Ohioans approved to receive workers’ compensation benefits can sometimes continue receiving some state disability payments after they return to work on a part-time basis — with the emphasis on “sometimes.” A part-time worker’s eligibility for ongoing worker’s comp benefits like wage loss support and payouts for loss of mobility, disfigurement, or amputation gets determined on a case-by-case basis. The one situation in which resuming employment almost always makes accepting workers’ compensation benefits fraudulent is when a person has received workers’ comp following a determination of permanent total disability, or PTD.
Complicating issues of when continuing to accept checks from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is legal is the fact that the agency has a mission of getting people back to work following a workplace injury or an occupational illness. Fulfilling that mission entails requiring most beneficiaries to do occupational therapy, job retraining and regular reevaluation for employability. Doctors and other health care providers also receive messages, if not outright encouragement, to approve workers’ comp recipients for return to work.
In other words, the BWC can create situations in which injured and ill people run the risk of committing workers’ comp fraud by following many of the rules, and much of the advice, of the program. Figuring out whether you, personally, qualify to earn money part-time while also receiving workers’ comp often requires collaborating with an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation attorney.
The disability lawyers in the Columbus, OH, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman may be able to fill this role for you. Since we know we will never speak with each reader, allow us to offer this general overview of some considerations worker’s comp recipients must take before working part-time.
The official language of Ohio’s workers’ compensation program is a bit of an alphabet soup. Still, the acronyms and abbreviations carry enormous meaning for beneficiaries, administrators, and law enforcement officials. Of all the key terms that exist, the five that probably apply most to working part-time while receiving workers’ comp are PTD, TT, WL, SL and %PP.
As noted above, PTD stands for permanent total disability. This designation indicates that a person has been approved to receive workers’ comp because he or she is so disabled that working for pay is not possible. The status can remain in effect for life, but it is also subject to review and cancellation. If the BWC learns that a person designated PTD has started working again without first receiving the agency’s approval to do so, it may pursue criminal fraud charges. BWC does grant some individuals exemption to remain on some form of disability while working. Notifying the agency of one’s intention to return to work is always the safest way to go, even though doing so puts workers’ comp benefits at risk. Losing some income is preferable to going to jail.
TT means temporary total disability. Most workers’ comp recipients have TT status and receive government disability checks amounting to half or two-thirds of the person’s previous pay. Those payments stop on the date a person returns to work unless an application for wage loss support gets approved. The details of what the BWC refers to as WL are far too complicated to discuss adequately here. What is most important to understand is that asking for WL benefits always makes sense because the payments are intended to make up the difference between what a workers’ comp beneficiary earned before getting hurt or falling ill and what he or she earns when going back to work part-time or at another job.
Some work-related injuries have been declared deserving of compensation separate from any other kinds of state disability benefits. Examples include losing a finger, going deaf in one ear, and having a foot crushed. Payments for such injuries are called scheduled losses (SL). They usually come as lump sums, and SL money almost never gets forfeited by going back to work on a full-time or part-time basis.
A percentage of permanent partial award–the symbolic %PP–represents a blend of SL and WL benefits. Individuals who lose part of their ability to perform their previous job can qualify for %PP benefits, either as a lump sum payment or regular income support. An example of a qualifying persistent performance limitation would be breaking a hip and no longer being able to stand for most of an eight-hour shift.
The BWC requires workers’ comp applicants to undergo physical exams and employment assessments by doctors and specialists that the agency names and pays. Injured and sick workers also have legal rights to seek medical opinions and care from professionals they choose. When the judgments of those two groups of health care providers and therapists differ, legal proceedings can be needed to arrive at a conclusion about whether a person can return to work, remain eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, or both.
Getting input from one’s own caregivers and legal representatives is especially important if you have been classified as having a permanent total disability but wish to start earning income on a part-time basis. Unintentionally violating workers’ comp fraud rules can be easy if you do not receive sound medical and legal guidance.
The Ohio workers’ comp lawyers at Agee Clymer Mitchell Portman have much more information about disability benefits for people who get injured or become sick on the job. We always offer free consultations. Call us at (614) 221-3318 or use this online form to contact us.