A couple of months ago, we talked about the Whitfield v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Tenet Health System Hahnemann LLC) decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. This was the first time the Court addressed the PA Supreme Court decision in Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Derry Area School District), which struck the entire Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) process from the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (Act).
As a brief refresher, the IRE provision of the Act allowed a workers’ compensation insurance carrier to have an injured worker undergo an evaluation, after the injured worker received total disability benefits for two years. This evaluation, known as an IRE, would change the status of benefits to “partial” from “total” if the injured worker was less than 50% whole-body impaired by the work injury (note that 99.9% of injured workers are less than 50% whole-body impaired; that is a ridiculously high standard). While this would not impact the amount of benefits an injured worker received, it would start the clock ticking on the 500 week maximum entitlement.
The decision in Protz struck the entire IRE provision from the Act, finding it unconstitutional. This left attorneys who represent injured workers in PA needing answers to how this would impact the many injured workers already now receiving “partial” disability benefits due to an IRE.