ECC grants retired miner additional benefits from ailment due to earlier work related injury

The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) recently granted additional EC disability benefits to a miner retiree due to lumbar spine disease in relation to his previous work related disability but denied his disability benefits for his non-work connected hypertension, cervical disc disorder and hearing loss.

Henario Guiniawan worked for a mining company in Itogon, Benguet for almost 28 years up to his retirement in December 2012.  He worked as a miner and an underground general electrician. His responsibilities included repairing, maintaining and installing electrical equipment such as generators, transformers and machineries at the mine site.

Sometime in April 1996 while working, Guiniawan experienced severe back pain after lifting a heavy iron beam at his work-place. However, he did not seek medical attention until December of the same year. In February 1997, he was admitted at the Saint Louis University Sacred Heart Hospital due to severe back pain. He was diagnosed to be suffering from Lumbar Disc disease.

The Social Security System (SSS) found Guiniawan’s illness work related and was granted 16 months Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits which took effect in July 1997. He retired in December 2012 at age 60.

In August of 2015, Guiniawan was admitted at the Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital in Baguio City due to hypertension, hearing loss and lower back pain. During the physical examination, it was noted that he can walk normally but had difficulty in jumping and jogging due to weakness and pain. Upon discharge from the hospital, Guiniawan filed for additional EC disability benefits.

However, his additional claim for benefits was denied by the SSS on the ground that there was no noted permanent impairment of body functions or progression of his illness.

On appeal, the ECC ruled in favor of Guiniawan because his current condition arose from his work-related injury in 1997.

Thus, the ECC decided to grant Guiniawan additional 22 months of EC PPD benefits in accordance with the EC Schedule of compensation on spine but his claim for hypertension, cervical disc disorder and hearing loss was denied on the grounds of no causal relationship and/or no employer-employee relationship.

The ECC, an agency attached to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), reviews cases denied by the SSS and GSIS on appeal.

ECC grants EC benefits based on incidental findings

The Employees’ Compensation Commission has recently ordered the grant of EC disability benefits to Elena F. Chua, a 56-year old Population Program Officer at the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office of Catbalogan City, Samar.

On 19 October 2013, Chua was diagnosed to have Spondylolisthesis. In November 2013, after the onslaught of typhoon “Yolanda”, Chua was involved in the distribution of relief commodities in Samar until she was hospitalized on 4 October 2014 due to Hypertension.

On 3 February 2015, Chua filed for EC disability benefits at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Catbalogan Branch due to Spondylolisthesis. She contracted the said condition in 2009 when she accidentally slipped on the pavement of wet stairs of the seaport and plunged directly into sea after she was instructed to travel by motorboat to Talalora, Samar to conduct Responsible Parenting Movement-Natural Family Planning classes.

However, the GSIS denied her EC claim on the ground that her claim had already prescribed.

Thus, Chua filed an appeal to the ECC.

On 20 June 2016, Chua received a letter from the ECC requesting her to submit additional documents since she was diagnosed in 2014 to be suffering from Hypertension that can be traced back as a result of her assignment in the distribution of relief commodities for the victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013.

Under Item No. 29 of Annex A of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation, hypertension, classified as “primary” or “essential” is considered compensable if it causes impairment of function of body organs like kidneys, heart, eyes, and brain, resulting in any kind of disability, subject to the submission of medical records.

The ECC ruled on the compensability of Chua’s hypertension, even if it is not the original basis of her EC claim and was just an incidental finding. This move is based on the ECC’s Policy on Evaluation of Incidental Findings, under Board Resolution No.  10-05-65, which provides that when the disease or injury being claimed has been declared to be not work-connected but findings are also made that the employee has suffered, or is suffering from other work-connected diseases, such incidental findings shall also be evaluated.

In its decision, the Commission recognized the fact that the rigors of almost daily travel by land and water to reach the typhoon victims in the coastal municipalities and far flung areas of Samar may no longer be easy for a 56-year old ailing female government employee. The performance of her tasks could have weakened her resistance and affected her physical condition until she experienced dizziness, headache, and high fever, which are symptoms of Hypertension.

The ECC modified the GSIS’ decision and granted EC disability benefits to Chua plus reimbursement of medical expenses incurred for consultations, including maintenance medications, due to her hypertension. However, her EC disability benefits claim due to Spondylolisthesis was denied on the ground of prescription.

Strict rules of evidence need not be observed in claims for compensation, says ECC

The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) accepted the sufficiency of secondary evidence as it recently awarded disability benefits to a seaman.

Francis P. Ariola served as Second Engineer of M/V Phoenix Nereid under Great Southern Maritime Services Corporation. He was responsible for the overhauling of, and repair work to the main engine, boilers, auxiliaries, electrical equipment, deck machinery, cargo pumping plant, lifeboat motors, emergency fire pumps, and emergency generators.

On October 20, 2014, he was admitted in a hospital in Australia due to sudden weakness on the left arm. He was diagnosed to be suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT); Hereditary Protein S Deficiency. Based on his Discharge Referral Note, it was noted that his ailment is likely secondary to trauma from manual labor.

Because of his medical condition, he was repatriated to the Philippines on 23 October 2014. Upon arrival, he was brought to the UST Hospital. Medical abstract revealed that Ariola experienced swelling over his left neck and pain on left upper limb after manual work. His doctor also certified that he suffered from blunt trauma to the left side of the neck and upper thorax resulting in Deep Vein Thrombosis and possible injury to the cervical spine. The doctor also stated that this happened while he was working as a seaman and that the damage is permanent and requires medications.

Ariola filed SSS and EC benefits claims. He was granted with SSS sickness benefit but was denied the grant of EC disability benefits since he was not able to submit relevant documents such as Job Description and Master’s Report, or any record from the company narrating in detail the alleged trauma he suffered while on board a ship, to prove causal relationship between his job as a seaman and his illness.

On appeal, the ECC decided to award disability benefits to Ariola.

According to the ECC, in the absence of primary evidence such as the Master’s Report or any company record showing that he sustained an injury while performing his duties while on board a vessel, submission of secondary evidence would suffice as strict rules of evidence need not be observed in claims for compensation.

Thus, the ECC gave credence to the medical findings that Ariola suffered trauma while onboard a vessel and that this incident may have caused or contributed to the manifestation of his DVT.

The Commission ordered the grant of EC disability benefits to Ariola and reimbursement of medical expenses due to his work-connected ailments.