Ekdahl v. Independent School District #213

Ekdahl v. Independent School District #213, Case No. A14-0089 (Minn. 2014)

This and the Hartwig v. Traverse Care Center, Case No. A14-0090 (Minn.2014), the companion case, deal with the offset provision of Minn. Stat. §176.101, subd. 4, and whether the phrase “Old Age and Survivor Insurance benefits” applies to only Social Security retirement benefits under the federal Social Security Act, or whether it also applied to pension retirement benefits through the Teachers’ Retirement Association (TRA) and Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA).

The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the WCCA erred in applying an offset for these pension retirement benefits under Minn. Stat. §176.101, subd. 4, and indicated that the offset is only available when there is a disability pension or disability benefits being received by an injured worker.

The Court discussed the plain meaning of “Old Age and Survivor Insurance benefits” and found that the plain meaning only refers to the federal Social Security Act as originally enacted and as modified throughout the years since 1935.

The Court found that because Ekdahl was only receiving retirement benefits and not disability benefits from the TRA, the §176.101, Subd. 4 offset did not apply to the retirement annuity through TRA. The same conclusion was reached in the Hartwig case for PERA pension retirement benefits.

This means a worker may forego any disability benefits and instead seek retirement benefits so as to not create an offset of permanent and total disability benefits.