PA Workers Comp and Retirement – Again?

The impact of pensions and “retirement” on PA workers’ compensation cases seems to be a frequent issue visited by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Just last month, we told you about the decision in City of Pittsburgh v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Robinson) [Where the Court found that a “disability” pension does not create a presumption that an injured worker has voluntarily left the work force, while a “retirement” pension does].

Now, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has decided the Day v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (City of Pittsburgh) case and further complicated the matter. A basic reading of the case could be consistent with the decision in the Robinson case. In Day, the Court found the injured worker took a “regular” pension from the employer, and applied for (and received) Social Security benefits. Further, the Court found that the injured worker testified he was capable of some kind of work, but he was not looking for work. In this case, unlike in Robinson, the Court found the injured worker did retire (and, as such, his workers’ compensation benefits should be suspended).

The problem is what does not appear in the case (and we only know this from the workers’ compensation attorney who litigated the case before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania). The Social Security “benefits” being received by the injured worker were DISABILITY benefits, not RETIREMENT benefits, as the Court made it sound. Also, the pension at issue was not a regular (old age) pension, but a DISABILITY pension. Based on the true facts of the case (which, again, do not appear in the written opinion), one would think the same result should have been reached as in Robinson, denying the Petition for Suspension.

Once again, we are cast into a very murky area when it comes to pensions, Social Security Benefits, retirement and workers’ compensation in PA. These cases seem to vary depending on the facts, but what seems consistent is the complicated nature of the issue, and the uncertainty of the results.