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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The doctrine of estoppel cannot be invoked to attain eligibility for a retirement benefit if the individual does not qualify for the benefit claimed


The Doctrine of Estoppel cannot be invoked to attain eligibility for a retirement benefit if the individual does not qualify for the benefit claimed
2015 NY Slip Op 01222, Appellate Division, Third Department

A member [Retiree] of the New York State Employees Retirement System accepted an incentive for early retirement in 2010, with an effective date of retirement of May 31, 2010. More than one and one-half years later Retiree filed an application for disability retirement benefits, asserting that no one at his place of work or the Retirement System informed him about the possible availability of disability retirement benefits when he filed for "service retirement."

A Hearing Officer concluded that Retiree’s application for disability retirement benefits was not timely filed. The Comptroller adopted the findings and conclusions of the Hearing Officer and Retiree sued, contending that his application should be deemed timely — or the Retirement System should be estopped from finding it untimely — because the Retirement System failed to provide him with a summary plan description in accordance with Retirement and Social Security Law §153(3),

The Appellate Division affirmed the Comptroller’s decision, explaining:

1. The Comptroller has exclusive authority to determine all applications for retirement benefits which determination must be sustained “if it is not unreasonable" and "if the underlying factual findings are supported by substantial evidence."

2. An application for disability retirement benefits pursuant to Retirement and Social Security Law [RSSL] Article 15 must be filed "within three months from the last date the member was being paid on the payroll."

3. It is undisputed that Retiree’s application for disability benefits was filed over 1½ years after his removal from the payroll on May 31, 2010’

Accordingly, said the court, “substantial evidence supports the determination that [Retiree’s] application was untimely.”

The Appellate Division also rejected Retiree’s argument that his application should be deemed timely — or the Retirement System should be estopped from finding it untimely — because the Retirement System failed to provide him with a summary plan description in accordance with RSSL §153(3) in view of the fact that the Comptroller determined that RSSL §155 “dictates that the failure to provide the plan did not ‘create, revive, extend, or otherwise affect the entitlement of a member, retired member, or a beneficiary to any retirement benefit.’"

Indeed, noted the court, even if the Retirement System provided Retiree with incomplete or inaccurate information, "[t]he doctrine of estoppel will not provide eligibility where, by statute, the individual does not qualify” for the retirement benefit claimed.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances 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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