DSHS Office of Communications
Chris Wright
chris.wright@dshs.wa.gov

OLYMPIA — The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington this week dismissed a class action lawsuit filed against the WA Cares Fund, the first-of-its kind program that ensures all Washingtonians have access to long-term care when they need it.

The lawsuit, which was filed last November on behalf of three businesses and six individuals, alleged that WA Cares violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The court disagreed, vindicating the state’s position that WA Cares is not preempted by federal law and that the federal courts do not have jurisdiction to determine these issues.

“We are glad to see this decision from the court,” said WA Cares Fund Director Ben Veghte. “After key improvements to WA Cares during this year’s legislative session, the program is set up for success in the long term. This decision is another step toward making long-term care accessible for all Washingtonians and setting an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”

In January, Gov. Jay Inslee signed two bills that made improvements to the fund. The first piece of legislation enables near-retirees (people born before 1968) to qualify for partial benefits and also delays implementation of WA Cares by 18 months. The other allows certain individuals to opt out of the program. These include:

· spouses and registered domestic partners of military service members;

· workers on temporary nonimmigrant visas;

· employees who work in Washington but live in a different state;

· and veterans with 70% service-connected disability rating or higher.

Beginning next July, employees will contribute $0.58 per $100 of earnings, or about $25/month for the typical worker. Over time, workers’ contributions can earn them the right to receive up to $36,500 in long-term care benefits over their lifetime. The benefit will be adjusted annually up to inflation. Eligible employees will begin to receive benefits starting in July 2026.

“By contributing to the WA Cares Fund, we are all better prepared to age with dignity and independence,” said Veghte. “It gives families peace of mind and allows them to focus on care, not costs, when a loved one needs support. WA Cares will give families more control and choices in some of life’s most difficult moments.”

WA Cares Fund benefits can be used for a wide variety of services including professional personal care in your home, dementia support, respite for family caregivers, home modification to help with mobility and much more.

If you are interested in learning more about the WA Cares Fund, please visit www.wacarefund.wa.gov or call 1–844-CARE4WA.