Can your retirement package be reduced because of a workplace injury or illness in Georgia?
We all look forward to retirement one day. Years of dedicated service working for an employer should be rewarded with years of excellent health and prosperity. Unfortunately, a work-related injury or illness can interrupt those plans and raise questions about workers’ compensation and your retirement.
As an employee, you are entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits that cover lost wages, medical care expenses and vocational training, if necessary. What is not always clear is an answer to your question:
Can I retire while on workers’ comp?
Workers’ compensation and retirement
You were wise to plan for a well-deserved lifestyle of freedom to travel and enjoy hobbies after working hard for your entire career. What you cannot plan, unfortunately, is an injury or illness in the workplace. Such devastating accidents can happen at any time and alter the course of your future.
Further exacerbating your time to heal is whether your retirement date can remain unchanged while you draw a pension and workers’ compensation. These are valid concerns to have during a difficult time.
Typically, retirement benefits fall outside the parameters of workers’ compensation in Georgia. However, there might be exceptions depending on the specifics of your case. Consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand what to expect with your individual case.
How retirement affects workers’ compensation benefits
By all accounts, Georgia’s workers’ compensation system is set up to provide injured employees with a financial safety net. This is a different dynamic than drawing from an account after your employment ends. Therefore, workers’ compensation and retirement can lead to different outcomes.
For instance, your decision to retire while receiving workers’ compensation benefits doesn’t end your employer’s obligation to cover all of your medical expenses. You’re still entitled to receive these benefits due to an injury or illness that occurred on the job.
To ensure this process continues uninterrupted, you will need to follow the same steps as if you intend to return to work. These include:
- Initial reporting the injury or illness within 1 year from the date of the incident
- Submitting all paperwork related to your injury or illness
- Adhering to the treatment plan prescribed by your authorized treating physician
Remember that retirement means you are no longer part of the workforce. This alone could disqualify you from collecting disability benefits. An important distinction, however, is whether your disability is considered temporary or permanent.
Should you recover from an injury before retiring?
Your attorney might recommend that you wait until you fully recover from your workplace injury to retire if factors in your case suggest this is the best outcome. Giving yourself space to follow your physician’s medical treatment and heal after the injury might work best for your retirement plans.
After the initial treatment phase ends, your physician will assess how you are responding to treatment. This assessment not only determines how your injury or illness has healed, but will also determine how your ability to work will be affected.
Your physician could decide that your injury has led to a temporary or permanent disability. If so, let your employer know as soon as possible. If they are unable to accommodate your restrictive work requirements, you may have a case where retiring won’t end your permanent disability benefits.
What happens in cases of workers’ comp and forced retirement?
Cases involving workers’ comp and forced early retirement, known as involuntary retirement, can be daunting and overwhelming. After all, your initial workers’ comp claim was to ensure there was a financial safety net while you recovered from your work-related injury. It’s not your fault that the injury occurred. The last thing you want is to be penalized for such unforeseen circumstances.
Generally, involuntary retirement may happen due to restrictions being placed on your abilities. It also applies if comparable work isn’t available elsewhere within the company. For this to hold, you must show that your injury is the reason for your retirement.
In this case, you should be able to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Of course, a permanent disability rating can leave you with no other choice but retirement.
Workers’ comp claim denial
If you find yourself facing a denied workers’ compensation claim, receiving permanent disability benefits might still be an option. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand how workers’ compensation and forced retirement apply to your case.
Because all of your careful financial planning could be up in the air if you choose to retire after a workplace injury, it’s important to ensure your rights are protected. This means having someone who is on your side and has your best interest in mind. Speaking with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Gerber & Holder Law can illuminate your concerns.