W.C.C.A. Rules that Employers May Reduce an Employee's Permanent Total Disability Benefits by Public Pension Plan Retirement Benefits Received

Heacox Hartman, P.A. was recently retained to represent the W.C.R.A. as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) before the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals in the case of Gary Ekdahl v. ISD # 213. At issue was whether the self-insured employer could reduce the employee’s receipt of permanent total disability(PTD) benefits by the amount received in retirement benefits from a public pension fund pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.101, subd. 4. Shareholder Charlene Feenstra and Associate Josh Steinbrecher co-authored the brief, with assistance from Shareholders Diane Walsh and Kristen Cajacob.

On December 24, 2013, the W.C.C.A. issued its decision which essentially adopted the position of the self-insured employer and the W.C.R.A. The Court held that the offset provision in the statute was not specifically limited to receipt of disability benefits or Social Security retirement benefits, and could be applied to the employee’s receipt of Teachers Retirement Act (TRA) benefits. The Court’s decision accepted that the Workers’ Compensation Act is premised on the theory that for a single wage loss, there should be but one wage-loss benefit, the position which formed the bedrock of the W.C.R.A.’s argument to the Court.

Based on this ruling, employers and insurers may reduce an employee’s PTD benefits by the amount that the employee receives in retirement benefits via a public pension plan, once the statutory threshold of $25,000.00 has been paid. The employee recently petitioned the Supreme Court of Minnesota to consider the issue.