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State ex rel. Showman v. State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

May 11, 2017

The State ex rel. Rebecca Showman, Relator,
State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Respondent.

         IN MANDAMUS

          The Bainbridge Firm, and Carol L. Herdman, for relator.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, John J. Danish, and Mary Therese J. Bridge, for respondent.


          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Relator Rebecca Showman has filed an original action requesting this court issue a writ of mandamus ordering respondent State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio to vacate its February 18, 2016 decision denying relator's application for disability benefits and to grant the application.

         {¶ 2} This matter was referred to a magistrate of this court pursuant to Civ.R. 53 and LocR. 13(M) of the Tenth District Court of Appeals. The magistrate issued the appended decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, recommending this court deny relator's request for a writ of mandamus. No objections have been filed to that decision.

         {¶ 3} Finding no error of law or other defect on the face of the magistrate's decision, this court adopts the magistrate's decision as our own, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law. In accordance with the magistrate's decision, we deny relator's requested writ of mandamus.

         Writ of mandamus denied.

          KLATT and BRUNNER, JJ., concur.


         Rendered on January 31, 2017

         IN MANDAMUS



         {¶ 4} In this original action, relator, Rebecca Showman, requests a writ of mandamus ordering respondent, State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio ("STRS"), to vacate its February 18, 2016 decision that denies relator's application for a disability benefit, and to enter a decision that grants the application.

Findings of Fact:

         {¶ 5} 1. On September 3, 2014, relator completed an application for a disability benefit on a form provided by STRS. On the form, relator indicated that she is employed by the North Fork Local School District as a fifth grade teacher.

         {¶ 6} Section 4 of the form asks the applicant to list specific diagnoses or conditions that are the cause of disability and that will incapacitate the applicant for the performance of the applicant's most recent STRS position for at least 12 months from the date the application is received. In response, relator listed three conditions: (1) clinical depression, (2) panic disorder/anxiety, and (3) social phobia.

         {¶ 7} Section 5 of the form asks the applicant to identify the attending physician. Relator identified Dr. Donald DeShetler.

         {¶ 8} 2. On August 31, 2014, Dr. DeShetler completed an STRS form captioned "Attending Physician's Report." Dr. DeShetler indicated that he specializes in "Family Practice."

         {¶ 9} The form asks the attending physician to certify whether the applicant is incapacitated for the performance of duty and whether disability is considered permanent. In the space provided, Dr. DeShetler wrote that disability "may be" considered permanent.

         {¶ 10} 3. By letter dated September 10, 2014, STRS informed relator:

We received an Attending Physician's Report from Dr. Donald DeShetler, recommending that you do not meet STRS Ohio's definition of disability. Therefore, your application for benefits cannot be processed.
* * *
In order to continue processing your current disability application, we will need an Attending Physician's Report, completed by a psychiatrist (M.D. or D.O.) within 30 days of this letter.

         {¶ 11} 4. On October 6, 2014, psychiatrist Sahaja Reddy, M.D., completed an STRS attending physicians report. In response to the forms query, Dr. Reddy certified that relator is incapacitated for the performance of duty and that the disability is expected to last 12 or more months. Dr. Reddy's report was received by STRS on October 8, 2014.

         {¶ 12} Attached to Dr. Reddy's report is a three-page September 15, 2014 report of certified nurse practitioner ("CNP") Laura Davis regarding relator's treatment at Dublin Springs. CNP Davis' report states:

The patient had first presented to the Intensive Outpatient Program for Mental Health on September 10, 2014, with symptoms of high anxiety and panic with agoraphobia as well as major depressive disorder symptoms. She was evaluated by myself on September 10th and I had recommended to her at the time to be reassessed for the Partial Hospitalization Program. She reports today that she was reluctant to do so, but her husband had told her to follow whatever guidelines the staff here had set out for her, and so she did present for reassessment to the Partial Hospitalization Program. The patient reports that she has been depressed and anxious for many years. However, her anxiety has turned to panic in the last couple years due to changes instituted at her job as an elementary school teacher. She is very unhappy about new state testing requirements and the reports she has to prepared [sic] as well as the evaluation criteria she is submitted to. This apparently has caused her a great deal of distress and makes her feel as though it is impossible for her to work. * * * On her admission to the Intensive Outpatient Program, I took a great deal of time with her to explain that she needed more medication. She had been seeing her primary care physician who had prescribed her 0.5 mg of Klonopin 2 times daily and nothing else. * * * She did agree to be prescribed Remeron and initially I had wanted to start her on 15 mg. Her note from the Intensive Outpatient Program states 15 mg. However, at the last minute, the patient had changed her mind and wanted to try only 7.5 mg. She reports her sleep was great the first night as it had been very disordered prior to taking the Remeron, but she now reports she is back to frequent awakenings about 6 times a night, though she is able to go back to sleep fairly quickly. She reports no suicidal ideation today and last experienced suicidal ideation on Friday after seeing me for assessment for the Intensive Outpatient Program. She reports the impetus for her suicidal ideation is worrying about the financial burden she is placing on her husband if she is to go through with the disability. The patient seems a good deal calmer today but reports her anxiety is still at an 8/10, which is down from 10/10 last Friday. She reports her depression is a 7/10.
* * *
Mood is depressed and anxious. The patient is not tearful today as she had been last Friday. Thought content is without suicidal ideation, but last experienced on September 10th. She denies any history of homicidal ideation or psychotic symptoms. Thought processes remain hopeless, helpless, and infused with anxiety. The patient is also perseverated [sic] on whether or not to leave her job as a teacher. Recent and remote memory are impaired with increase in her mood symptoms. Attention and concentration are likewise impaired with an increase in her mood symptoms. Associations are intact. General fund of knowledge is average to above average. Judgment is fair at best. Insight is rather poor.
1. Major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, without psychotic features.
2. Generalized anxiety disorder.
3. Panic disorder with agoraphobia.
AXIS II: Deferred.
1. Hypertension.
2. Premature ventricular contractions with anxiety and stress.
AXIS IV: Severe occupational stress.
AXIS V: Global Assessment of Functioning is 39.
* * *
TREATMENT AND DISCHARGE PLAN NEEDS The patient is admitted to Dublin Springs Hospital Partial Hospitalization Program where she will take part in all group activities and therapy at the direction of the mental health group therapist. The patient's Remeron will be increased to 15 mg daily and possibly 30 mg daily if her symptoms do not improve. I will consider the addition of an antidepressant if her anxiety abates further and she is still experiencing high depressive symptoms or a return of her suicidal ideation.

         {¶ 13} 5. By letter dated October 14, 2014, Earl N. Metz, M.D., the chair of the Medical Review Board ("MRB"), informed relator:

Acting on behalf of the Medical Review Board, I have advised a period of psychiatric treatment for [six] months prior to the determination of disability. This is based on the current information in the medical records which indicate disability for psychiatric reasons. I have determined that medical treatment offers a reasonable expectation of correction or rehabilitation of the disabling condition to the extent that the applicant could be expected to be capable of performing teaching duties within a reasonable time, but not to exceed six months as allowed in Section 3307.62 of the Ohio Revised Code.

         {¶ 14} 6. By letter dated October 14, 2014, STRS informed relator:

After reviewing your attending physician reports, the Medical Review Board determined that you must secure psychiatric treatment for six months before further consideration of your application for disability benefits. The Retirement System cannot assume financial responsibility for such treatment. Following six months of treatment, you should request your doctor to ...

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