BOWENS V. KENTUCKY RETIREMENT SYSTEMS
EMPLOYMENT: CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF DISABLING CONDITIONS; PROBATIVE VALUE OF TREATING VS. EXAMINING PHYSICIAN IN DISABILITY CONTEXT
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART & VACATING AND REMANDING IN PART (MOORE)
DATE RENDERED: 5/4/2007
The Court of Appeals reversed the Franklin Circuit Court in a disability retirement case. This decision held that the denial of disability benefits by the Kentucky Retirement Systems was arbitrary in that it failed to consider the cumulative effects of a variety of ailments on the claimant’s ability to return to work. It affirmed the Court of Appeals in holding that the Hearing Officer can deny submission of the Social Security Disability decision into the record. Finally, it adopts the long standing “treating physician” rule used in the Social Security Disability context for retirement cases, holding that the claimant’s treating doctor’s opinion holds more weight than the non-examining doctors who give opinions on disability for the retirement systems. This case is a departure from the usual substantial evidence standard that has ordinarily been applied. However, the Kentucky Retirement systems regularly uses non-examining general practitioners to support its denials of disability benefits in spite of the opinions of treating doctors who are specialists in their fields. The denial of consideration of the award of Social Security Disability has always been based on the legal fiction that the SSD standard is different than that of the Kentucky Retirement System. That is true, but the Social Security Disability standard is more stringent than the KRS standard, as it is based on the inability to perform any substantial gainful employment. KRS disability only depends on being unable to return to one’s last employment with the state, so a fortiori a claimant who qualifies for SSD ought to qualify for disability retirement.
Digested by Peter Naake.