Plaintiff was separated from the United States Army and subsequently filed for unemployment benefits. When he filed for benefits, he sought to include the amount of his prior military pay in the calculation. Former military service members, who served active duty, qualify for benefits under this system.
To qualify under the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service members Program, a service member must be (1) discharged under honorable conditions and (2) complete a full term of active service or meet certain exceptions. When an ex-service member applies for benefits, they must provide information regarding the length of their service and the reason for discharge.
In this case, the plaintiff did not complete a full first term of service. However, he could still qualify for benefits if he can demonstrate he served honorably for greater than 365 days and he was honorable discharged because of a “personality disorders or inaptitude.” There is a list of acceptable narrative reasons for separation based upon “personality disorders or inaptitude.” The Division was instructed to determine whether the plaintiff’s stated reason for separation “substantially matches” one of the reasons on the list. The plaintiff’s reason for separation was for “Misconduct / Drug Abuse” and the plaintiff argued that this is substantially similar to “Drug Rehabilitation Failure”, which is an acceptable reason.
The plaintiff demonstrated that he was honorable discharge, so he met the first requirement for benefits. However, the Claims Deputy denied the plaintiff’s claim finding that the plaintiff’s service did not meet one of the acceptable reasons for separation. The plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Referee who also denied him benefits without comparing the plaintiff’s reason for separation to the list of acceptable reasons. The plaintiff then appealed to the Board. The Board did compare the list of acceptable reasons to the plaintiff’s reason but did not compare the two to determine if there was a “substantial match.” The Board also denied the plaintiff’s claim, leading the plaintiff to file an appeal to the Superior Court.
The Court found that the Board committed legal error because the Board failed to compare the plaintiff’s reason for separation to the list of acceptable reasons. Further, the Court found the Board committed an additional error by declining to consider additional evidence to aid in making that decision. The Court reversed the Board’s decision and remanded the case back to the Board to consider evidence and make a factual finding whether the plaintiff’s reason substantially matches an acceptable reason.
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Isaiah Collins v. UIAB, No. K21A-10-001 JJC (Del. Super. March 29, 2022)