Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions
- Chronic pain
- Psychotraumatic disability
The worker suffered a low back injury in August 2002, for which she was granted a 25% NEL award. Later, the Board granted entitlement for chronic pain disability, and replaced the 25% NEL award for organic impairment with a 35% NEL award for chronic pain disability. The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for psychotraumatic disability and incontinence and denying LOE benefits after August 2004. The worker submitted that she should have entitlement for psychotraumatic disability rather than chronic pain disability. The worker noted that she had a significant organic impairment and that there were reports of psychiatric disorders. The Vice-Chair noted that the medical reports of psychiatric illness all assumed that the worker had a significant organic back condition. The worker was granted a 25% NEL award for organic impairment but, looking at the NEL assessment, the worker's presentation of symptoms was described as pain affecting the lower back and lower extremities with severe numbness suggesting significant neurological compromise. However, contemporaneous medical evidence showed that the organic pathology was limited to some facet joint arthritis. Nothing in the contemporaneous evidence showed disc or structural injuries causing sufficient neurological compromise to explain the extensive pain and numbness in the lower extremities. The Vice-Chair concluded that the preponderance of medical evidence showed that the worker developed a significant pain condition as a result of the compensable accident. This pain condition deteriorated significantly over time with no organic explanation. The Board appropriately characterized the worker's condition as a chronic pain disability and not a psychotraumatic disability. The worker did not have separate entitlement for incontinence. There was no organic cause for the incontinence. Rather, it was part of the chronic pain condition. On the evidence, the worker was not unemployable. She was entitled to a work transition assessment, and to partial LOE benefits based on deemed earnings until the assessment takes place. The appeal was allowed in part.