The provisions of this section apply to all proceedings in which the administrator has made a written final decision on the merits respecting applications for disability retirement, reexamination of retired members receiving disability benefits, applications for special risk membership, and reexamination of special risk members in the Florida Retirement System. The jurisdiction of the State Retirement Commission under this section shall be limited to written final decisions of the administrator on the merits. (1) In accordance with the rules of procedure adopted by the Department of Management Services, the administrator shall:
(a) Give reasonable notice of his or her proposed action, or decision to refuse action, together with a summary of the factual, legal, and policy grounds therefor.
(b) Give affected members, or their counsel, an opportunity to present to the division written evidence in opposition to the proposed action or refusal to act or a written statement challenging the grounds upon which the administrator has chosen to justify his or her action or inaction.
(c) If the objections of the member are overruled, provide a written explanation within 21 days.
(2) A member shall be entitled to a hearing before the State Retirement Commission pursuant to ss. 120.569 and 120.57(1) on the merits of any written adverse decision of the administrator, if he or she files with the commission a written request for such hearing within 21 days after receipt of such written decision from the administrator. For the purpose of such hearings, the commission shall be an “agency head” as defined by s. 120.52. (a) The commission may issue orders as a result of the hearing that are binding on all parties to the dispute and may order any action that it deems appropriate. Any disability retirement order of the commission that sustains the application of the member may include an amount, to be determined by the commission, for reasonable attorney’s fees and taxable costs, which shall be calculated in accordance with the statewide uniform guidelines for taxation of costs in civil actions. The amount of the attorney’s fees may not exceed 50 percent of the initial yearly benefit awarded under s. 121.091(4). In cases involving disability retirement, the commission shall require the member to present substantial competent medical evidence that meets the requirements of s. 121.091(4)(c)2. and 3., and may require vocational evidence, before awarding disability retirement benefits. (b) Any person who fails to appear in response to a subpoena, answer any question, or produce any evidence pertinent to any hearing or who knowingly gives false testimony therein commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) The exercise by the State Retirement Commission of the powers, duties, and functions prescribed by this section shall be reviewable by the district court of appeal.
(4) The exercise by the State Retirement Commission of the powers, duties, and functions prescribed by this section shall be reviewable by the judiciary on the grounds that:
(a) The commission did not afford a fair and equitable hearing in accordance with chapter 120;
(b) The decision of the commission was not in accordance with existing statutes or rules and regulations promulgated thereunder; or
(c) The decision of the commission was not based on substantial evidence.
The court shall not, however, substitute its judgment for that of the commission as to the weight of the evidence on any disputed finding of fact where the decision of the commission was supported by substantial evidence; nor shall the court substitute its judgment for that of the commission on an issue of discretion.