Switch from Total to Partial doesn’t Violate Pa. Officer’s Constitutional Rights

25 Jan, 2024 Frank Ferreri


Philadelphia, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- While an injured worker certainly has an interest in receiving her workers' compensation benefits, does she have a vested property interest in them?

Not according to the court in Farmbry v. City of Philadelphia, No. 1359 C.D. 2022 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 01/18/24, unpublished), which ruled that a police officer's constitutional rights weren't affected when her benefits were modified.

The officer sustained work-related injuries to her left elbow, forearm, shoulder, and rotator cuff. The city issued a Notice of Compensation Payable and amended NCPs, which recited a weekly compensation rate of $995 and that the city paid salary continuation benefits in lieu of workers' compensation.

Later, the parties executed a supplemental agreement modifying the officer's compensation rate to $258.39 due to her return to work at light duty.

Some four years after her injury, the officer received a whole-person impairment rating of 16 percent. The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board modified the officer's total disability benefits to partial on the basis of an impairment rating evaluation pursuant to Pennsylvania's Act 111. The officer appealed to court, contending that Act 111 was unconstitutional.

In particular, the officer argued that the board's application of Act 111 deprived her of her "due process rights to the property interest in her benefits."

Under Act 111, where a claimant has collected total disability for 104 weeks, she may be required to undergo an impairment rating. Unless the claimant has an impairment of at least 35 percent, the claimant’s disability benefits can be modified to partial disability.

The court rejected the officer's argument that she had a vested right to total disability benefits. Pennsylvania law provides that a workers' compensation judge "may, "at any time, modify, reinstate, suspend, or terminate a notice of compensation payable."

The court explained that it had previously held that a claimant had no vested right to workers' compensation benefits, since there were "reasonable expectations under the Act that benefits may change."

As a result, the court upheld the board's ruling that affirmed the WCJ's decision to modify the officer's workers' compensation benefits from total to partial.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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