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JAMES L. MARTIN v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/07/83)

decided: July 7, 1983.

JAMES L. MARTIN, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, BUREAU OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation in case of In Re: Appeal of James Martin, dated May 19, 1982.

COUNSEL

James L. Martin, petitioner, for himself.

Marybeth A. Stanton, Deputy Attorney General, with her Mary Ellen Krober, Deputy Attorney General, Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, Chief of Special Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 404]

James L. Martin (petitioner) appeals an order of the State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation (Board) which upheld an action of respondent Bureau of Vocational

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 405]

Rehabilitation (Bureau) denying him vocational rehabilitation assistance in the form of financial aid for law school tuition. Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1945, Act of May 22, 1945, P.L. 849, as amended, 43 P.S. §§ 681.1-.11; Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 723(3).*fn1

The petitioner has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in remission. In 1980 he became enrolled in an accredited law school where he is still enrolled.*fn2 The Board found that: he had been graduated with honors from college; from 1975 until 1978, he worked on his parents' farm and on a copyright infringement case for a publishing company; from 1978 until 1980, he was employed on a salary and commission basis analyzing businesses and rendering tax advice; he voluntarily terminated this latter employment toward the end of 1979 but continued independently to do tax work for clients and he has continued to do such work throughout the time he has been in law school. The Bureau found him ineligible for vocational rehabilitation services. The Board, adopting a Hearing Examiner's Report, affirmed this determination on the basis that the petitioner had failed to establish that he suffers from a disability providing a substantial handicap to employment, and that vocational rehabilitation services would reasonably be expected to benefit him in terms of employability. The Board also agreed with the Hearing Examiner's conclusion that the petitioner was employed in a field consistent with his educational

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 406]

    background and skills when he voluntarily chose to terminate his employment and enroll in law school and that he is not a severely handicapped individual as defined by 45 C.F.R. § 1361.1.

The first issue raised before us by the petitioner is whether or not he has satisfied the conditions of eligibility for vocational services provided under the Rehabilitation Act,*fn3 and we note that this requires him to establish that he has a disability which constitutes a "substantial handicap to employment." 45 C.F.R. § 1361.33. Additionally, the Act requires him to establish that the assistance requested can reasonably be expected to benefit his "employability." Id. A "substantial handicap to employment" under the Act

     means that a physical or mental disability (in light of attendant medical, psychological, vocational, educational and other related factors) impedes an individual's occupational performance, by preventing his obtaining, retaining, or ...


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