Under Section 213 of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act, employees are entitled to up to 520 weeks of lost time benefits when their incapacity is partial (they remain able to work) and their whole person permanent impairment does not exceed statutory thresholds. Once permanent impairment below the threshold is established and 520 weeks of benefits have been paid, an employer is entitled to unilaterally discontinue partial incapacity benefits being paid voluntarily or to seek a Board Order allowing it to discontinue benefits being paid under a Board-ordered payment scheme.
Before discontinuing benefits in either scenario, employers need to be aware that the Board’s Rule Ch. 2(5)(1) requires them to send written notice of the discontinuance to the employee at least 21 days before the expiration of benefits.
The Board requires that the following paragraph be included in the notice verbatim:
If you are experiencing extreme financial hardship due to inability to return to gainful employment, you may be eligible for an extension of your weekly benefits. To request such an extension, you must file a Petition for Extension of Benefits within 30 calendar days of the date that benefits expire, or, in cases where the expiration date is contested, within 30 calendar days of a final decree as to the expiration date.
Notice must be sent even if a decree finds that a discontinuance is in order! Please keep in mind that failure to send the required notice will automatically extend an employer’s obligation to pay lost time benefits for the period that the notice was not sent.
We urge employers and insurers to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to send the required notice to employees whenever benefits are discontinued due to the expiration of the Section 213 durational cap.