State ex rel. Maria Tessier, Relator,
State Teachers Retirement System, Respondent.
C. Wilson, for relator.
Michael DeWine, Attorney General, John J. Danish, and Mary
Therese J. Bridge, for respondent.
1} Relator, Maria Tessier, has filed an original
action requesting this court issue a writ of mandamus
ordering respondent, State Teachers Retirement System, to
vacate a decision of the chair of the medical review board
declaring void relator's second or subsequent application
for disability benefits and to enter an order that the second
application be processed and considered.
2} Pursuant to Civ.R. 53 and Loc.R. 13(M) of the
Tenth District Court of Appeals, this court referred the
matter to a magistrate. On February 27, 2017, the magistrate
issued the appended decision, including findings of fact and
conclusions of law, recommending that this court issue a writ
of mandamus ordering respondent to vacate its decision
declaring that the second application is void and to consider
the application in due course. 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 contained therein. In
accordance with the magistrate's recommendation,
relator's request for a writ of mandamus is granted.
and BRUNNER, JJ., concur.
on February 27, 2017
MAGISTRATE KENNETH W. MACKE JUDGE.
4} In this original action, relator, Maria Tessier,
requests a writ of mandamus ordering respondent, State
Teachers Retirement System of Ohio ("STRS") to
vacate the September 2, 2015 decision of the chair of the
medical review board ("MRB") that declared void
relator's second or subsequent application for disability
benefits that was received by STRS on July 30, 2015, and to
enter an order that the second application be processed and
considered in due course. Findings of Fact:
5} 1. On May 19, 2014, relator completed a
disability benefit application on a form provided by STRS.
Relator indicated on the form that she had been employed by
the Olmsted Falls City Schools as a "speech language
6} Section 4 of the form asks the applicant to list
specific diagnoses or conditions that are causing disability.
In response, relator listed five diagnoses: (1)
"Fibromyalgia, " (2) "Depression and anxiety,
" (3) "Migraines and recent concussion, " (4)
"Hypothyroidism, " and (5) "Asthma."
7} Section 5 of the form asks the applicant to
identify her attending physician or physicians. In response,
relator identified Virginia Vatev, M.D., and clinical
psychologist Debra Goran, Ph.D.
8} 2. STRS received the disability benefit
application on May 22, 2014.
9} 3. Earlier, on April 21, 2014, Dr. Vatev
completed an "Attending Physician's Report" on
a STRS form. This was also received by STRS on May 22, 2014.
10} 4. On June 3, 2014, MRB Chair Earl N. Metz,
M.D., advised a four-month period of psychiatric treatment
before STRS proceeds with the disability benefit application.
11} 5. By letter dated June 4, 2014, STRS informed
The STRS Ohio medical qualification for disability states
that your condition must incapacitate you from the
performance of duty for at least 12 months from the date your
completed application was received. At this time the Medical
Review Board concluded that your condition might improve
within the 12 month period following receipt of your
After reviewing your attending physician report, the Medical
Review Board determined that you must secure psychiatric
treatment for four months before further consideration of
your application for disability benefits. The Retirement
System cannot assume financial responsibility for such
treatment. Following four months of treatment, you should
request your doctor to furnish this office with a report
regarding the treatment provided and progress you have made.
12} 6. On June 17, 2014, psychiatrist Diana Dale
completed an Attending Physician's Report. The form asks
the physician to identify the "[p]rimary medical
condition" for which treatment is being provided. In
response, Dr. Dale wrote "Severe Major Depression."
13} On the form, Dr. Dale certified that in her
opinion, relator is incapacitated for the performance of duty
and that the disability "may be" considered to be
permanent. STRS received Dr. Dale's report on June 23,
14} 7. By letter dated June 25, 2014, STRS informed
relator that her disability benefit application was being
processed. Relator was informed that STRS had selected
psychiatrist Joel Steinberg, M.D., and Deborah Venesy, M.D.
(physical medicine) to each perform an independent medical
15} 8. On July 9, 2014, at the request of STRS,
relator underwent a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation
performed by Dr. Steinberg. In his 22-page narrative report,
Dr. Steinberg states as follows beginning at page 21 of his
MENTAL STATUS EXAM:
APPEARANCE & BEHAVIOR: Ms. Tessier was clean and
well groomed. She had large eyes, giving her an attractive
appearance. She was wearing the knee brace on her left leg.
She hobbled as she walked, but she did not use ambulatory
aids. While seated, she sat with her left leg fully extended
at the knee with her foot resting on another chair. Other
than the fading skin rash and her moderate obesity, there
were no distinguishing physical characteristics. Ms.
Tessier's facial expressions included several episodes of
brief tearfulness and frequent socially-appropriate smiling.
Eye contact was good. Motor activity fell in the normal
range. There were no specific mannerisms.
SPEECH: Ms. Tessier's speech was clear and
offered at a normal cadence, pitch and volume. Although it is
true that she spoke Italian before English, English is also
one of her native languages. There were no traces of any sort
EMOTIONS: Ms. Tessier's mood was labile and
included, as mentioned, episodes of tearfulness. Her affect
was mood-congruent and appropriate.
THOUGHT: Ms. Tessier's thoughts were well
organized. There was a suitable abundance of ideas. No
pathologic associations were noted. In particular, there were
no distortions, delusions or ideas of reference. She did not
describe depersonalization events.
Ms. Tessier described her house as having been Martha Stewart
level of organization and cleanliness, suggesting that she
has some mild obsessive features, but none were apparent in
the interview. She did not describe any phobias. She clearly
has multiple and excessive somatic concerns. She did not
report suicidal and/or homicidal ideation.
PERCEPTIONS: Ms. Tessier did not report illusions or
SENSORIUM & INTELLECT: Ms. Tessier was alert.
She was fully oriented to time, place, person, situation and
circumstance. She transported herself from the Olmsted Falls
area to my office alone. Her concentration seemed okay. She
worked at a normal pace through the testing. She had arrived
at about 8:10 or 8:15 a.m., spent 85 minutes with me and left
the office at approximately 1 p.m. There were some
disturbances in the office while she was here, but she kept
working. Her memory for immediate, recent and remote events
appeared to be intact. Her fund of knowledge was good. Her
ability to abstract was estimated to fall at the higher end
of the average range or perhaps beyond that. Her judgment
about matters other than her health appeared to be sound. Her
insight was fair. Her attitude toward me was good.
DISCUSSION: Ms. Tessier has had psychiatric symptoms
for most of her life and she has been receiving mental health
care for most of her adult life. She herself views her most
pressing problem as that of fibromyalgia. In my opinion, she
has a chronic dysthymic problem with
superimposed episodes of Major Depressive Disorder,
but these problems have not prevented her from working in the
past. I believe that she is in a very difficult situation
struggling with management and having been
"demoted", as she put it. While it is easy to
understand why she might want to leave her position under
those circumstances, it does not appear to me that ...