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A Pre-existing Condition Does Not Bar a Claim for Accidental Disability Retirement Benefits

Hollup vs. Worcester Retirement Board

Robert Hollup applied for Accidental Disability Retirement benefits based upon a head injury he sustained at work when he fell off the back of a garbage truck. Hollup, who had suffered from depression prior to his work injury, claimed that his pre-existing depression was worsened by this injury and as a result he was unable to perform his former job.

A three-member medical panel agreed that Hollup’s depression was worsened by his work injury and this prevented him from returning to work in his prior position. In spite of this, the Worcester Retirement Board rejected Hollup’s claim and denied his application for Accidental Disability Retirement.  The Retirement Board continued to argue that Hollup’s inability to work was due to his pre-existing depression and not his work injury.

Hollup appealed the Retirement Board’s denial and a trial was held before an Administrative Judge. Based on Hollup’s testimony and the favorable medical panel,  the Judge reversed the Board’s denial and awarded Hollup Accidental Disability Retirement benefits.

The Worcester Retirement Board appealed the Judge’s decision on two grounds.  First, it alleged Hollup’s disability was due to his pre-existing condition. Second, it argued  that Hollup was not disabled by his depression on the day he last worked.  It argued that his condition worsened over time and did not become disabling until after he left his job due to his work injury.  The Retirement Board was successful on its appeal and Hollup was once again denied Accidental Disability Retirement Benefits.

Hollup ultimately appealed his case to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The Appeals Court found that Hollup’s credible trial testimony along the favorable medical panel was sufficient evidence to prove his case and awarded him benefits.

The Court also held that the retirement law does not require a person to be disabled by a condition on the last day he/she worked. If the condition worsens or progresses over time, and later becomes disabling, the injured worker can still claim that condition as the basis for a claim for Accidental Disability Retirement benefits.

 

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