Does Impairment Mean That You Are Unable to Work (According to the AMA Guidelines) ?

In Schachter v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (SPS Technologies), 910 A.2d 742 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006), a claimant was found to be 6 percent impaired, but subsequently underwent an independent medical examination (IME) that revealed a full recovery. Claimant argued that the employer could not seek a termination of his benefits because his impairment was "reasonably presumed to be permanent" under Section 306(a.2)(8)(i) of the Act. The Court rejected this argument, explaining that an impairment determination under the AMA guidelines (American Medical Association "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment") does not mean that a claimant is unable to work. The Court also explained that "the impairment rating evaluation (IRE) remedies...are in addition to, not a replacement of, the remedies available to an employer who believes that an employee's loss of wages is not the result of a work-related injury." Id. at 746. Thereafter, the Court issued Weismantle, 926 A.2d 1236. In that case, during a pending termination proceeding, the claimant reached 104 weeks of total disability. He attended an IRE and was found to have a 10 percent impairment rating. The claimant argued that the termination petition was mooted by the subsequent IRE finding of a 10 percent impairment. the Court held otherwise. Section 306(a.2)(1) requires an employer to request an IRE within 60 days following 104 weeks of total disability, or it loses the opportunity to change the claimant's benefit status to partial. Indeed, "there is no exception from this deadline for the case where a termination or other petition is pending." Weismantle, 926 A.2d at 1240. The Act does not establish a logical timeline between an IRE and a termination. Although such a timeline may be desirable, it is "not possible given the strict statutory deadlines that govern an IRE." Id.