Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Determining member service credit for retirement


Determining member service credit for retirement
Panigrosso v McCall, 298 A.D.2d 797

The Panigrosso case concerned determining the eligibility of a disabled individual for ordinary disability retirement benefits.

Vincent A. Panigrosso, Jr., was employed in the Putnam County Highway Department as a mechanic's helper. In November 1996, while attempting to remove a tire, another tire, which had been leaning against a wall, began to fall toward him. Panigrosso attempted to catch the falling tire and in so doing he injured his back to the extent that he required surgery.

On June 24, 1997, while again attempting to remove a tire from its rim, Panigrosso experienced pain in his back, left work and never returned. He filed an application for accidental disability retirement benefits contending that he was permanently disabled as a result of his November 1996 and June 1997 "accidents."

Panigrosso subsequently filed a second application, this time seeking ordinary disability retirement [ODR] benefits. He claimed eligibility for ODR benefits because he said that he had completed 10 years of service credit and thus was not required to show that he was disabled as the result of a job-related accident.

Ultimately both applications were rejected. The Retirement System decided that:

1. Both of Panigrosso injuries occurred while he was performing the customary duties of his employment and, hence, the underlying incidents could not be deemed "accidents" within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law Section 605(b)(3); and

2. Panigrosso had not accumulated the required ten years of member service credits to be eligible for ordinary disability retirement. [Also, it should be noted that Panigrosso was not actually "in service" at the time he applied for ODR benefits.]

As to Panigrosso's accidental disability claim, the Appellate Division ruled that the November 1996 and June 1997 incidents did not constitute "accidents" within the meaning of Section 605(b)(3). In the words of the court:

An "accident" is a sudden, fortuitous, out of the ordinary and unexpected event that does not result from an activity undertaken in the performance of ordinary employment duties. Here, the record reveals that ... both incidents in question occurred while [Panigrosso] was performing his usual employment duties.

As to Panigrosso's eligibility for ODR claim, the court said that the record clearly indicated that Panigrosso did not accumulate 10 years of service credit with the Retirement System.

Panigrosso had begun his employment with Putnam County in January 1990 and was removed from the payroll in August 1997. Once petitioner was off the payroll, he stopped accumulating service credit. Not having at least 10 years of member service credit, the Appellate Division ruled that he was clearly ineligible for an ordinary disability retirement allowance.

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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