Premature Closure

Kevin W. McClellan, 65 Van Natta 560 (March 14, 2013).  Claimant had an accepted injury claim for cervical, thoracic and lumbar strains. On May 9, 2011, Dr. Tran, attending physician, concurred with the opinion of an IME physician that all of claimant’s strains were medically stationary on April 25, 2011.  Shortly thereafter, Dr. Tran began recommending work hardening treatments.  The carrier closed the claim on December 7, 2011, with a medically stationary date of April 25, 2011.  An Order on Reconsideration extended claimant’s temporary disability award.  Claimant appealed from the reconsideration order, and the ALJ set aside the carrier’s closure on the basis Dr. Tran’s opinion established an expectation of material improvement in claimant’s accepted conditions with additional treatment (i.e., work hardening).

The Board reversed the ALJ, finding the claim closure was not premature.  The Board found Dr. Tran recommended physical therapy/work hardening for “deconditioning” to improve claimant’s ability to perform medium or heavy work.  Thus, the proposed treatment was recommended to improve claimant’s functioning, rather than with a reasonable expectation of material improvement in the accepted strain conditions.  The Board held claimant was medically stationary when the claim was closed on December 7, 2011.