Abstract

A 2005 Benefits Review Board decision by the US Department of Labor, Peter J. Desjardins vs Bath Iron Works Corporation affirmed a decision and order (2004-LHC-1364) regarding the utility of impairment rating critique. The administrative law judge credited the rating opinion of an expert physician reviewer (who had not seen the claimant) over that of the treating physician. The claimant's physician was awarded 20% upper extremity impairment, but, following the review and opinion of an expert reviewer, the award was reduced to 4%. The claimant appealed, largely on the argument that the expert reviewer had reviewed the report by the patient's physician, not the claimant himself and that the expert's opinion properly relied on the correct use of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides). The appeals judges noted that the administrative judge properly noted that the AMA Guides was suitable for use (and was the basis of the treating physician's award). The administrative law judge found that the expert reviewer's opinion was based on the specifics of the present case and on his knowledge and application of the AMA Guides, which together warranted determinative weight, based on the expert reviewer's credentials, experience, and well-reasoned opinion. This decision confirms that expert reviewers can provide evidence for the fact finder to evaluate the treating physician's opinion to determine if it is well reasoned and documented.

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