Benefits: Rehabilitation Benefits: Rehabilitation Panel

Ross v. State Fund [2/28/96] 1996 MTWCC 2 WCC reversed DOL decision adopting recommendation of rehabilitation panel that claimant could return to a related occupation suitable to his education and marketable skills. Where the case was submitted to the hearing officer on exhibits, depositions and briefs, the WCC was not required to defer to the hearing officer's determination of facts and was in as good a position as the department to review the evidence. The DOL decision was clearly erroneous in light of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence. In particular, the hearing officer's reliance on the written opinions of one doctor was misplaced where a contrary and more persuasive opinion was given by a physician who treated claimant over several years, and who testified at deposition. Moreover, the hearing officer's decision relies upon claimant's ability to perform a dispatcher position, which the rehabilitation panel itself concluded he was not able to perform.

Rich v. State Compensation Ins. Fund [12/20/95] 1995 MTWCC 108 Section 39-71-1011, MCA (1987), et seq., requires rehabilitation services for disabled workers, including a rehabilitation panel designed by the DOL, and DOL hearing procedures, with the right of appeal of the DOL determination to the WCC. Where the rehabilitation procedures were invoked, and are still pending, claimant may not circumvent those procedures by filing a permanent total disability petition in the WCC.