Court reverses denial of State employee's retirement benefits.
Michael Nason applied for non-work related retirement disability benefits after suffering a severe fracture to his lower ankle. His doctor concluded that he could no longer work as a correction officer--a position he had held for 17 years. When he applied for a disability retirement, however, the State Board having jurisdiction over payment reversed the magistrate's decision and denied Nason benefits. It concluded that while he was disabled from his DOC job, he was not "totally incapacitated." The Court of Appeals overturned the Board's decision, pointing out that the clear language of the statute compelled the Board to apply a standard of disability for the claimant's actual State job--not a requirement that he be totally incapacitated from any job. In support of this conclusion, the three judges pointed to a statutory scheme that allows a "disabled" state employee to earn outside income, provided that when combined with retirement benefits it does not exceed his prior salary. This legislative approach to "disability" is nonsensical if the employee must be totally disabled from any occupation to earn retirement disability payments.