In the State Pension System? Hurt on the Job? Read This!

There are recent developments in the law if you are hurt on the job and involved in the State pension system. As you may be aware, if you are injured while working, as a result of an occupational exposure, or a specific traumatic event, you are statutorily permitted to file for workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, if you are in a position that you are involved in the State pension system, you may be entitled to a disability pension.

Generally, if you are involved in a traumatic event at work that ultimately deems you unable to perform your duties any longer you may be entitled to an accidental disability pension. There is no minimal time of employment to be eligible for applicability of this pension, as long as you are in the pension system. The jurisdiction as to whether you are disabled from your job duties as a result of the traumatic event rests with the Division of Pensions. However, the accidental disability pension may entitle you to in excess of 70% of your wages and family health benefits.

The law has been, and continues to be, that if you are approved for an accidental disability pension, there is a direct dollar for dollar offset for any workers’ compensation benefits you receive. This is to say, you may still file for workers’ compensation benefits, and may be entitled to benefits pursuant to same, but your pension benefits will then be reduced by any recovery made. This, in fact, does not decrease your financial benefits, but merely may change who the money is coming from.

There are, however, new developments in the law when a person involved in the State pension system is approved for an ordinary disability pension, and may have been injured on the job. In most cases, in order to be applicable for an ordinary disability pension, you will have had to be in the State pension system for 10 years. This also may only provide a pension benefit of approximately 40% of your salary. As in the accidental disability pension, the decision as to whether you are disabled from your job duties rests with the Division of Pensions.

As the law stood in the past, one could receive an ordinary disability pension and full benefits pursuant to workers’ compensation, without one affecting the other. Most recently, it has been decided that this may present the injured worker with a double recovery, and ultimately may provide the worker with more money then when he or she was actually working.

There has been a long standing public policy against double recoveries for the same injuries. As such, the law, as it now stands, is that an injured employee may receive an ordinary disability pension and workers’ compensation benefits. However, the workers’ compensation benefits may be subject to a dollar for dollar offset for pension benefits.

It is interesting, however, because an ordinary disability pension is generally not the result of one traumatic event that deems the worker unable to perform his or her duties, but is the result of numerous and varied disabilities, that may or may not be work related, or related to the workers’ compensation injury. Although the law is still being tested, the trend is that there only exists an offset for those injuries incorporated in the approval of the disability pension and are specifically involved in the claim for workers’ compensation. In converse, the trend is that the disabilities unrelated to workers’ compensation then are not included in the calculation of the offset.

As you can see, your choice as to whether to pursue workers’ compensation benefits when eligible for either disability pension is a difficult and law sensitive decision that should be reviewed with an attorney in depth.

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