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Gray v. Montana State Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

January 30, 2014

CHARLES GRAY Petitioner
v.
MONTANA STATE FUND Respondent/Insurer.

Submitted: December 23, 2013

ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary: Petitioner began receiving social security retirement benefits at age 62, but continued to work. He subsequently suffered an industrial injury for which he has reached MMI. Petitioner contends that he only received "partial" social security benefits and that he is entitled to PTD benefits until he reaches the age of "full retirement." Respondent contends that Petitioner is considered "retired" under § 39-71-710, MCA, and that he is therefore ineligible for PTD benefits.

Held: Section 39-71-710, MCA, provides that injured workers are considered retired if they receive social security retirement benefits or if they are eligible to receive full social security retirement benefits. This provision of the statute is framed in the disjunctive. Under the terms of this statue, if an injured worker is either eligible to receive full social security retirement benefits or actually receives social security retirement benefits in any amount, the worker is considered retired. Since Petitioner received social security retirement benefits, even though they are not "full" benefits, he fulfills the requirements of the statute and is considered "retired." He is therefore not eligible for PTD benefits.

¶ 1 On September 25, 2013, pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, this Court ordered that this matter be submitted for resolution on briefs.[1] On December 23, 2013, the parties completed the briefing and this matter was submitted for decision.[2]

¶ 2 Issue Presented: The parties present the following issue for resolution:

Whether Respondent Montana State Fund (State Fund) may disallow Petitioner Charles Gray's request for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits because Gray was already receiving partial social security retirement benefits prior to his industrial injury.[3]

STIPULATED FACTS[4]

¶ 3 Charles Gray's date of birth was 5/17/49. At the time of the subject industrial injury, he was 63 years of age.

¶ 4 Charles Gray elected to receive partial Social Security retirement benefits before the subject injury. He started receiving partial Social Security Retirement benefits in February, 2012.

¶ 5 On June 19, 2012, Charles Gray had the present industrial injury arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment with Patricia Compton in Browning, Glacier County, Montana.

¶ 6 At the time of the injury, Charles Gray's employer was enrolled under Compensation Plan III of the Montana Workers' Compensation Act, so its insurer is the Montana State Fund.

¶ 7 The Montana State Fund accepted liability for Charles Gray's industrial injury, and it paid medical benefits, temporary total disability benefits, and a two percent (2%) whole person impairment benefit.

¶ 8 The parties stipulate that on October 30, 2012, Charles Gray reached Maximum Medical Improvement ("MMI"), as declared by his treating physician, Dr. K. Allan Ward.

ΒΆ 9 As of the date of MMI, based on a preponderance of the medical and vocational evidence, the parties stipulate that Charles Gray was permanently totally disabled as ...


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