Permanent disability is defined as the inability of a worker to perform his job for more than 120 days (or 240 days, as the case may be), regardless of whether or not he loses the use of any part of his body.

Total disability, meanwhile, means the disablement of an employee to earn wages in the same kind of work of similar nature that he was trained for, or accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person of his mentality and attainments could do. Under Article 192 (c)(1) of the Labor Code, disability that is both permanent and total disability is defined as “temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided in the Rules.”

The case of Vergara vs. Hammonia Maritime Services, lnc. harmonized the provisions of the Labor Code and the AREC with Section 20 (B)(3) of the POEA-SEC (now Section 20 [A][3] of the 2010 POEA-SEC). Synthesizing the abovementioned provisions, Vergara clarifies that the 120-day period given to the employer to assess the disability of the seafarer may be extended to a maximum of 240 days.

The seafarer, upon sign-off from his vessel, must report to the company-designated physician within three (3) days from arrival for diagnosis and treatment. For the duration of the treatment but in no case to exceed 120 days, the seaman is on temporary total disability as he is totally unable to work.

He receives his basic wage during this period until he is declared fit to work or his temporary disability is acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the POEA Standard Employment Contract and by applicable Philippine laws.

If the 120 days initial period is exceeded and no such declaration is made because the seafarer requires further medical attention, then the temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists.

The seaman may of course also be declared fit to work at any time such declaration is justified by his medical condition.

In disability compensation, it is not the injury which is compensated, but rather it is the incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of one’s earning capacity.

(Sunit vs. OSM Maritime Services, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 223035, February 27, 2017)

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