39-71-710, MCA

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mut. Cas. Co. [11/03/09] 2009 MT 368 Where the claimant argued that § 39-71-710, MCA, terminates PTD benefits based on age and that the holding in Reesor prohibits such discrimination, the Montana Supreme Court found that the reasoning in Reesor was inapplicable to the case at bar.  PPD and PTD benefits and their corresponding purposes are too different to equate them with one another.
Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mut. Cas. Co. [11/03/09] 2009 MT 368 The distinctions between PPD and PTD benefits are significant and thus require a different approach.  While a PPD claimant will presumably be able to return to work and earn an income, a PTD claimant will not.

Aldrich v. Montana State Fund [02/18/09] 2009 MT 40 The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Court’s conclusion that a claimant’s receipt of Social Security retirement benefits did not preclude him from receiving temporary total disability (TTD) benefits where he satisfies § 39-71-701, MCA, by not reaching maximum healing and suffering a total loss of wages. Since the claimant was not earning a wage at the time of his surgery and treatment, the court concluded he did not suffer a “total loss of wages” as a result of the condition and surgery and therefore is not entitled to TTD benefits. The Supreme Court noted that the claimant had not demonstrated that he had any job prospects which he could not accept on account of his injury. Had he been able to make such a demonstration, then his argument that he sustained a total wage loss might have had merit.

[1999] Reesor v. Montana State Fund, 2004 MT 370 (No. 03-639) Section 39-71-710, MCA (1999), violates equal protection guarantees in that it treats partially disabled claimants disparately because of their age. There is no rational basis for the legislature to provide that a 65 year old worker with an identical injury to a 40 year old worker should receive only an impairment award solely because he has reached retirement age.

[1987-2003] Rausch et al. v. State Compensation Insurance Fund [9/5/02] 2002 MT 203 Permanently totally disabled claimants are entitled to an impairment award for the loss of physical function of their body occasioned by a work-related injury pursuant to recognition of such awards in §39-71-710, MCA, and §39-71-737, MCA. The award is due upon receipt of an undisputed impairment rating.
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS

Gray v. Montana State Fund [01/30/14] 2014 MTWCC 2 Section 39-71-710(1), MCA, provides for two ways in which a claimant will be deemed retired: if he is receiving social security retirement benefits; or if he is eligible to receive full social security retirement benefits.  Therefore, Petitioner, who is receiving “partial” or “early” social security retirement benefits, is considered retired under the statute, and Respondent is not liable to Petitioner for permanent total disability benefits.

Caldwell v. MACo Workers' Compen. Trust [07/07/10] 2010 MTWCC 24 Rehabilitation benefits are meant to assist only workers who will return to work.  Since § 39-71-1006, MCA, already takes the workers’ age into consideration to determine eligibility for benefits, the Court finds no rational basis for automatically terminating rehabilitation benefits upon retirement eligibility, pursuant to § 39-71-702, MCA.  This automatic termination bears no rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest and violates equal protection as guaranteed by Art. II, § 4, Mont. Const.

Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mutual Ins. Co. [06/04/08] 2008 MTWCC 29 Where § 39-71-710, MCA, places a reasonable limitation on PTD benefits in order to contain the cost of the system for employers while ensuring that PTD claimants are compensated commensurately with the wages they were earning when they left the workforce for what otherwise would have been their remaining “work life”, the Court finds that the statute passes constitutional muster under a substantive due process challenge. Additionally, for the same reasons § 39-71-710, MCA, does not violate Petitioner’s right to equal protection, the statute does not unconstitutionally discriminate against Petitioners based on their age.
Aldrich v. Montana State Fund [12/20/07] 2007 MTWCC 57 Where Petitioner petitioned the Court for TTD benefits notwithstanding his age or social security retirement status, the mere fact that § 39-71-710, MCA, does not preclude Petitioner’s eligibility for TTD benefits due to his retirement status, this does not in and of itself establish his entitlement to such benefits. In order to be eligible for TTD benefits, Petitioner must first satisfy the requirements of § 39-71-701, MCA, (1) a total loss of wages, and (2) the worker must not be at MMI. Were the Court to adopt Petitioner’s rationale that he should be entitled to TTD benefits without proving any actual loss of wages simply because he is no longer medically stable, it would require the Court to ignore or contravene Montana public policy that wage-loss benefits should bear a reasonable relationship to actual wages lost as a result of a work-related injury. § 39-71-105(1), MCA.
Woodards v. MIGA [12/18/07] 2007 MTWCC 55 Petitioner was 76 years old and still working at the time of her injury. However, her situation is factually on-point with one of the claimants in Satterlee v. Lumberman’s Mut. Cas. Co., 2005 MTWCC 55, who was found not to be entitled to PTD benefits because she was considered retired pursuant to § 39-71-710, MCA. Therefore, Petitioner is not entitled to PTD benefits.
Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mutual [11/15/06] 2006 MTWCC 36 Section 39-71-710, MCA, ensures that PTD claimants are compensated commensurately with the wages they were earning when they left the workforce for what otherwise would have been their remaining “work life.” PTD benefits thus do not become the pension program the Legislature never intended to create.
Alberts v. Transportation Insurance Co. [10/12/06] 2006 MTWCC 34 This Court has held that a claimant must tender substantial evidence which, if believed, would entitle claimant to interim TTD benefits pursuant to this statute, and has articulated a four-factor test. Montana Health Network v. Graham, 2002 MTWCC 61, ¶¶ 5-6. Where Petitioner puts forth no argument in support of her motion and no facts into evidence to demonstrate that these factors have been met, her motion is denied.

[2005] Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mutual Casualty Company [12/12/05] 2005 MTWCC 55 Section 39-71-710, MCA, which terminates PTD benefits to workers receiving social security retirement benefits or who are eligible for full social security benefits does not violate the equal protection clause of the Montana Constitution. Unlike PPD benefits, which are designed to compensate the claimant for the permanent loss of physical function, PTD benefits are to be paid only for the claimant’s work life. Therefore, even though a rational basis does not exist to terminate PPD benefits when an individual becomes retirement eligible, a rational basis exists for the termination of PTD benefits at such time.

[1987] Paul v. Transportation Ins. Co. [10/07/04] 2004 MTWCC 69 A claimant who has retired or is deemed retired is not entitled to permanent total disability benefits.

[1987] Paul v. Transportation Ins. Co. [10/07/04] 2004 MTWCC 69 A claimant who has retired or is deemed retired is not entitled to permanent partial disability benefits other than an impairment award.

[1999] Reesor v. Montana State Fund [7/22/03] 2003 MTWCC 51 Section 39-71-710, MCA (1999), which denies permanent partial disability benefits other than impairment awards to workers receiving social security retirement benefits or who are eligible for full social security benefits does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. Workers' compensation benefits are a partial replacement for lost wages. Age and retirement are rough measures of the time workers stop working and stop suffering wage loss. Reversed in Reesor v. Montana State Fund, 2004 T 370 (No. 03-639).
[1995-2003] Black v. MDMC/Benefis Healthcare [8/24/01] 2001 MTWCC 47 Statute which denies permanent partial disability benefits to injured workers who have taken social security retirement or who are eligible for full social security retirement or equivalent benefits does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of either the Montana or United States constitutions. The primary purpose of workers' compensation benefits is wage replacement and the provision is rationally related to that purpose since most people retire when eligible for social security benefits and are no longer in the labor market, thus they do not suffer a wage loss. Furthermore, social security retirement benefits are a form of wage replacement. Even though some persons may remain or wish to remain employed, the equal protection clause does not require precision in creating classifications.