The Employee appeals the compensation judge’s denial of vocational benefits and finding that the Employee’s consequential mental health injury had resolved by July 22, 2021.
The Employee sustained a burn injury to his hand on April 20, 2021 while working as a traveling field engineer installing and maintaining high voltage battery systems. The Employee’s burn injury resolved no later than May 12, 2021. The Employee also claimed consequential mental health injury as he experienced flashbacks, anxiousness, cold sweats, trouble sleeping, and panic feelings.
The Employee began treating with a psychologist in June 2021. It is noted the employee had a significant history of mental health treatment including treatment for depression anxiety, attention deficit issues, and suicidal ideation.
The Employee also had a rehabilitation consult on July 22, 2021 where it was found the Employee was qualified for services, and that based on his symptoms he should not return to his employer as it exacerbated his mental health condition. Ultimately, rehabilitation services were not rendered as the Employee conducted a job search on his own and began no work at no wage loss in November 2021.
The Employer and Insurer obtained an IME from Dr. O’Neil who found the Employee did not sustain a consequential mental health injury but rather a continuation of his anxiety that he had prior to the work injury.
The Employee’s treating provider issued a responsive narrative report in February 2022 finding the incident aggravated his symptoms and resulting in the inability to complete the work safely. At this time he also placed the Employee at MMI.
At Hearing, the compensation judge found the Employee did sustain a consequential mental health injury, though it was found to be temporary and have resolved on July 22, 2022. This was based on the last time the work injury was a significant concern. The judge then denied any wage loss from that point on and denied payment for the rehabilitation consult.
On appeal, the Employee argued that the judge’s findings were inconsistent with the evidence shown.
The WCCA found in favor of the Employee. The WCCA opined that the judge had found the injury to have resolved July 21, 2021 because it was the last time the work injury was a significant concern, yet medical records from August 31, 2022 discuss the Employee reported continued flashbacks. The WCCA found that the inconsistencies could not be reconciled and this issue was remanded for adoption of findings consistent with the evidence.
The WCCA also found that the judge erred in denying payment for the July 22, 2021. The WCCA found that the judge had said the Employee was disabled through July 22, 2021 and therefore was still disabled when the rehabilitation consult took place. Therefore, that finding was inconsistent and unsupported.
Takeaway: Generally, on appeal a decision will not be overturned that is supported by substantial evidence. When substantial evidence does not support a decision, there is a basis to appeal a decision.