After a Pennsylvania man died on the job, his widow and two children were awarded a monthly benefit of $2,990. Workers’ compensation death benefits are available to surviving spouses and dependents of any worker who dies in a work related incident. The widow was also entitled to $1,881.25 per month, as a surviving spouse, from her late husband’s pension with the same employer.
Shortly after the two payments started, the employer notified the widow that it was reducing the workers’ compensation benefit by the amount that the widow was receiving in pension payments. The employer claimed that it was entitled to “offset” the monthly workers’ compensation payment by a portion of the pension benefits.
The widow appealed, and the court agreed with her. When an injured worker is receiving workers’ compensation benefits and also becomes eligible for pension payments, employers generally are entitled to offset the payments. But the court noted that Pennsylvania law does not have any similar offset provision for widows.
The employer argued that the widow was receiving more in combined benefits per year than her late husband would have received if he had survived. The court decided that the plain language of the workers’ compensation statute creates an offset for workers but not for their surviving spouses. Until the Pennsylvania Legislature amends the Workers’ Compensation Act, surviving spouses can collect both pension payments and workers’ compensation benefits without any offset or reduction.