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Court overturns school teacher's disability claim

In Dixon v. Public School Employees Rat. Bd., decided this week by the Court of Appeals, the Court reversed the trial judge's decision that a 22-year teacher was entitled to disability benefits.  The teacher was injured when he was shoved by a student.  He underwent surgery and physical therapy, but argued that he could no longer work because of back pain and post traumatic stress disorder.

The Board that administers the disability insurance sent Dixon to two doctors and a psychologist of its' choosing for an "independent medical examination."  Not surprisingly, the doctors the Board chose concluded that Dixon wasn't disabled, so the Board denied him disability benefits.  Dixon then deposed two of his doctors and asked the Board to reconsider its decision, taking into account the opinion of his treaters.  The Board refused to reconsider and Dixon then sued in Circuit Court, asking the Judge to make a decision taking into account all of the medical opinions.  The Judge ultimately concluded that Dixon was disabled and reinstated his disability pay.  The Board appealed and the Court of Appeals overturned Dixon's victory.  The high court ruled that the Board's "presiding officer" did not commit a "substantial and material error" in refusing to consider the deposition testimony of Dixon's treating doctors.

One can see the "shadow" of the imprint of former governor Engler all over this decision--from the composition of the Board and hearing officer to the composition of the Court of Appeals panel that made what was likely the final decision.

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