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April 22, 2014

Applying for accidental disability retirement and performance of duty disability retirement benefits


Applying for accidental disability retirement and performance of duty disability retirement benefits
2014 NY Slip Op 02120, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Appellate, considering the application of a correction officer [Plaintiff] to review a determination of New York Employees’ Retirement System that denied her applications for accidental disability and performance of duty disability retirement benefits, dismissed the action on the grounds that Petitioner’s application for such benefits was untimely filed.

Petitioner was injured when she slipped on ice while on her way to the building where her locker was located in order to change out of her uniform. Thereafter, she returned to work for only one day and received her last payroll check in July 2009. Petitioner was then placed on unpaid approved medical leave of absence and received workers' compensation benefits.

In January 2011, Petitioner applied for accidental disability retirement benefits under Retirement and Social Security Law §507-a, alleging that she was permanently incapacitated as a result of the injuries she sustained when she slipped on ice some two years earlier. In the alternative, Plaintiff filed an application for performance of duty disability benefits pursuant to §507-b of the Retirement and Social Security Law.

In February 2011, Petitioner was terminated and issued a check representing her accrued vacation pay. In the alternative, Plaintiff filed an application for performance of duty disability benefits. Both applications were denied and petitioner timely requested a hearing and redetermination.

Addressing the issue of the timeliness of Petitioner’s applications for accidental disability retirement benefits the Appellate Division explained that §507-a(b)(2) specifically provides that such an application "must be filed within three months from the last date the member was being paid on the payroll or within twelve months of the last date he [or she] was being paid on the payroll provided he [or she] was on a leave of absence for medical reasons without pay during such twelve month period provided the member was disabled at the time he [or she] ceased being paid."

Noting that Petitioner did not file her application for accidental disability retirement benefits within these time limits, the court ruled that neither her receipt of workers' compensation benefits nor the check she received for accrued vacation time qualifies as payments "on the payroll" for purposes of the statute, citing Matter of Schwartz v McCall, 300 AD2d 887.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that the Retirement Systems determination “that [Petitioner's] application [for accidental disability retirement benefits] was untimely is rational and supported by substantial evidence."

Turning to the denial of Petitioner's §507-b application for performance of duty disability retirement benefits, the court conclude that there was substantial evidence supporting Retirement System's determination as both Petitioner and her counsel conceded at the hearing that the January 2009 incident was not caused by an act of an inmate and no proof that would support such a finding was produced at the hearing. Thus, said the Appellate Division, Petitioner's current claim that her fall must have been caused by negligent maintenance on the part of an inmate is speculative and lacks support in the record.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02120.htm

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