An Omaha senator seeks to limit or end the time many injured workers in Nebraska receive no workers’ compensation benefits due to insurance companies unfairly interpreting Nebraska case law about when payment for temporary disability benefits end and when payment for permanent disabiliy begins.
LB 526 introduced by State. Senator Mike McDonnell would add language to Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-121 that would continue temporary disability until the later of a) any permanent disability as measured by permanent impairment for a scheduled member disability has been determined or, in the event of a claim payable under a loss of earning power basis when a loss of earning power evaluation is complete or b) 30 days after the employee has been given notice of termination.”
The bill also requires employers to provide copies of evidence used to end temporary disability and give the employees the right to a medical examination at their employer’s expense in certain circumstances when temporary disability payments are halted.
The argument underlying the squeeze is that temporary disability ends when a doctor states a worker has plateaued medically. That means temporary disability benefits stop. But permanent disability has needs to be ascertained before permanent disability benefits start. This could mean waiting for a permanent impairment rating or it could mean waiting for an FCE, having a doctor endorse the results and then having a vocational counselor determine disability. This can take weeks or even months. If an employee isn’t working that means weeks or months without income. I think allowing insurers to exploit the gap between temporary and permanent disability is an incorrect reading of the law because doesn’t effectuate the beneficent purpose of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act to pay benefits in a timely manner to injured workers.
I also like the notice provision of the legislation. Once an injured worker starts receiving temporary disability benefits, they have some expectation that they will continue which would arguably create a constitutional property interest in continued receipt of those ongoing workers’ compensation benefits. Ending those benefits with no notice or explanation would arguably violate due process.
Critics of the legislation may point out there are cases involving multiple scheduled members that can also be paid on a loss of earning power basis which could cause uncertainty about the period of when temporary disability should continue. In such cases I believe that prompt payment of scheduled member impairments helps to eliminate the gap issue. However impairment ratings under the AMA 6thmay undercompensate injured workers and be less likely to address the gap issue.
In Nebraska, an injured worker who is laid off, fired or leaves a job for good cause can collect unemployment benefits and still receive Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits and Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance company. The Nebraska Labor Department unemployment law does not allow a worker to receive unemployment during the same week the person is paid Temporary Total Disability (TTD) workers’ compensation payments.
To receive unemployment benefits, the injured worker must be ready, willing and able to work. As long as injured worker is ready, willing and able to work within one’s own restrictions, that worker can receive unemployment benefits during the same week that they are entitled to TPD and PPD benefits.
If a person is totally unable to work and getting TTD benefits, that person cannot receive unemployment benefits since they, by definition, are not ready, willing and able to work.
Under the workers’ compensation laws, it is also important to remember that compensation benefits cannot be offset with what is paid under the unemployment benefits. For guidance, please refer to Nebraska Statute 48-130 that supports this rule of law.
If you have been laid off or terminated, you are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the above situations.
If you have any questions, call us for a free consultation.