An advocate for injured workers in B.C. says it's become nearly impossible for those who suffer permanent disabilities to get full compensation for lost income.

Vancouver labour lawyer Jim Sayre says it's the result of changes in the Workers Compensation Act four years ago, and subsequent changes in Workers' Compensation Board policy.

"The policy says they can only pay a loss of earnings pension if the board agrees it is impossible – that's the word in the policy: 'impossible' – that the worker could return to their previous job or a job like it."

WCB documents obtained by CBC News show a dramatic drop in what are known as "loss of earnings" awards.

The documents show there have been only 14 of the awards for permanent injuries under the new rules over the past two years. Instead, there are payments for functional impairment.

Labour Minister Mike de Jong defends the new approach, saying it's meant to encourage injured workers to get back in the workforce, even if it isn't in their traditional jobs.

But former Vancouver Island logger Leevi Jaaskelainen, 60, who was injured in 1981, says that approach isn't working for him.

He suffered a broken ankle and shoulder, and suffered facial injuries when he was rolled on by a log and then fell on his chain saw.

However, the Nanaimo man continued to work as a faller for more than 20 more years – until his condition worsened in 2002, the year the rules changed.

Now he can barely walk 100 metres. But Jaaskelainen has been told he should consider operating heavy equipment, working as a janitor or repairing bicycles. He has also been told his old injuries are deemed to be worth about $760 a month.