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Davidson v. Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 16, 2017

REBECCA S. DAVIDSON APPELLANT
v.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/06/2016

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. TOMIE T. GREEN, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN T. BALL

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, JANE L. MAPP

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. In 2013, Rebecca Davidson applied for and was granted non-duty-related disability benefits from the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi (PERS). In 2014, PERS reexamined Davidson's claim, and the PERS medical board recommended that her benefits should be terminated because she was physically and mentally capable of returning to her employment. Davidson appealed to the PERS disability appeals committee (DAC), and the DAC also found that she was capable of returning to work and that her benefits should be terminated. The PERS board of trustees adopted the proposed opinion and recommendation of the DAC and denied her request for continued benefits. Davidson then appealed to the Hinds County Circuit Court, First Judicial District, which affirmed the decision of the board of trustees. Davidson appealed again to this Court, arguing that the agency's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Because PERS's decision is supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Davidson is a state employee with twelve years of state service. She was last employed as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator at the Natchez branch of Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Co-Lin). Her job involved meeting with students to determine their eligibility for assistance, conferring with instructors about students' needs, and monitoring students' progress. She was responsible for about fifteen students.

          ¶3. Davidson testified that in 2012 she began to miss work frequently because of mental health issues and "difficulties at home." She testified that she eventually sought treatment for her mental health issues at St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson because she was having suicidal thoughts. She testified that she was evaluated and that outpatient treatment was recommended. Davidson attended outpatient therapy with Dr. William Cook, a psychiatrist, for seventeen weeks starting in July 2012. Dr. Cook diagnosed Davidson with post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Davidson continued to see Dr. Cook periodically thereafter. Initially, she saw Dr. Cook every other week, but later she saw him only once per month, and at the time of the hearing in this matter she saw him only once every three months.

         ¶4. It appears that Davidson did not return to work at Co-Lin after July 2012. She terminated her employment at Co-Lin on December 10, 2012, and applied with PERS for non-duty-related disability benefits in January 2013. At the time, Dr. Cook certified that, in his opinion, Davidson was "unable to work at all" due to her mental health issues, severe mood swings, anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating. In her application, Davidson stated that she was unable to do anything "involving memory" or "being around people."

         ¶5. On April 25, 2013, PERS approved Davidson's application for non-duty-related disability with a reexamination after one year pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 25-11-113(3) (Supp. 2014).

         ¶6. In May 2013, Davidson presented at St. Dominic's emergency room. She exhibited symptoms of depression and expressed suicidal thoughts. In July 2013, Davidson was approved for Social Security disability benefits. That month she began seeing family therapist Mary Ann Simmons. She also continued to see Dr. Cook periodically. She testified that she became depressed and suicidal again in January 2014.

         ¶7. On April 24, 2014, PERS informed Davidson that her disability claim was scheduled for reevaluation and requested that she submit updated medical information and forms from her treating physicians. On June 12, 2014, Dr. Cook completed an updated "Statement of Examining Physician" (PERS Form DSBL 7). Dr. Cook indicated a primary diagnosis of "mild" bipolar disorder and a secondary diagnosis of "mild" ADHD. Dr. Cook further indicated that Davidson had reached maximum medical improvement, that she had no impairments or restrictions due to her condition, and that her prognosis for recovery was good. After ...


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