Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ALJ Lesniak Finds DBA Psychological Injury Compensable, But Limits Award


Dr. Deol testified that it is reasonable for the Claimant to perceive the events experienced
during the course of his employment, including the attacks on the bases and viewing the bombed
out buildings, as stressful. (CX. 14, p. 21, lines 17-23). The emergence of the Claimant’s
symptoms is consistent with the events that he was exposed to during the course of his
employment in Iraq. (CX. 14, p. 23, lines 2-5). The Claimant’s symptoms in July 2011 were
consistent with those of someone who had been exposed to a war zone and were directly related
to his diagnosis. (CX. 14, p. 22, lines 6-25). Dr. Deol opined that the Claimant’s exposure to the
trauma and stressful conditions of his employment caused his current psychiatric illness,
including depression and post- traumatic stress disorder. (CX. 14, p. 23, lines 6-21).

Regarding Employer's expert psychologist:

Furthermore, Dr. Ricker had a limited understanding of the legal standard of causation
under the Defense Base Act. (EX. 11, p. 52, line 22 to p. 53, line 22). The Employer/Carrier did
not provide him with a definition of causation under the Defense Base Act. (EX. 11, p. 68, lines
16-21). Dr. Ricker could not state within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that the
stressors of the Claimant’s employment in Iraq did not cause his psychological condition. (EX.
11, p. 70, line 22 to p. 71, line 13). Dr. Ricker’s opinion is equivocal and, accordingly, the
Employer/Carrier has not submitted substantial evidence to rebut the Section 20(a) presumption
that the Claimant’s condition is work-related.

Regarding extent of disability:

In this case, Employer/Carrier has presented no evidence establishing the availability of
suitable alternate employment for the Claimant. In the absence of such evidence—and absent a
showing that Claimant has reached maximum medical improvement—Claimant is entitled to an
award or temporary total disability benefits from July 22, 2011 to the present and continuing
pursuant to the opinion of Dr. Deol. Additionally, Dr. Talib of the Canadian Specialist Hospital
recommended three weeks sick leave as of the Claimant’s hospital discharge on August 29,
2009. Accordingly, Claimant is also awarded temporary total disability benefits from August 29,
2009 through September 18, 2009.
I find, however, that Claimant is not entitled to disability benefits during the period of
September 19, 2009 through July 21, 2011. To begin with, there is no medical evidence
supporting a finding that Claimant was totally disabled during this time. Additionally, Claimant
traveled to Indonesia in February of 2010 and remained there for a year and four months before
returning to the United States, thus making himself unavailable for treatment by his domestic

Read Full Decision Awarding Benefits


  1. It is affordable for the Complaintant to view the events skilled during the program of his career, such as the strikes on the facets and watching the bombed out structures, as traumatic.

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