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Beware of Pension Offset in your Workers’ Compensation Case

August 12, 2020

By Shelley W. Elovitz, Esquire

Before you settle a Workers’ Compensation Case, you must notify your attorney if you are eligible for a pension. This is especially relevant to police officers and other public sector employees. Checking the employee’s pension benefit book, consulting with a union contract or exploring other pension benefit explanations may prevent, you, the injured worker, from being blindsided by an unknown ”right” on the part of the employer to offset the lump sum settlement. This knowledge may help you to strategize around any pension offset if the pension board is not flexible. As you will see in the case below, your attorney will have no jurisdiction to help after you case is settled.

Pension Offset Case Analysis

In Meixelsberger v. City of Lower Burrell, the Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) found the Workers Compensation Judge (WCJ) did not err in finding that he did not have the authority to make a decision on the client’s penalty petition.

The City of Lower Burrell released a Notice of Compensation Payable on April 18, 2011 for Ted Meixelsberger, who was injured on the job. On April 5, 2013, the WCJ approved a Compromise and Release Agreement (C&R Agreement), resolving liability of the employer for any type of Workers’ Compensation benefit. The agreement paid a lump sum of $220,000. Mr. Meixelsberger voluntarily resigned and agreed to apply for his pension.

A few years later, Mr. Meixelsberger filed a Penalty Petition, claiming the employer had violated the C&R Agreement by reducing his monthly pension. The WCJ found that there was no evidence that the employer had violated the C&R Agreement. He concluded that the dispute was actually with the administrator of the pension plan. He noted that he lacked jurisdiction to make any decisions regarding the pension plan administration. Therefore, the Penalty Petition was dismissed.

The injured worker had submitted the letter that told him his monthly pension was calculated without offset for his Workers’ Compensation benefits, and therefore he had received overpayments and his monthly pension would be reduced. He was told he had a right to appeal to the pension administrator, which he did, and was denied.

The WCAB agreed that the WCJ was correct – any issue with the pension administrator, was outside of his jurisdiction. The employer had not violated the C&R Agreement and the WCJ could only respond to the employer’s actions. Issues with the pension administrator are not regulated by the Workers’ Compensation Act. Therefore, the WCJ cannot make any rulings regarding their actions.

What does this mean? It is important to understand that attorneys and judges are all governed by the Workers’ Compensation Act. When issues, such as pension issues, arise that are not encompassed by the Act, those attorneys and judges have no jurisdiction to address those issues. Indeed, in a worst case scenario, they can be seen as overstepping and possibly committing malpractice.

If you have  been injured on the job, contact us online or call (412) 338-1177.

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