Utah Admin. Code R612-200-5 - Permanent Total Disability
Current through Bulletin No. 2021-18, September 15, 2021
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A. This rule applies to claims for permanent total disability compensation under the Utah Workers' Compensation Act.
1. Subsection B applies to permanent total disability claims arising from accident or disease prior to May 1, 1995.
2. Subsection C applies to permanent total disability claims arising from accident or disease on or after May 1, 1995.
B. For claims arising from accident or disease on or after July 1, 1988 and prior to May 1, 1995, the Commission is required under Section 34A-2-413, to make a finding of total disability as measured by the substance of the sequential decision-making process of the Social Security Administration under Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, amended April 1, 1993. The use of the term "substance of the sequential decision-making process" is deemed to confer some latitude on the Commission in exercising a degree of discretion in making its findings relative to permanent total disability. The Commission does not interpret the code section to eliminate the requirement that a finding by the Commission in permanent and total disability shall in all cases be tentative and not final until rehabilitation training and/or evaluation has been accomplished.
1. In the event that the Social Security Administration or its designee has made, or is in the process of making, a determination of disability under the foregoing process, the Commission may use this information in lieu of instituting the process on its own behalf.
2. In evaluating industrial claims in which the injured worker has qualified for Social Security disability benefits, the Commission will determine if a significant cause of the disability is the claimant's industrial accident or some other unrelated cause or causes.
3. To make a tentative finding of permanent total disability the Commission incorporates the rules of disability determination in 20 CFR 404.1520, amended April 1, 1993. The sequential decision making process referred to requires a series of questions and evaluations to be made in sequence. In short, these are:
a. Is the claimant engaged in a substantial gainful activity?
b. Does the claimant have a medically severe impairment?
d. Does the impairment prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work?
e. Does the impairment prevent the claimant from doing any other work?
4. After the Commission has made a tentative finding of permanent total disability:
a. In those cases arising after July 1,1994, the Commission shall order initiation of payment of permanent total disability compensation;
b. the Commission shall review a summary of reemployment activities undertaken pursuant to the Utah Injured Worker Reemployment Act, as well as any qualified reemployment plan submitted by the employer or its insurance carrier; and
c. unless otherwise stipulated, the Commission shall hold a hearing to consider the possibility of rehabilitation and reemployment of the claimant pending final adjudication of the claim.
5. After a hearing, or waiver of the hearing by the parties, the Commission shall issue an order finding or denying permanent total disability based upon the preponderance of the evidence and with due consideration of the vocational factors in combination with the residual functional capacity which the commission incorporates as published in 20 CFR 404 Subpart P Appendix 2, amended April 1, 1993.
C. For permanent total disability claims arising on or after May 1, 1995, Section 34A-2-413 requires a two-step adjudicative process. First, the Commission must make a preliminary determination whether the applicant is permanently and totally disabled. If so, the Commission will proceed to the second step, in which the Commission will determine whether the applicant can be reemployed or rehabilitated.
1. First Step - Preliminary Determination of Permanent Total Disability: On receipt of an application for permanent total disability compensation, the Adjudication Division will assign an Administrative Law Judge to conduct evidentiary proceedings to determine whether the applicant's circumstances meet each of the elements set forth in Subsections 34A-2-413(1)(b) and (c).
(a) If the ALJ finds the applicant meets each of the elements set forth in Subsections 34A-2-413(1)(b) and (c), the ALJ will issue a preliminary determination of permanent total disability and shall order the employer or insurance carrier to pay permanent total disability compensation to the applicant pending completion of the second step of the adjudication process. The payment of permanent total disability compensation pursuant to a preliminary determination shall commence as of the date established by the preliminary determination and shall continue until otherwise ordered.
(b) A party dissatisfied with the ALJ's preliminary determination may obtain additional agency review by either the Labor Commissioner or Appeals Board pursuant to Subsection 34A-2-801(3). If a timely motion for review of the ALJ's preliminary determination is filed with either the Labor Commissioner or Appeals Board, no further adjudicative or enforcement proceedings shall take place pending the decision of the Commissioner or Board.
(c) A preliminary determination of permanent total disability by the Labor Commissioner or Appeals Board is a final agency action for purposes of appellate judicial review.
(d) Unless otherwise stayed by the Labor Commissioner, the Appeals Board or an appellate court, an appeal of the Labor Commissioner or Appeals Board's preliminary determination of permanent total disability shall not delay the commencement of "second step" proceedings discussed below or payment of permanent total disability compensation as ordered by the preliminary determination.
(e) The Commissioner or Appeals Board shall grant a request for stay if the requesting party has filed a petition for judicial review and the Commissioner or Appeals Board determine that:
(i) the requesting party has a substantial possibility of prevailing on the merits;
(ii) the requesting party will suffer irreparable injury unless a stay is granted; and
(iii) the stay will not result in irreparable injury to other parties to the proceeding.
2. Second Step - Reemployment and Rehabilitation: Pursuant to Subsection 34A-2-413(6), if the first step of the adjudicatory process results in a preliminary finding of permanent total disability, an additional inquiry must be made into the applicant's ability to be reemployed or rehabilitated, unless the parties waive such additional proceedings.
(a) The ALJ will hold a hearing to consider whether the applicant can be reemployed or rehabilitated.
(i) As part of the hearing, the ALJ will review a summary of reemployment activities undertaken pursuant to the Utah Injured Worker Reemployment Act;
(ii) The employer or insurance carrier may submit a reemployment plan meeting the requirements set forth in Subsection 34A-2-413(6)(a)(ii) and Subsections 34A-2-413(6)(d)(i) through (iii).
(b) Pursuant to Subsection 34A-2-413(4)(b) the employer or insurance carrier may not be required to pay disability compensation for any combination of disabilities of any kind in excess of the amount of compensation payable over the initial 312 weeks at the applicable permanent total disability compensation rate.
(i) Any overpayment of disability compensation may be recouped by the employer or insurance carrier by reasonably offsetting the overpayment against future liability paid before or after the initial 312 weeks.
(ii) An advance of disability compensation to provide for the employee's subsistence during the rehabilitation process is subject to the provisions of Subsection 34A-2-413(4)(b), described in subsection 2.(b) above, but can be funded by reasonably offsetting the advance of disability compensation against future liability normally paid after the initial 312 weeks.
(iii) To fund an advance of disability compensation to provide for an employee's subsistence during the rehabilitation process, a portion of the stream of future weekly disability compensation payments may be discounted from the future to the present to accommodate payment. Should this be necessary, the employer or insurance carrier shall be allowed to reasonably offset the amounts paid against future liability payable after the initial 312 weeks. In this process, care should be exercised to reasonably minimize adverse financial impact on the employee.
(iv) In the event the parties cannot agree as to the reasonableness of any proposed offset, the matter may be submitted to an ALJ for determination.
(c) Subsections 34A-2-413(7) and (9) require the applicant to fully cooperate in any evaluation or reemployment plan. Failure to do so shall result in dismissal of the applicant's claim or reduction or elimination of benefit payments including disability compensation and subsistence allowance amounts, consistent with the provisions of Section 34A-2-413(7) and (9).
(d) Subsection 34A-2-413(6) requires the employer or its insurance carrier to diligently pursue any proffered reemployment plan. Failure to do so shall result in a final award of permanent total disability compensation to the applicant.
(e) If, after the conclusion of the foregoing "second step" proceeding, the ALJ concludes that successful rehabilitation is not possible, the ALJ shall enter a final order for continuing payment of permanent total disability compensation. The period for payment of such compensation shall commence on the date the employee became permanently and totally disabled, as determined by the ALJ.
(f) Alternatively, if after the conclusion of the "second step" proceeding, the ALJ concludes that successful rehabilitation and/or reemployment is possible, the ALJ shall enter a final order to that effect, which order shall contain such direction to the parties as the ALJ shall deem appropriate for successful implementation and continuation of rehabilitation and/or reemployment. As necessary under the particular circumstances of each case, the ALJ's final order shall provide for reasonable offset of payments of any disability compensation that constitute an overpayment under Subsection 34A-2-413(4)(b).
(g) The ALJ's decision is subject to all administrative and judicial review provided by law.
D. For purposes of this rule, the following standards and definitions apply:
1. Other work reasonably available: Subject to medical restrictions and other provisions of the Act and rules, other work is reasonably available to a claimant if such work meets the following criteria:
a. The work is either within the distance that a resident of the claimant's community would consider to be a typical or acceptable commuting distance, or is within the distance the claimant was traveling to work prior to his or her accident;
b. The work is regular, steady, and readily available; and
c. The work provides a gross income at least equivalent to:
(1) The current state average weekly wage, if at the time of the accident the claimant was earning more than the state average weekly wage then in effect; or
(2) The wage the claimant was earning at the time of the accident, if the employee was earning less than the state average weekly wage then in effect.
2. Cooperation: As determined by an administrative law judge, an employee is not entitled to permanent total disability compensation or subsistence benefits unless the employee fully cooperates with any evaluation or reemployment plan. The ALJ will evaluate the cooperation of the employee using, but not limited to, the following factors: attendance, active participation, effort, communication with the plan coordinator, and compliance with the requirements of the vocational plan. In determining if these factors were met, the ALJ shall consider relevant changes in the employee's documented medical condition.
3. Diligent Pursuit: The employer or its insurance carrier shall diligently pursue the reemployment plan. The ALJ will evaluate the employer or insurance carrier's diligent pursuit of the plan using, but not limited to, the following factors: timely payment of expenses and benefits outline in the vocational plan, and as required by the educational institution providing the vocational training, communication with the employee, compliance with the requirements of the vocational plan, and timely modification of the plan as required by documented changes in the employee's medical condition.
4. Resolution of disputes regarding "cooperation" and "diligent pursuit": If a party believes another party is not cooperating with or diligently pursing either the evaluations necessary to establish a plan, or the requirements of an approved reemployment or rehabilitation plan, the aggrieved party shall submit to the workers' compensation mediation unit an outline of the specific instances of non-cooperation or lack of diligence. Other parties may submit a reply. The Mediation Unit will promptly schedule mediation to reestablish cooperation among the parties necessary to evaluate or comply with the plan. If mediation is unsuccessful, a party may request the Adjudication Division resolve the dispute. The Adjudication Division will conduct a hearing on the matter within 30 days and shall issue a written decision within 10 days thereafter.