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Claimant did not voluntarily remove himself from workforce; therefore, he is entitled to compensation for total disability following a recurrence.

January 19, 2018
State of Delaware v. Darren Archangelo, (C.A. No. N16A-09-004 JAP – Decided Aug. 9, 2017)

Both parties agreed that the claimant had proven a recurrence of his work-related disability. The narrow issue was whether the claimant had voluntarily withdrawn from the workforce during the period he was receiving partial disability. The court reasoned that it is not enough that the claimant does not look for work, but the employer must also show that the claimant is content with the retirement lifestyle. The court found that the evidence here did not establish that the claimant’s failure to look for work while partially disabled established, as a matter of law, that he was ineligible for total disability benefits. The court held that the absence of a job search by a claimant on partial disability status is an appropriate factor to consider in the voluntary removal from the workforce evaluation, but it is not dispositive as a matter of law. In reaching this conclusion, the court noted that the claimant, rather than attempting to undertake light-duty work while partially disabled, had spent time undergoing rehabilitation, which he believed was necessary to enable him to attempt to return to his career as a professional educator. The court also commented that the claimant was only 45 years old, which would be a comparatively young age for retirement. In addition, while receiving compensation benefits, the claimant had not received any other additional income, such as Social Security benefits or a pension. Therefore, the court reasoned that the overwhelming evidence, as found by the Board, supported the fact that the claimant did not voluntarily remove himself from the workforce. As such, the claimant was entitled to compensation for total disability following the recurrence when he underwent the surgery in November 2015. 

 

Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2018

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