The Utah Supreme Courton Friday declared unconstitutional a statute that reduces workers' compensation benefits for people over the age of 65 who qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

The so-called offset statute provides that after an individual has received six years of workers' compensation, the compensation is reduced by 50 percent of the amount of Social Security benefits being received. The high court said the statute discriminates against such individuals on the basis of age.

The case involves a man who was forced to stop working in 2001 because of a back injury. He was awarded permanent and total disability benefits of about $1,700 per month.

The following year, the man turned 65 and began receiving Social Security benefits of about $1,100 per month. But because of the offset statute, the man's total monthly compensation was going to be cut in 2007 from $2,800 per month to about $2,250.

In 2006, the state Labor Commission refused to review the constitutionality of the statute, and the Utah Court of Appeals upheld the commission's decision. Friday's decision by the Supreme Court reverses the appeals court.

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