New York Workers' Compensation is an intricate area of law that is often subject to a number of misconceptions. This site is intended to help readers seeking clarification on the topic of NY Workers' Comp. Whether you are an injured worker lost amidst the complexities of Workers' Comp, a doctor who is not sure how to properly handle a Workers' Comp patient's file, or simply a curious New Yorker who worries about what would happen if you were ever injured on the job, I hope that the content of this site will deliver the answers you seek, even to questions you didn't know to ask.

It is my pleasure to welcome you into the world of New York Workers' Compensation. I hope you enjoy your visit, spread the word, and come back soon.

Best regards,

Camila P. Medici, Esq.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Was Classified With a PPD Prior to March 13, 2007. Will I Lose My Benefits If I Retire?

March 13, 2007 marked a crucial change in Workers' Compensation Law.  Prior to that date, when a Claimant was classified with a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD), that Claimant was entitled to receive lifetime benefits.  After that date, benefits were capped at a certain number of weeks (years) according to the exact percentage of partial disability that the Claimant was classified with. 

Claimants who are classified with a PPD, and who have not been subject to a finding of involuntary retirement, have an ongoing obligation to look for work within their medical restriction in order to avoid a finding of voluntary withdrawal.  If the Claimant is able to find work within his restrictions, the Claimant may still be entitled to wage benefits if the wages the Claimant is receiving in the new job are less than those wages he received before the disability.  Specifically, the Claimant would be entitled to a Reduced Earnings Award, which is 2/3 of the difference between what he used to make and what he is making now, up to the statutory maximum on the date of accident. 

An important question that may concern those Claimants who were classified prior to March 13, 2007, and who were therefore entitled to receive benefits for life is whether they will lose their benefits if they retire from their job.  The short answer is: it depends.  But what does it depend on?  It depends on whether the reason the Claimant is retiring is that he cannot continue to work in that capacity as a result of the work-related disability.  If that is the case, then the Claimant is entitled to continue to receive benefits, of course limited to it not exceeding the amount he received in wages prior to the disability.  However, if the Claimant is retiring for reasons unrelated to the disability, then he is not entitled to receive wage benefits upon retirement.

For instance: a Claimant who was classified with a PPD in 1990 and who was able to secure a job as a bus driver with reduced earnings, is entitled to receive the reduced earning wages for life (so long as he can prove ongoing reduced earnings).  If that Claimant decides to retire at the age of 71, the only way he can continue to receive wage benefits is if he has medical evidence that the reason he is deciding to retire is that his disability makes it difficult for him to continue to perform those duties. 

The situation gets even more complicated if that Claimant will continue to work in a different job after retirement.  If that is the case, the Claimant should make sure that 1) The job he will continue to perform after retirement is less strenuous than the one he is retiring from, 2) he has medical evidence supporting the fact that his retirement is related to his disability, and 3) that the sum of his retirement benefits, his Compensation benefits, and the wages he is receiving in the job he will continue to perform after retirement do not exceed the wages he made prior to becoming disabled as a result of his work accident.  He will probably need to show continued reduced earnings on a yearly basis by virtue of W-2s and tax returns.    

If the Claimant retires at the exact age of 65, that may also increase suspicion on the Carrier's part.  As a Claimant you have to remember that the Carrier will use any legal avenue available to fight payments, so be prepared for a battle even when you are well within your rights. 

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