FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE THOMAS D. WINGATE,
JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-CI-00310
FOR APPELLANT: John Gray Frankfort, Kentucky.
FOR APPELLEES: Carrie Bass Frankfort, Kentucky.
BEFORE: DIXON, J. LAMBERT AND STUMBO, JUDGES.
Jett appeals from an order of the Franklin Circuit Court
which affirmed a decision of the Kentucky Retirement Systems
(hereinafter referred to as "Systems") to deny her
application for disability retirement benefits. We believe
the Kentucky Retirement Systems incorrectly denied Ms. Jett
disability retirement benefits; therefore, we reverse and
Jett worked for the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center. Her
last day of paid employment was on November 25, 2011. She
applied for disability retirement benefits on February 24,
2012. In her application, she alleged that she was disabled
due to major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"). Ms. Jett argued
that it was the cumulative effects of the depression and PTSD
that disabled her from returning to work.
Systems' medical examiners reviewed Ms. Jett's
application and medical records and denied her benefits. Ms.
Jett appealed and an administrative hearing was held. Ms.
Jett was the only person to testify. A hearing officer
rendered a recommended order in which she found that Ms. Jett
suffered from depression and PTSD for over a year after her
last day of paid employment. The hearing officer also found
that while Ms. Jett's conditions were disabling, the
disability was not permanent because she did not properly
comply with treatment recommendations by taking
anti-depressants, going regularly to counseling, and cutting
off contact to people who were exacerbating her condition.
The hearing officer recommended that the Board of Trustees of
the Kentucky Retirement Systems (hereinafter referred to as
"Board") deny her application for benefits. The
Board then adopted the hearing officer's recommended
order and denied Ms. Jett disability retirement benefits.
Jett then appealed the decision to the Franklin Circuit
Court. The court affirmed the decision of the Board and held
that while Ms. Jett suffered from PTSD and depression, her
disability was not permanent because she did not follow
through with her treatment plan during the year following her
last day of employment. This appeal followed.
Jett argues on appeal that the trial court and Board erred in
denying her disability benefits based on lack of permanency.
Ms. Jett claims that the disability retirement statutes do
not require one to obey treatment recommendations in order
for a disability to be deemed permanent, but that the
disability only need last for 12 months or more. Ms.
Jett's argument is well taken and we believe Ms. Jett
should be awarded disability benefits.
Court's standard of review for an administrative
adjudicatory decision is the clearly erroneous standard.
Stallins v. City of Madisonville, 707 S.W.2d 349,
351 (Ky. App. 1986). A decision is clearly erroneous if it is
not supported by substantial evidence. Id.
Substantial evidence is defined as evidence, taken alone or
in light of all the evidence, that has sufficient probative
value to induce conviction in the minds of reasonable people.
If there is substantial evidence to support the agency's
findings, a court must defer to that finding even though
there is evidence to the contrary. A court may not substitute
its opinion as to the credibility of the witnesses, the
weight given the evidence, or the inferences to be drawn from
the evidence. A court's function in administrative
matters is one of review, not reinterpretation.
Thompson v. Kentucky Unemployment Ins. Comm'n,
85 S.W.3d 621, 624 (Ky. App. 2002) ...