Articles Posted in Non-Workers Comp Benefit Programs

While we limit our practice to representing injured workers in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases, We could not help but notice a recent PA unemployment compensation case decided by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Unemployment compensation benefits are generally available in Pennsylvania when an employee involuntarily loses his or her job, provided there was no “willful misconduct.” What constitutes “willful misconduct,” as is so often in the law, varies from case to case.

In the case of Brown v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, the employee was a battery machine operator. When he placed a sign on a defective battery stating “do not use,” the sign had been ignored. He then put signs on defective batteries, stating, “To the moron who can’t read do not use this,” “do not use this battery” and “Not charging you moron.” The employee was promptly terminated for his use of the word “moron.”

When we attended the Annual Workers’ Compensation Conference in Harrisburg, presented by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, more was discussed than just the status of workers’ compensation laws in PA.

Though we did certainly have sessions regarding many topical issues with the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, including scope and course of employment, positive work rules, undocumented workers, Medicare Set-Asides, recent legal developments, along with other various medical and legal issues, time was also taken to share the importance of Kids’ Chance, a charity “dedicated to helping our kids who need it most – those who need assistance for college or vocational education because a parent was killed or injured in a work-related accident.”

We would urge injured workers, and families of injured workers, to avail themselves of this valuable resource.

We have already mentioned on a past blog entry that injured workers in Pennsylvania can collect PA workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. However, a recent opinion from the United States Tax Court, reported on LawyersUSAOnline.com, reminds us that the receipt of the two benefit programs together can have unintended tax consequences.

Our firm only handles Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases; we do not handle tax matters of any kind. Having said that, depending on the spouse’s earnings, if Social Security Disability benefits are being received, workers’ compensation benefits received by an injured worker in PA can be taxable, when ordinarily they would not be taxable. This issue was also addressed recently by the Social Security Administration in a POMS (essentially, a memo). Obviously, this situation changes depending on the circumstances in each case, and the advice of a tax professional should be obtained.

Many times an injured worker in PA will be so impaired that he or she may also qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Contrary to what some injured workers may have thought, you can receive both Pennsylvania workers’ comp benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time (though there is a credit/offset between the two programs).

Though our firm handles only PA workers’ compensation cases, and does not reperesent folks in Social Security Disability matters, we recognize the need for our clients to be informed about Social Security in general.

Some very helpful information can be found at www.disabilitycasereview.com. Though this is not an official government site, and is not run by the Social Security Administration, an injured worker can learn a great deal about the process by reviewing this site.

As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, workers’ compensation claimants in Pennsylvania are often eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits as well as workers’ comp benefits. Any increase in income to an injured worker can be the difference between financial survival and ruin.

The Social Security Disability application process can be very difficult and intimidating. Approximately two-thirds of all SSD applications will be denied at the initial level. A recent article on the internet described seven helpful tips. We thought this article may be of benefit to our readers.

While we at Brilliant & Neiman LLC limit our entire practice to Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases, and do not handle SSD matters, we have relationships with other attorneys throughout PA, providing our clients access to quality legal representation for any legal matter, including SSD.

The Federal Government has created a temporary program known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which may be of benefit to injured workers in PA. EUC benefits can provide up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment compensation benefits to those unemployed folks who are not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits from Pennsylvania (or any other State).

While an injured worker in Pennsylvania cannot collect both workers’ compensation benefits and unemployment benefits in PA, this source of funds may be of use to those injured workers who are not currently receiving Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits (such as those individuals who have had their workers’ comp cases denied).

More information regarding UEC benefits, including how to apply and who is eligible for the program, can be obtained by visiting the PA Department of Labor & Industry website.

Many injured workers in Pennsylvania are not aware that they can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD), while still receiving workers’ comp benefits in PA. Though the two programs have different standards for what “disabled” means, and the injured worker may not be able to receive full benefits from both programs, there is no need to choose one or the other.

An injured worker qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania when he or she is disabled from work by an injury which took place in the scope and course of his or her employment. One qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits when one is disabled from all gainful employment, regardless of the cause of the disability. Many times, the workers’ comp claimant in PA qualifies for both, but is not aware they can receive both.

Between the two programs, a workers’ compensation claimant in Pennsylvania can only receive a certain percentage of their pre-injury earnings. Usually this amount will be more than the workers’ comp benefits alone. Plus, getting approved for SSD will lead to getting Medicare benefits, which can be a valuable resource. The Social Security Administration will withhold any SSD benefits a workers’ compensation claimant in Pennsylvania would otherwise be entitled to (the amount of SSD over that percentage of pre-injury earnings). There is no deduction from workers’ comp benefits in PA for SSD (contrary to Social Security Retirement benefits, for which the workers’ compensation insurance carrier gets a credit in Pennsylvania).

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