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State high court rules for employer in comp benefits dispute

State high court rules for employer in comp benefits dispute

A West Virginia appeals court affirmed a decision denying workers compensation benefits to a retired employee receiving Social Security benefits.

The case began when Fouad Hassan, a long-time employee at Wheeling, West Virginia-based metals and mining product producer RG Steel Wheeling Inc., filed two applications to reopen his claim for permanent total disability, one on March 9, 2015, and one on June 16, 2015, according to the decision in Hassan v. West Virginia Office of Insurance Commissioner published by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on Thursday.

Over the years, Mr. Hassan suffered several compensable injuries, according to the decision. He retired on April 21, 2011, and began receiving Social Security disability benefits that same year and then Social Security retirement benefits in April 2015, after he reached age 66.

On July 10, 2015, the claims administrator denied Mr. Hassan’s permanent total disability application – a denial Mr. Hassan appealed to the Office of Judges, which also denied his appeal after determining he was no longer eligible for permanent total disability benefits and was barred from introducing evidence to show his disability.

Under West Virginia law, claimants cannot be awarded permanent total disability benefits if he or she terminates active employment and is receiving full retirement benefits under the Social Security Act, the court’s ruling noted.

“Because the evidence of record shows that Mr. Hassan terminated his active employment and is receiving full old-age Social Security benefits, it was appropriate to dismiss his claim for permanent total disability benefits,” the court said.

The facts and legal arguments were adequately presented, and the decision-making process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the court said in issuing its memorandum decision, which means the court’s ruling is not subject to appeal by the dissatisfied party.

A company spokesperson and an attorney for Mr. Hassan could not be immediately reached for comment.