A Trip Abroad Does Not Suspend Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Recently the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeals Board refused to allow an employer the right to suspend benefits to an injured worker while he was out of the country for five months. The original ruling by a workers' compensation judge held that benefits for the worker should be suspended until the worker returned to the country. Fortunately for the worker, he was able to obtain his suspended benefits on appeal.

The Appeals Board Reasoning

An individual receiving workers' compensation benefits can have those benefits suspended if he or she voluntarily leaves the workforce. One way a worker can do this is by leaving the country indefinitely. In this case, however, the Appeals Board ruled that there was no proof the employee was relocating or moving. The employee had advised his employer of the purpose of the trip, which was to visit family in India for five months. There was no evidence of the employee stating an intention of residing in India permanently. In fact, the employee advised the employer of the length of the trip as well as an intention to return to the U.S. upon completion of the trip.

How Does an Employee Lose Benefits Through Travel?

In Pennsylvania, workers are considered to have willfully removed themselves from the workforce by living abroad for an extended period or by failing to provide evidence that the leave of absence is temporary. A worker receiving benefits while abroad must also provide evidence that if he or she becomes aware of a position comparable to the workers' previous position, he or she would return to the United States.

How to Avoid Suspension of Benefits

There are situations that arise in life that may require an extended stay overseas. This does not necessarily mean workers' compensation benefits must end. Employees in need of an extended absence should be forthright with their employers and explain the situation. Communication regarding the intent to return to the country is essential to protecting your benefits. Those receiving workers' compensation in this situation should seek the help of a knowledgeable workers' compensation lawyer.

Where to Look for Help

A modification, suspension or termination of workers' compensation benefits can be devastating to the life of the injured worker. If an employer has claimed you voluntarily left the workforce, contact an experienced attorney to protect your benefits.