Case Law Update I Pocono Mountain Sch. Dist. v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. 548 & 663 C.D. 2014, filed April 10, 2015) | PA Work Injury

April 10, 2015

Claimant suffered work-related injury on 1/20/10 when he slipped and fell on ice, and struck his head, left shoulder and arm at work.  Employer’s NTCP converted to SCP on 4/24/10.  Claimant filed review petition to add specific loss of left hand.  Also, Claimant was 62 years old on day of injury. In February 2010, he began receiving Social Security (SS) retirement benefits. On 6/ 23/11, Employer filed Modification Petition claiming offset and credit for SS retirement benefits.

 

WCJ: (1) Claimant suffered specific loss of left hand separate and apart from accepted work injuries; WCAB affirmed.  (2) Employer not entitled to credit and/or offset for Claimant’s SS benefits because although SS benefits were received after his work injury, they were approved and his entitlement vested before injury date; WCAB reversed.

 

Cmwlth Ct: (1)Affirm WCJ & WCAB finding of specific loss of left hand: What began as a shoulder contusion resulted in CRPS, which caused Claimant’s shoulder to stiffen, which led to progressively decreased left shoulder and elbow range of motion and, due to lack of use, caused Claimant’s hand to become progressively atrophied and sensitive and, ultimately, dysfunctional. Record evidence supports that but for Claimant’s loss of use of his left hand, he would still be disabled by CRPS of his left upper extremity. Employer provided no evidence to the contrary. In light of the evidence that Claimant suffered a destruction, derangement or deficiency of a part of his body other than his left hand, Employer’s contention that Claimant is not entitled to both specific loss and total disability benefits fails.  (2) Reverse WCAB as to SS offset/credit.  WCJ correctly found that Employer is not entitled to credit/offset.  Claimant applied for benefits in advance of his eligibility, had been approved, and became entitled to SS retirement benefits when he turned 62 on January 2,10 2010, which was 18 days before his work injury occurred.  That Claimant’s payments did not commence until February 10, 2010, which was 21 days after his work injury is irrelevant.  Because Claimant was entitled to benefits in January 2010, he “received” those benefits prior to his work-related injury and those sums are not subject to Section 204(a) offset.

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