Under Illinois’ workers’ compensation statutes, injured employees can obtain benefits through their employer’s insurance company if they are hurt while on the job. But what about injuries that occur while someone is fully employed, but have latent effects that do not arise until post-retirement? Also, what about long-term disability caused by employment activities? Is an injured employee out of luck? The quick answer is ‘not necessarily’, as the statutes do not prohibit post-retirement awards. Obtaining these benefits, and deciding whether it is a good idea to do so, may be a bit more complicated, however.
Two common scenarios for post-retirement workers’ compensation include the following: 1) the employee was injured while he/she was a full time employee, but the injury did not present itself until post-retirement; and 2) the employee was injured while a full-time employee who was close to retirement, and the injury was so severe so as to cause the employee to no longer be able to perform the duties of his or her position. The latter scenario recently made headlines on a federal level when it was discovered that the federal employee retirement system allows for some retirees to choose between their government annuity and workers’ compensation benefits. While some call for reform of the federal system, it is important for any federal employee close to retirement age to consider all their options, including one that may provide greater monthly payments than their current pension benefits. It should be noted that even non-governmental employees are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and if a work-related injury is sufficient to cause a permanent disability, employers must meet their obligations under this statute – i.e. reasonable accommodations.
The other category of post-retirement workers’ compensation benefits is more likely to affect a wider cross-section of retirees. If a person who is close to retirement is injured while on the job, and receives workers’ compensation benefits, it may be tempting to officially retire. The employee is no longer going into work, and he or she has a retirement account that can provide them with monthly benefits without the need for continuing appointments to determine if he/she can return to work. This option is definitely available to any employee who is eligible for retirement, but caution should be used. One question that they may wish to ask (of themselves and counsel) is whether they are healed to the point of ‘maximum medical improvement’ and what effect this designation can have on any future benefits. In Illinois, it may mean that your employer can offset (or reduce) your retirement benefits by the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that you are collecting.
If you or someone you know has been injured in the workplace and is close to retirement, contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. in Antioch today and speak to one of our professionals about your situation. Our lawyers have extensive experience with the Illinois workers’ compensation system. We can answer your questions, provide guidance, or represent you if necessary to ensure that you receive the benefits that you deserve.