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In re Compensation of Batchler

Court of Appeals of Oregon

December 24, 2014

In the Matter of the Compensation of Tricia A. Batchler, Claimant. INTEL CORP., Petitioner,
v.
TRICIA A. BATCHLER, Respondent

Argued and Submitted June 5, 2014.

Workers' Compensation Board. 1103982.

Eric Miller argued the cause and filed the briefs for petitioner.

Ronald A. Fontana argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Ronald A. Fontana, P.C.

Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and Garrett, Judge.

OPINION

Page 838

[267 Or.App. 784] GARRETT, J.

This workers' compensation case involves a dispute over how long claimant is eligible to receive temporary disability compensation benefits while participating in vocational training programs. Resolving that dispute requires us to interpret two statutes. Under ORS 656.268(10), claimants who participate in vocational training are eligible to receive temporary disability compensation. Another statute, ORS 656.340(12), sets out a maximum of 16 months--which may be extended to a maximum of 21 months at the option of the insurer (or self-insured employer)--for the receipt of such benefits. At issue in this case is whether that maximum applies to the life of a claim, as employer argues, or whether the clock restarts each time a claimant begins a new vocational training program, as claimant argues and as the Workers' Compensation Board (the board) held below. Although we follow a different line of reasoning, we ultimately agree with the board's conclusion that claimant was entitled to a new period of temporary disability compensation when she began her new vocational training program. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the board.

The relevant facts are undisputed. Claimant has an accepted occupational disease claim for symptoms of pain in her hands and arms. Her claim was accepted by employer, which is self-insured, for bilateral forearm and hand tenosynovitis. That claim was closed on July 11, 2007, and claimant received a permanent disability award for a chronic condition. Claimant received all of the benefits pursuant to that award. She ceased working for petitioner in January 2008.

As part of her return-to-work training plan, claimant received vocational assistance through an Authorized Training Program (ATP) from March 31, 2008 through August 28, 2009. During that 17-month period, in accordance with ORS 656.268(10), employer paid claimant temporary disability compensation.[1] The ATP involved claimant's [267 Or.App. 785] taking classes toward a bachelor's degree at Marylhurst University. The claim was closed on June 30, 2010, with an award of temporary disability compensation for the period of the ATP.

Meanwhile, claimant had separately requested, on January 15, 2010, that the claims administrator accept an additional diagnosis. On July 20, 2010, the claims administrator issued a Modified Notice of Acceptance that accepted the additional condition of " overuse syndrome and tendonitis, bilateral arms." The claim was reopened for purposes of processing the newly accepted conditions.[2] The claim was closed on November 17, 2010.

Employer subsequently referred claimant to a vocational counselor. See ORS 656.340(1) (for the purposes of causing an eligible worker to be provided with " vocational assistance," an insurer or self-insured employer must contact a potentially eligible worker " for evaluation of the worker's eligibility for vocational assistance" ). In January 2011, that counselor recommended that claimant be found eligible, based on her newly accepted condition, for additional vocational assistance and training. On July 29, 2011, employer authorized a second ATP for claimant for the period from July 26, 2011 through July 25, 2012. The second ATP involved coursework at Marylhurst University and

Page 839

work experience at the Oregon Department of ...


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