Wednesday, September 08, 2010

UC - vol. quit - medical reasons - non-expert evidence

Visay v. UCBR - March 22, 2010 - unpublished memorandum opinion

The court held that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimant did not have to produce expert medical evidence to explain why she (temporarily) left her job, holding that "[t]here is no doubt Claimant here offered evidence which, if believed by the fact-finder, would have satisfied her burden to explain her motivation to leave her employment. Judd v. UCBR, 496 A.2d 1377, 1379 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1985) (citations omitted) (emphasis added); see also Steffy v. UCBR, 499 Pa. 367, 453 A.2d 591 (1982).

In Judd, the court said that "anxiety and emotional distress can be necessitous and compelling cause for terminating one’s employment, and … a claimant does not necessarily have to present expert medical evidence in order to establish that he had compelling medical reasons for terminating his employment, but instead may establish that fact by any competent evidence such as claimant’s own testimony and/or documentary evidence." (emphasis in original).

Thus, the Board erred in determining Claimant was required to present expert medical evidence to prove why she left her employment.

Claimant was a combat veteran who worked at transitional housing facility (THF) for homeless women veterans. The job required her to live at the facility. At some point, claimant suffered from her own PTSD problems and got extended off-site treatment at two other facilities. When she returned to work after treatment, the employer did not have any available positions, so she applied for UC.

At the hearing, she did not offer any expert medical evidence but testified and offered other evidence, which showed that she is a veteran; while at the THF, she saw a psychologist and underwent therapy in order to get her “life started over again”; both the program director and her psychologist suggested that she leave the House to partake in the out-of-state PTSD program “to deal with some of [her] traumatic issues.” This testimony explained Claimant’s subsequent actions and was not subject to a hearsay objection. It also shows communication between Claimant and Employer concerning her mental health problems. The record also contains a letter from a staff nurse at the PTSD facility, corroborating Claimant’s testimony that she was participating in the PTSD program. Plaintiff also testified that after the PTSD treatment, she got further treatment at a VA facility.

The court contrasted this case and the holding in Judd with the facts and opinion in Jordan v. UCBR, 684 A.2d 1096 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996), where the court held that the claimant "could not prove his mood disorder caused his unreasonable and unjustifiable conduct without offering expert testimony, and the claimant himself was not qualified to offer an expert opinion. . . .Unlike the claimant in Jordan, however, Claimant here did not assert that her mental health problem compelled an uncontrollable action or irresponsible decision, which was therefore not willful. These types of assertions clearly require expert opinion. Instead, Claimant here asserted advice for remote treatment resulted in her conscious, reasonable decision to seek that treatment. Accordingly, the Board’s reliance on Jordan is misplaced. Rather, in this case the Judd standard is appropriate for determining whether Claimant proved a compelling reason to leave her employment.