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Homeless comp claimant gets mileage pay

An employer must reimburse a claimant for mileage under a workers’ compensation award even though the claimant has no fixed residential address, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has ruled.

In a split decision released yesterday in Vann v. Martin Brower Center, the commission upheld a deputy commissioner’s award of $484.16 to a claimant injured in 2007 who has had no home since 2008.

Michael Anthony Vann testified that he lived out of his car. He used an address for a “Parcels, Etc.” business in Silver Spring, Md., where he received mail, as a standard address from which to calculate mileage for his medical and job-related appointments. It also was the address the commission used to send him mail.

Vann also provided the address of a church where he regularly attends services and sometimes parked his car for the night. But he testified that he did not park in the same place every night and preferred to choose different business locations because of concerns about his personal safety.

The majority opinion said the commission typically uses a claimant’s home address to calculate mileage, but “given the unusual facts of this case,” the commission did not think the deputy commissioner erred in awarding mileage reimbursement for public transportation or attempting to recognize a specified address as the starting point for mileage reimbursement.

The commission also approved reimbursement of Vann’s telephone calls at a rate of 50 cents per call, whether made from public phones or from Vann’s personal cell phone. He said he sometimes had to use public phones when he ran out of cell phone minutes on his personal phone.

Commissioner Roger Williams dissented on the mileage award. He pointed to the claimant’s testimony that he moved his car around and departed from multiple different sites when taking public transportation or driving his car, yet he consistently calculated mileage from one unrelated starting point.

Williams said it was “pure speculation” to award mileage on the evidence in this case.
By Deborah Elkins

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