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Continuing Psychiatric Condition Proved

The Court of Appeals affirms the commission decision reversing a deputy commissioner and awarding employee continuing medical benefits for a psychiatric condition resulting from his work-related injury in 1996; the commission properly considered the expert reports and determined employee met his burden of proof.

Employee, an assistant coal mine foreman, slipped and fell as he was walking in a mine in April 1996.  He was awarded temporary total disability and ongoing medical benefits.  Four months after his injury, in August 1996, an orthopedic surgeon referred him to a psychiatrist for depression.  Employee was hospitalized for depression and suicidal ideation in April 1997.  In July 1998 and early 1999, employee was prescribed medications for depression as part of his ongoing mental health treatment. He also saw a psychologist for more than seven years.  Employer requested independent medical examinations (IMEs) in 2004 and 2011; the IME physician concluded that employee was malingering; employee’s physicians and psychologist strongly disagreed; the IME physician prepared a supplemental report in May 2012, after employer stopped payments for the prescription medications in April 2012.  A deputy commissioner agreed with employer but the full commission reversed finding the medications were reasonable, necessary and causally related to employee’s work accident.

On appeal, employer contends the commission erred in failing to consider the IME physician’s supplemental report and improperly shifted the burden of proof to employer to negate causation.  We disagree and affirm.  Employer did not even specifically cite the supplemental report in its briefings to the commission, nor seek reconsideration on that basis.  We presume the commission thoroughly reviewed the record; there is no requirement to mention every scrap of evidence.  The commission discussed in detail the deputy commissioner’s decision that specifically mentions the supplemental report.  Unlike McMurphy Coal Co. v. Miller, 20 Va. App. 57 (1995), cited by employer, the commission did not refuse to consider relevant evidence.  Employer’s contention that the commission improperly shifted the burden of proof is not well founded.  The commission expressly found the employee met his burden of proof on causation.  We are not concerned with employer’s criticism of the commission’s opinion as not well-reasoned and lacking in detail; our review is for conformity to the law.

Judgment affirmed.

Island Creek Coal Co. v. King (McCullough) No. 1120-13-3, Dec. 17, 2013; Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, Nate D. Moore for appellants; Jeffrey M. Summers for appellee.  VLW 013-7-355(UP), 7 pp.

VLW 013-7-355

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