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Vanguilder v. Department of Employment & Economic Development

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 9, 2013

Julie A. Vanguilder, Relator,
v.
Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 30166320-3

Julie A. Vanguilder, Poplar, Wisconsin (pro se relator)

Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent department)

Considered and decided by Stauber, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

STAUBER, Judge

In a certiorari appeal from a determination that relator is ineligible for unemployment benefits because she applied for social-security-disability-insurance (SSDI) benefits, relator argues that her case should be remanded to the unemployment-law judge (ULJ) to consider a letter from her physician stating his knowledge of her SSDI request. We affirm in part and reverse in part the determination of ineligibility, and remand for determination of when relator's physician became aware of the basis for her SSDI claim.

FACTS

Relator Julie A. Vanguilder was employed by Essentia Health in Duluth from March 2006 to March 2012. Relator worked as an accounting representative, performing various bookkeeping and office duties. Relator suffered from various medical problems, and in November 2011 she needed to undergo hip surgery. As a result of her surgery, relator was unable to work a full 40 hour week, and she subsequently ran out of medical leave. Thereafter, relator was terminated from employment.

Relator applied for and began receiving unemployment benefits on March 4, 2012. On March 26, 2012, relator submitted a letter from her surgeon to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), stating that she was able to work, provided she perform only sedentary work for no more than six hours per day. During the first week of July, relator applied for SSDI benefits. Relator was told that it could take up to six months to receive approval for SSDI benefits, so relator continued her job search, spending approximately 20 to 30 hours per week applying for jobs.

On September 13, 2012, DEED determined that relator was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she "failed to provide a medical statement from her medical professional[] who is aware of the basis for the [SSDI] claim, stating the applicant is able to work or able to work with restrictions." Relator was also deemed ineligible because she "also failed to provide evidence of suitable work search efforts." Relator appealed the determination, and a de novo hearing was held by telephone before a ULJ. Following the hearing, the ULJ affirmed the determination of ineligibility on the basis of her SSDI claim. The ULJ found that relator had provided a letter from her physician stating that she is available for suitable employment with restrictions; however, the ULJ also found that her physician was not aware of her SSDI claim or the basis of her claim as required by law. The ULJ also found that relator had demonstrated reasonable, diligent efforts at obtaining suitable employment, and was not ineligible for benefits on that basis.

Relator requested reconsideration of the ULJ's determination, and submitted an additional letter from her primary care physician. The letter states: "This letter is to ma[ke] you aware, that I have been the primary medical doctor for [relator] since August 2001. I am also aware, and supportive of, the fact she is apply[ing] for Social Security Disability." The ULJ affirmed the determination of ineligibility, concluding that this letter "would not likely change the outcome of the decision" because "[t]he doctor does not state that he is aware of the basis of [relator's] Social Security Disability claim and he does not certify that she is available for suitable employment." This certiorari appeal followed.

DECISION

On a certiorari appeal, this court may reverse, remand, or modify a decision of a ULJ "if the substantial rights of the petitioner may have been prejudiced because the findings, inferences, conclusions, or decision are . . . unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record." Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d)(5) (2012). "Substantial evidence is '(1) such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; (2) more than a scintilla of evidence; (3) more than some evidence; (4) more than any evidence; or (5) the evidence considered in its entirety.'" Dourney v. CMAK Corp., 796 N.W.2d 537, 539 (Minn.App. 2011) (quoting Minn. Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Minn. Pollution Control Agency, 644 N.W.2d 457, 466 (Minn. 2002)). "This court views the ULJ's factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision. This court also gives deference to the credibility determinations made by the ULJ." Peterson v. Nw. Airlines, Inc., 753 N.W.2d 771, 774 (Minn.App. 2008) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 1 2008). "A reviewing court accords deference to ...


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