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Does a Wisconsin worker continue to receive temporary disability benefits if they voluntarily retire?
In Janet Mueller v. Labor & Industry Review Commission, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin held that an employee seeking temporary disability benefits must show that he or she has suffered an actual wage loss attributable to a work-related injury. In Mueller v. LIRC, the employee was not entitled to temporary disability benefits as she voluntarily retired from her employment at Ashley Furniture for reasons unrelated to her work injury. The facts of this case were not hotly contested. Mueller injured her right arm and shoulder while lifting a 100-pound object. Mueller was placed on full-time light duty by Ashley Furniture. While on light duty, she received temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. TPD benefits fill the gap between the amount that she previously earned and her lower wages while on light duty. About four months later, Mueller submitted a Notice of Resignation form. She indicated in the form that she was retiring. After she retired, Mueller was advised that her TPD benefits terminated on the date of her retirement. Although Ashley Furniture terminated Mueller’s TPD benefits, they did not contest Mueller’s permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits as a result of the surgery to her shoulder. They also paid for her medical bills and medical mileage. The only issue that remained was whether Mueller was entitled to her TPD benefits after her retirement.
The Court of Appeals determined that when an employee retires for reasons entirely unrelated to his or her injury, they are unable to make a showing that they had an actual wage loss. Mueller also argued that since she attempted to be rehired by Ashley Furniture but was rejected for a position, and because she started working full-time at another position, she should have been entitled to TPD benefits due to her re-entry into the labor market. However, Mueller testified at her hearing that she voluntarily chose to limit her hours at her part-time employment and was not looking for additional hours or other work. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s determination that Mueller’s attempts to return to the workforce was not impaired in any way by her injury.
Now that Wisconsin employees know the repercussions of a voluntary retirement; they can make an informed decision about the timing of their retirement. If you are receiving workers compensation benefits or are potentially eligible to receive the same, it is important to review your rights with a seasoned workers compensation attorney. If you have been denied workers compensation benefits, please contact Howard J. Eglash.