HOFFMANN LAW FIRM, PC

TERMINATION OF WEEKLY BENEFITS:

Q: An employee of ours who has been receiving weekly workers' compensation benefits has been released for return to work by the treating physician, but has not done so. Can we terminate these weekly benefits as of the doctor's release date?

A: No.

Generally, once weekly temporary total disability (TTD) benefits have been commenced, such benefits may be terminated only when the employee has returned to work, although not necessarily for the same employer or at the same job they were doing at the time of injury, or, if, and only if, the employee is medically capable of return to employment substantially similar to that being done at the time of injury, and upon thirty (30) days' notice stating the reason for the termination and advising the employee of the right to file a claim with the Workers Compensation Commissioner. Failure to give the required notice may result in a substantial penalty.

As of July 1, 2008, benefits paid in another State or country constitute weekly benefits for the purposes of the Iowa statute of limitations and the provisions for notice of termination.

Weekly benefits for any permanent partial disability (PPD) are to commence at the close of healing period(HP). If there is permanent disability there should be NO GAP between payment of healing period benefits and payment of PPD benefits. And, the same thirty (30) days' notice stating the reason for the termination and advising the employee of the right to file a claim with the Workers Compensation Commissioner is required when PPD is going to be stopped.

Also, if an employee refuses to submit to a medical examination scheduled by the employer (or its representative), such refusal, "shall suspend the employee's right to any compensation for the period of the refusal. Compensation shall not be payable for the period of suspension." This has, however, also been held to require the thirty (30) days' notice, and only suspends payment for the period of the refusal.

And, if, a temporarily partially disabled (TPD) employee refuses to accept "suitable work" offered by the employer, the Iowa Workers' Compensation laws state that, "the employee shall not be compensated with temporary partial, temporary total, or healing period benefits during the period of refusal." However, if the work offered is later found to have not been suitable, penalties will be awarded. Therefore, we do recommend that thirty (30) days' notice be given so the employee may have the opportunity to raise this issue before benefits are in fact suspended.

If you, as an employer/insurance carrier, or employee, have questions regarding termination, or suspension, of weekly benefits, you should consult your insurance representative, or attorney.

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