For years, we have instructed our clients to never say they are retired. Never.
Because your wage loss benefits can be stopped if a judge finds that you have retired from the workforce. The rationale for this rule is simple. Workers’ compensation is designed to pay wage loss benefits to workers who are not working because of an injury. If it turns out they’re not working because they don’t want to work any more, they no longer have a wage loss due to their injury.
Therefore, our clients never say they’re retired. They emphasize that they’d be working if there was a job they could physically do.
A newer threat now comes in the form of case law from the appellate courts. In January of 2010, the Commonwealth Court strengthened its clampdown on older recipients of workers’ compensation. Namely, your benefits are at risk if you decide to take pension benefits from your employer, even if you have made that choice because your employer won’t take you back to work within your limitations. Judges can now stop wage loss benefits when a claimant receives pension income unless the claimant establishes that he is actively seeking employment or that the work injury forced him to retire. To prove the latter, a Claimant must actually prove she is completely and totally disabled. Otherwise, the burden of proof is on the claimant to show she has not retired. This is the only situation that forces an injured worker to produce evidence in court that she is actually looking for a job in order to continue receiving wage loss benefits.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to consult your attorney before applying for any pension benefits.