Is a Totally Disabled Retired Employee Entitled to Payment of Workmen's Compensation ?

In Dugan v. Workmen's Comp. Appeal Bd. (Fuller Co. of Catasauqua), 131 Pa. Commw. 218, 569 A.2d 1038 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990), the totally disabled claimant testified he was not attempting to obtain employment because he was retired. The Court noted, "Although a claimant may continue to suffer a work-related physical disability, if that physical disability does not occasion a loss of earnings, then payment of workmen's compensation must be suspended." Dugan, 569 A.2d at 1041. The Court concluded the claimant's loss of earnings was due to his voluntary withdrawal from the labor market upon his retirement rather than his injury and affirmed the suspension of benefits. Similarly, in Vitelli v. Workmen's Comp. Appeal Bd. (St. Johnsbury Trucking Co.), 157 Pa. Commw. 589, 630 A.2d 923 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993), the claimant testified he did not intend to look for work because he was retired, although he also testified he would try a light-duty job if his physician advised him to do so. The Court applied Dugan and noted the employer was under no burden to demonstrate available jobs because the claimant had no intention of looking for work. The Court concluded the claimant voluntarily removed himself from the work force by retiring, and we affirmed the suspension of benefits. Pertinent to the current dispute, the Court stated: If we were to accept Vitelli's argument, retirement would become a guarantee for the continuing receipt of benefits. Further, once a claimant has removed himself from the work force, it would be pointless for the employer to provide available work or show that there has been a change in condition. If we accept Vitelli's position as law, a flood gate of individuals receiving compensation might retire in order to maintain compensation indefinitely. Id. 630 A.2d at 925.