In a decision that stretches the bounds of legal reasoning, the Industrial Claim Appeals Office recently issued an opinion holding an Administrative Law Judge’s order finding a claim not compensable did not deny the claimant a benefit. Abenth v. Northside Christian Church, W. C. No. 4-893-024 (September 12, 2013). The court recognized that the statute permits appellate review only of decisions which award or deny benefits. The Panel then reasoned that, because the claimant did not request any specific benefit, rather requesting only a finding of “compensability”, the Administrative Law Judge’s order denying compensability did not deny any specific benefit.
With such inane proclamations as “an order which denies all benefits when there are no benefits requested, actually denies no benefits,” it becomes apparent the Panel is using the decision as a soap box to express its displeasure with “tension existing throughout the statute.” Regardless of the reasons for the Panel’s absurd holding, workers’ compensation practitioners need to be aware that proceeding to hearing on the issue of compensability only will not result in an appealable award, whether the case if found compensable or not.