We have written volumes about the Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) process. It would now appear all of those words just became moot with the decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which ruled the entire IRE provision to be unconstitutional.
Back in September of 2015, we talked about the decision rendered by the Commonwealth Court of PA in Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Derry Area School District). In that decision, the Court found that the IRE provision within the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (Act) was unconstitutional in that the impairment rating was to be determined by the latest version of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guide to Disability. The Court believed this to be an impermissible delegation of power. While this delegation of power was struck down by the Court, the case was remanded (sent back) to the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), to perform the IRE using the 4th edition (this was the edition which existed when the IRE provision was added to the Act).
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has now ruled that the Commonwealth Court was only correct in part. Yes, said the highest court in the State, the delegation of power was indeed unconstitutional. But, the Act does not contain any mention of using the 4th Edition of the AMA Guides. A Court cannot rewrite a law. Therefore, without a version of the AMA Guides to use, to measure an impairment rating, the entire IRE provision must be struck from the Act.
This, obviously, is a ground-breaking development which changes the entire PA workers’ compensation system. How this will impact cases in which an IRE has already been performed, and a Notice of Change of Disability Status has already been issued, remains unclear.