APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-000812-WC
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD NO. 13-WC-00049
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Thomas Wayne Moak Moak & Nunnery,
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, ENTERPRISE MINING CO., LLC: Hugh
Brettelle Stonecipher Tighe A. Estes Fogle Keller Purdy, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Andy Beshear
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Ray Ballou has a
radiographic classification of category 1/1 coal workers'
pneumoconiosis (CWP) with spirometric test values that exceed
80%. Based on those findings, the ALJ awarded Ballou
retraining incentive benefits (RIB). However, because of
Ballou's advanced age, the ALJ found that Ballou could
not receive those benefits unless he participated in an
approved retraining or educational program. Ballou challenges
the constitutionality of the RIB statute's age
classifications. Having reviewed the record and the arguments
of the parties, we affirm the holding by the Court of Appeals
that those age classifications are constitutional.
parties do not dispute the underlying facts. Ballou, who was
born on June 10, 1942, has a 9th grade education
and has not received his GED. He worked as an underground
coal miner from 1982 until 2012 and was 69 years of age when
last exposed to coal dust. Ballou timely filed his
occupational disease claim, and the parties filed various
medical reports in support of and in opposition to that
claim. Based on the evidence, the ALJ found that Ballou has
category. 1/1 coal workers' pneumoconiosis but no
breathing impairment, and the ALJ awarded benefits pursuant
to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 342.732(1)(a). However,
because Ballou was more than 65 years of age, the ALJ
determined that Ballou could only receive those benefits if
he participated in an approved retraining or educational
program. As noted above, the only issue before this Court is
whether the age classifications in KRS 342.732 violate
Ballou's right to equal protection. We set forth
additional background information as necessary below.
STANDARD OF REVIEW.
issue Ballou raises is one of law, which we review de
novo. See U.S. Bank Home Mortgage v. Schrecker, 455
S.W.3d 382, 384 (Ky. 2014).
342.732 provides in pertinent part as follows:
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter,
income benefits and retraining incentive benefits for
occupational pneumoconiosis resulting from exposure to coal
dust in the severance or ...