Have you ever had a Claimant allege that he or she is entitled to permanent total disability benefits and move to a new community before any determination can be made? If so, you are probably wondering whether to use the community where the Claimant was injured or the new community when determining potential job opportunities that would allow the Claimant to get back into the workforce. The job search question gets more difficult when the Claimant moves from a populated area to a rural area with less work opportunities.
The short answer is that you use the Claimant’s current community when determining potential available jobs the Claimant could perform. In Reede v. State Dept. of Transp., 2000 S.D. 157, 620 N.W.2d 372, the claimant lived and worked in the Black Hills at the time she was injured. After her injury, the claimant did not seek additional employment, instead choosing to home school her daughter. Prior to hearing, the claimant moved several times, either to follow her family or to find work, and she eventually followed her sister to Montana, where she lived with her sister. The claimant was able to show that, while in Montana, she unsuccessfully attempted to obtain employment. The main question for the Court was whether the claimant’s Montana residence should be used for the purposes of determining whether there was available employment within her community such that she could secure more than sporadic employment. The Court held that, because the Department of Labor had found that the claimant’s move was not specifically intended to withdraw herself from the workforce or to aid in obtaining benefits, but instead was a good faith move based on financial necessity, the Montana residence should be used as the claimant’s “community” for the purposes of determining her eligibility for workers compensation benefits.
So, unless there is a showing that the Claimant moved for purposes of withdrawing from the workforce in order to obtain aid in obtaining benefits, you must look to the Claimant’s current community when determining whether jobs are available. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.