Friday, June 24, 2016

Member service credit in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System upon the reemployment of an individual receiving a disability retirement allowance by a New York State public employer


Member service credit in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System upon the reemployment of an individual receiving a disability retirement allowance by a New York State public employer
Porco v New York State Teachers' Retirement Sys., 2016 NY Slip Op 04777, Appellate Division, Third Department

Supreme Court dismissed Joan Porco's application seeking a review of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System’s [TRS] determination denying her years of service credit for retirement purposes for certain months of service.

Porco joined TRS as a “Tier 2” member upon commencing employment as a public school teacher. Subsequently Porco sustained a serious injury and applied for, and was granted, disability retirement pursuant to Education Law §511. Later Porco returned to work for a period of three months, during which period she continued receiving her disability retirement allowance. In response to Porco's request for clarification regarding earning "member service credit" for those three months of employment, TRS advised Porco that she was ineligible to receive such credit for that period of employment.

Ultimately TRS issued a final determination denying Porco member service credit for the disputed three-month period. Porco then initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging that determination. Supreme Court upheld TRS’s decision and dismissed Porco’s petition, which ruling was sustained by the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division, citing Maillard v New York State Teachers Retirement System, 57 AD3d 1299, explained when an administrative determination is rendered without a hearing, a court’s review "is limited to whether [the determination] is arbitrary, capricious or without a rational basis." Further, said the court, “given that [TRS] is charged with administering the retirement statutes at issue, its interpretations are entitled to deference and should be upheld unless they are irrational, unreasonable or inconsistent with the governing law.”

As a general rule, said the court, "retirement on a pension" causes a person's membership in the retirement system to cease. With respect to an individual receiving a retirement allowance from TRS, Education Law §511(5) permits "Tier 2 disability retirees" to resume active service while still receiving disability retirement benefits subject to certain limitations salary limitations. Such a retiree, however, "shall not become a member of [TRS]."

In contrast, should the retiree be restored to active service at a salary as great as, or greater, than his or her final average salary, "his [or her] retirement allowance shall cease, and he [or she] shall again become a member of [TRS]." Education Law §511[6] provides that such an individual’s "prior service certificate on the basis of which his [or her] service was computed at the time of his [or her] retirement shall be renewed." Upon such individual’s subsequent retirement, he or she "shall be credited" with both the service credit reflected in the prior service certificate and "all [of] his [or her] service as a member subsequent to the period covered by his [or her] prior service certificate"

Finding that TRS’s interpretation of these statutes was rational and reasonable, the Appellate Division concluded that Porco’s membership in TRS cease when she began receiving disability retirement benefits and although she had returned to work during the disputed three months, because her salary did not exceed the statutory cap, Education Law §511(5) explicitly barred her from becoming a member of TRS during that period of time.  

Accordingly, ruled the Appellate Division, TRS’s determination denying years of service credits to Porco for this three-month period would not be disturbed.

Similar rules apply is situations where an individual is receiving a retirement allowance from another New York public retirement system [see §150 of the Civil Service Law, Suspension of pension and annuity during public employment, and, generally, §§210 – 217 of the Retirement and Social Security Law] with respect to the re-employment of such retired individuals in public service of the State or a political subdivision of the State.

* The decision notes that Porco received $6,809.91 in disability retirement benefits as well as her salary during this three-month period.

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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