In the Matter of the Compensation of Sheila L. Minor, Claimant.
SAIF CORPORATION and Coos County, Respondents. Sheila L. MINOR, Petitioner,
and submitted October 11, 2016
Compensation Board 1401736;
Johnson argued the cause and fled the brief for petitioner.
Cupani argued the cause and fled the brief for respondents.
DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi,
seeks judicial review of an order of the Workers'
Compensation Board that upheld the denial of her occupational
disease claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The
board rejected the opinion of claimant's psychologist as
unreliable and therefore found that claimant had failed to
prove that her cognizable employment conditions were the
major contributing cause of her PTSD. Claimant argues that
the board's order is not supported by substantial
evidence or substantial reason. Held: The board's order
is not supported by substantial reason. The board did not
provide a rational explanation for finding the
psychologist's opinion unreliable on the ground that the
opinion was “lacking in explanation and analysis,
” had been based on an inaccurate history, or had
failed to account for noncognizable causative factors.
Or. 538] DEHOOG, P. J.
a 9-1-1 dispatcher, seeks judicial review of an order of the
Workers' Compensation Board that upheld the denial of her
occupational disease claim for post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). The board found that claimant had failed to prove
that her cognizable employment conditions were the major
contributing cause of her PTSD. Claimant argues that the
board had no grounds on which to reject the opinion of
claimant's psychiatrist and that, as a result, the
board's order is not supported by substantial evidence or
substantial reason. We conclude that the board's order
lacks substantial reason to support its finding that the
psychiatrist's opinion was unreliable and, accordingly,
reverse and remand.
applicable law is not in dispute. A claimant bears the burden
of proving that an injury or occupational disease is
compensable. ORS 656.266(1). Specific to occupational disease
claims, the claimant "must prove that employment
conditions were the major contributing cause of the
disease." ORS 656.802(2)(a). Mental disorder claims are
subject to additional requirements:
"(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this
chapter, a mental disorder is not compensable under this
chapter unless the worker establishes all of the following:
"(a) The employment conditions producing the mental
disorder exist in a real and objective sense.
"(b) The employment conditions producing the mental
disorder are conditions other than conditions generally
inherent in every working situation or reasonable
disciplinary, corrective or job performance evaluation
actions by the employer, or cessation of employment or
employment decisions attendant upon ordinary business or
"(c) There is a diagnosis of a mental or emotional
disorder which is generally recognized in the medical or
"(d) There is clear and convincing evidence that the
mental disorder arose out of and in the course of
Or. 539] We take the following historical and procedural
facts from the board's order and underlying record. Coos
County (employer) employed claimant for 28 years as a 9-1-1
dispatcher. In 1996, claimant filed a workers'
compensation claim for anxiety and depression that she
attributed to an incident in which she had dispatched
officers and a suspect had been shot. Claimant and
employer's insurer resolved that claim through a disputed
claim settlement (DCS). Then, in 2009, claimant sought
treatment for depression and told her doctor that she was
"under a lot of stress at work." Finally, in
December 2012, claimant began seeing a psychiatrist, Dr.
Reagan, who subsequently diagnosed claimant with PTSD and
other emotional disorders. According to Reagan's intake
notes, claimant reported that she was experiencing a number
of mental and physical symptoms, many of which had begun
after the 1996 shooting. Claimant also reported feeling
"singled out" by her supervisor, and Reagan's
subsequent chart notes indicated that claimant continued to
complain of "work stress, " along with various
specific symptoms. Reagan's chart notes from January 2013
specifically noted that claimant had reported two sources of
nonwork stress: caring for her terminally ill husband and
January 2014, claimant received a letter of reprimand from
her supervisor for an incident in which she had failed to
dispatch the fire department according to policy. Claimant
saw Reagan the next month, after which Reagan wrote:
"Work stress worsening. Written up. Possibly fired. * *
* PTSD nightmares worse. Reoccurring thoughts worse."
(Uppercase omitted.) Following that February 2014
appointment, Reagan sent a letter to employer excusing
claimant from work due to "work stress." In
response to Reagan's letter, claimant's supervisor
submitted an 801 claim form on claimant's behalf and
listed "work related stress" as claimant's
illness or injury Although Reagan's letter did not
specifically identify claimant's condition as PTSD, the
parties and the board have subsequently treated her
compensation claim as one for that particular disorder.
Or. 540] A second psychiatrist, Dr. Telew, evaluated claimant
at the request of SAIF, employer's insurer. Telew
diagnosed major depressive ...