Carmen Torres sustained an admitted injury from a slip and fall accident in 2011 while working for the Santa Barbara Community College District.
She had dual employment at the time of her injury as a bilingual GED instructor at Santa Barbara Community College, and a teacher’s aide working for the Santa Barbara Unified School District as a bilingual assistant in special education classes. Applicant stopped working at both jobs after her industrial injury.
She testified that she last worked in 2011, and has retired, due to her industrial injury, and in part due to her need to help her daughter who has special needs, though she emphasized that caring for her daughter was not her primary motivation. She testified that she devotes four to five hours per day to her daughter. She now receives a pension.
Her treating physician returned her to work with restrictions, but the restrictions could not be accommodated. She has had no treatment since 2017. No doctor told her she could not return to gainful employment. She sought to return to employment as a translator, but could not type documents due to pain in her shoulders, low back, hands and wrists.
The WCJ awarded applicant 52% permanent disability. The rating added the right and left shoulder disability and combined them with the remaining disability.
The WCJ explained that in finding applicant was not permanently totally disabled, he found persuasive applicant’s testimony concerning the activities she performs for her daughter, indicating her ability to perform activities including driving, meal preparation, cleaning and laundry. He found applicant’s claim for permanent total disability not supported by the evidence. The WCAB agreed in the panel decision of Torres v Santa Barbara Community College District.
On reconsideration, Torres argued that this record justifies a finding that she is permanently totally disabled, without apportionment, based on a vocational rebuttal of the scheduled rating of her impairments. Secondly, she contends that her rating should be based on the addition of her impairments, rather than use of the CVC, because of a lack of overlapping disability in her injured body parts.
The panel affirmed the WCJ’s conclusion that applicant did not establish through vocational evidence that she has rebutted the scheduled rating of her permanent disability. And also concurred with the WCJ’s conclusion that applicant has not established a medical basis for rating her impairments, other than her shoulder disabilities, using the additive method recognized in Athens Administrators v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Kite) (2013) 78 Cal.Comp.Cases 213 (writ den).,rather than using the CVC.
Impairments may be added if substantial medical evidence supports a physician’s opinion that adding them will result in a more accurate rating of the applicant’s level of disability than the rating resulting from the use of the CVC. A physician’s opinion on the most accurate rating method should be followed if he provides a reasonably articulated medical basis for doing so. (De La Cerda v. Martin Selko & Co. (2017) 83 Cal. Comp. Cases 567 (writ den.).)
Applicant has not cited any medical reports that concluded that use of the CVC to combine her other impairments would not accurately reflect applicant’s overall disability. Dr. Gjerdrum testified that only the shoulder disability should be added, and that applicant’s neck and back disability should be combined. A WCJ cannot make the determination to add disability in the absence of a physician’s opinion that adding them will result in a more accurate rating of the applicant’s level of disability.