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    LEGAL UNIT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

How is the term veteran defined to determine eligibility to purchase military service credit under chapter 71 of the acts of 1996?
 
   The term is defined in G.L. c. 4, 7, cl. 43rd. This statute requires active service in the armed forces of the United States (army, navy, air force, marine corps or coast guard) during certain specified wartime periods.
 
Does receipt of partial disability benefits from the federal Veterans’ Administration constitute a "federal military pension" which would disqualify a member from the right to purchase military service under chapter 71?
 
   The answer to this question is no. A court has ruled that the receipt of a federal military pension does not prevent an eligible veteran from purchasing military service under G.L.C. 32, s.4(1)(h).
 
What should a Board look for when reviewing a Domestic Relations Order pertaining to a member of the retirement system?
 
   A Domestic Relations Order cannot create a right or benefit in a member’s spouse (or alternate payee) which is not provided for or is inconsistent with the provisions of chapter 32. For example the spouse of a member cannot receive a refund of a portion of the member’s annuity savings account while the member continues in active service. Likewise, a separate account in the System’s annuity savings fund cannot be established for a non-member.
 
How is creditable service derived and how much creditable service are elected officials entitled to?
 
   Members may not receive more than one year of creditable service for any one year period. Boards may prorate creditable service for part-time employees but must promulgate supplementary rules in order to do. Boards may also allow creditable service for any period of unpaid leave of absence which does not exceed one month. An elected official is entitled to a full year of creditable service for any portion of a year in which they serve in such capacity. This opinion is premised upon the language of G.L. c. 32, s.4(1)(a) and an Opinion of the Office of the Attorney General. See, Op.Atty.Gen., May 14, 1976, p. 174.
 
Is "Quinn Bill" money considered regular compensation? What else would be considered regular compensation and what is outside the definition of regular compensation?
 
   The Legal Unit is often asked about specific types of pay. For example, "Quinn Bill" money, that is educational incentives paid to police officers, is considered regular compensation based upon the provisions of PERAC’s regulation 840 CMR 15.03(e). Based upon court decisions, workers’ compensation benefits and violence pay are not considered regular compensation. Injured-on-Duty pay for police officers and fire fighters under G.L. c. 41, 111F is considered regular compensation based upon the express provisions of that section of the law. For other types of compensation or pay which are not expressly covered by the definition of regular compensation in G.L. c. 32, s.1 or 840 CMR 15.03, the ultimate determination as to whether a payment is regular compensation is to be made by the Board.
 
May an employer or department head file an application for involuntary ordinary disability retirement on behalf of a member who has appealed the denial of his or her own application for accidental disability retirement?
 
   The answer to this question is yes. In a case, City of Lynn v. Labor Relations Commission, the Appeals Court held that a department head could file such an application. See PERAC Memo #27/1997 for more information about this decision.
 
What is the proper forum for appeal of a decision involving an involuntary disability retirement application?
 
   There has been some confusion as to whether a member who is appealing the Board’s denial of the involuntary retirement application filed on his or her behalf must appeal to District Court as set out in G.L. c. 32, 16(3) or whether the appeal could be filed with the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB). CRAB has recently held that where a member fully cooperates with the processing of an involuntary retirement application and, in fact, appeals the denial of that application, the member’s actions effectively transform the application from that of an involuntary one to a voluntary one. For this reason, CRAB held that it did have jurisdiction to hear a member’s appeal of a denied accidental disability retirement application. Nasuti v. Saugus Retirement Board, CR-93-491 (decision dated September 12, 1995).

   In other cases, the proper forum for appeal of a decision involving an involuntary retirement application may be District Court. For this reason, Boards should include copies of both section 16(3) and 16(4) in notices of retirement board decision sent to the parties.

   The foregoing represents just a small sampling of the types of questions to which PERAC’s Legal Unit has been asked to respond. If you have specific questions which have not been addressed above, please call or write to our Legal Unit.
 
 
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