Logic may make you think that if you are permanently disabled from your career as a result of a work injury, you are free to take your pension and continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pennsylvania, and whether to take a pension in a PA workers’ compensation case is a very important decision, which should only be done after discussing your particular situation with an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.
When an injured worker starts taking his or her pension in PA, the workers’ compensation insurance company can argue that the injured worker is no longer entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, because the injured worker has “left the workforce.” The injured worker must then show a Workers’ Compensation Judge either that he or she is actually seeking employment or that he or she is not capable of performing any work at all (not just the injured worker’s old job, but any job in the entire labor market) as a result of the work injury. If the injured worker does not prove one of these two things, a Workers’ Compensation Judge can suspend (stop) the injured worker’s wage loss benefits (the weekly or bi-weekly checks). The injured worker’s right to medical treatment for the injury is not affected.
The case I recently saw that brought this situation to mind, Mason v. W.C.A.B. (Joy Mining Machinery), was decided by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on March 18, 2008.
This is yet another pitfall used by the workers’ comp insurance companies in Pennsylvania to cause workers’ compensation benefits to stop. The best defense an injured worker has is the representation of a law firm experienced in PA workers’ compensation matters.