What is the Relationship between Disability Retirement and Workers’ Compensation?

To be eligible for Accidental Disability Retirement, a member must be (1) permanently and totally disabled from performing the essential duties of the job held at the time of the injury, and (2) this disability must have been work-related.  The ADR causation standard is as follows: the incapacity might be the natural and proximate result of a personal injury or hazard undergone.

 

To have a successful Workers’ Compensation case, a member must be (1) either partially or totally disabled from any gainful employment in the open labor market and not solely the job held at the time of injury, and (2) this incapacity must be causally related to work.

Although the legal standards are not exactly the same in ADR and Workers’ Compensation, both systems share the concept of work-related disability.  Often, when a member qualifies for accidental disability, he is also entitled to workers’ compensation.  The converse, however, is not necessarily true.  For instance, an employee with a temporary or partial disability will qualify for workers’ compensation but not for Accidental Disability Retirement.

If an employee is awarded both ADR and Workers’ Compensation benefits, the Workers’ Compensation case should be settled.  There is no financial incentive for a member to collect both ADR and Workers’ Compensation due to the offsets involved.  ADR pays 72% of an employee's regular compensation (plus an annuity).  If an employee receives both ADR and Workers’ Compensation, the employee would receive no more than 72% of the regular compensation (60% would be paid out of Workers’ Compensation and 12% would be paid out of Retirement).  An employee financially benefits from collecting the weekly benefit provided through ADR and then receiving a lump sum of money from her Workers’ Compensation case.  When a workers’ compensation case with a companion ADR case is settled, the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) generally requires that 20% of the lump sum amount to be allocated to the MTRS in lieu of its right of offset.

Lastly, an injured employee may be eligible for Ordinary Disability Retirement (ODR) if he is permanently and totally disabled from performing the essential functions of his job, but is unable to prove that his disability arose out of his employment.  An award of ODR calculates a member’s retirement benefits in accordance with his actual amount of creditable service but treats him as if he had attained age 55