ALJ Can Determine Audiogram Reliability For Special Fund Relief

In an unpublished decision, the Ninth Circuit found that an audiogram not provided to the Claimant within thirty days of its administration could establish evidence of the amount of hearing loss sustained on a particular date for the purposes of Section 8(f) relief. 33 U.S.C. §908(f) (2011). Under 33 U.S.C. §908(c)(13)(C) and 20 C.F.R. § 702.321(a)(1), preexisting hearing loss must be documented as required by 20 C.F.R. § 702.441. Section702.441(b) states that an audiogram shall be presumptive evidence of the amount of hearing loss on the date it was administered if it meets certain requirements, including the requirement that the employee must be provided with the report within thirty days of the administration of the audiogram. The court held that while the plain language of the statute and regulations establish a safe harbor for employers seeking to use the audiogram as presumptive evidence of hearing loss for Section 8(f) relief, an administrative law judge retains the discretion to certify that the audiogram is "reliable and probative" evidence for Special Fund relief. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review of the administrative law judge's findings on that issue. Dir. OWCP v. Matson Terminals, Inc., No. 09-72979, 2011 WL 2689355 (9th Cir. 2011) (unpublished).

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